East, West or Gulf, there’s a convertible out there for all coasts, all seasons and all lifestyles.
Buying a convertible on the West Coast is a no-brainer. With day after day of warm breezes, sunny skies and mountain roads, all sloping towards the Pacific, you would be a fool not to drive with the top down at every chance.
But what about the rest of the country? Don’t we deserve convertibles too? Even if you live in Dallas, feast your eyes on towards these cars that call to mind all three coasts: West, East and Middle.
Audi TT Roadster
Set against California’s Golden Gate, the all-new Audi TT Roadster is not overshadowed by the bridge’s picturesque beauty. Like the first-generation TT, which looked like a debutante Beetle, the 2008 model is exquisite for its simplicity. When it was recently named 2007 World Car Design of the Year, jurors commented, “While there is a clear connection to the original TT’s Bauhaus styling, the second-generation model evolves it into a more modern form.”
Motoring the little two-seater along is either a 250-HP 3.2-liter V6 with all-wheel-drive or a 200-HP 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder driving the front wheels. Both models can be ordered with Audi’s S-tronic transmission, which functions mechanically like a true manual transmission, but has an automatic clutch. Choose the turbo for excellent fuel economy ratings of 22/29 mpg city/highway or the V6 to whoosh from 0-60 mph in 5.6 seconds on the way to a 130 mph top speed.
You’re sure to enjoy a driving experience as beautiful as the TT’s museum-quality exterior. Steering and the suspension system have been completely re-vamped for better handling; an independent rear suspension replaces the Beetle’s economy-class affair. All the better to control from the exquisite A4-inspired interior bathed in leather, aluminum and the highest quality materials to live in a sub-$80,000 car.
Setting its sights on the left coast, the all-new Audi TT Roadster is as stunningly beautiful as its predecessor, but would now be comfortable on a trip to visit the other coasts. Prices start at $36,800.
Saturn Sky Roadster
Even though new Saturns will be built in Delaware and Belgium, their spiritual home will always be the original one near Spring Hill, Tenn., in the foothills of Appalachia. Corvettes and Cadillac XLRs are bred an hour north in Bowling Green, Ky. The landscape encourages you to put the top down and go for a romp. Of course, you’ll smell the residuals of galloping horses, but that just keeps it real.
Where the Pontiac Solstice, a clone of the Sky under its skin, looks like a smooth Italian, the Sky aimed for baby Corvette attire. Projector beam headlamps, creased fenders and chromed vents behind the front wheels look stunning on the Sky’s trim figure. I love the one-piece clamshell hood and fenders.
Power is plentiful on the Red Line version. The high Sky spools out 260-HP from a turbo four-cylinder engine. With the snick-snick 5-speed manual transmission, drivers will see fuel economy ratings of 22/31 mpg city/highway. Under the skin is what looks like a scaled down version of the Corvette’s frame structure. In fast corners, the car is incredibly balanced. Just like a Corvette. Superb.
Designers lavished attention on the interior, specifying a stitched instrument cluster hood and door padding, black piano finish on the center stack and touches of chrome on the doors and center console. Everything feels and looks custom crafted.
Perfectly at home on the Middle coast, the uniquely-American Sky is not just a pretty body, it is a real honest-to-goodness top shelf piece of engineering. Sky Red Lines start at $28,425. Non-turbocharged models can be adopted for around $23,000, or less than half the price of the famous Chevy.
Chrysler Sebring Convertible
In contrast to the “whatever goes” West coast and relaxed Gulf coast, East coast drivers are a little more conservative. Chrysler developed the all-new Sebring convertible to appeal to people who prefer the romance of canvas, vinyl or the buttoned serenity that comes with a folding hard top.
Designers focused on the Crossfire in creating the Sebring. An eggcrate grille, corrugated hood, scalloped fenders and wrap-around taillamps resemble those on Chrysler’s little two-seater, but a large four-place interior takes a few friends along for the ride.
Interior style is also based on the Crossfire with silver finish on the center console, tortoise shell trim on the doors and steering wheel, and three huge gauge pods. Available heated and cooled cupholders, MyGIG entertainment system with hard drive and Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity keep even the stuffy contemporary.
Under the pretty skin are three engine choices that include a 173-HP 2.4-liter four-cylinder, 189-HP 2.7-liter V6 or 235-HP 3.5-liter V6. With the four-cylinder, Sebring convertibles achieve 23/31 mpg; top engines get 18/28 mpg. Any of the three engines are efficient and zippy.
In a survey, Chrysler found that two-thirds of convertible owners want a folding hardtop, which seals the car as tight as a coupe when raised. Still, that left one-third of drivers who prefer the romance of a soft top, either vinyl or canvas. Not surprising when you realize Rolls-Royce gave its $400,000 Phantom Drophead Coupe a canvas top just so owners can hear raindrops pitter and patter. With the Sebring, everybody is happy.
Keeping both the conservative and expressive pleased, the Chrysler Sebring is an elegant and comfortable cruise. Prices start at $26,145 hard to resist on this coast, that coast or any coast. Even the Trinity River’s banks.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 10, 2007