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Convertibles are a hot summer commodity

June 19, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Summer starts on Sunday, and one way to enjoy the summer is put the top down on your convertible.The sleek new Lexus IS-C appears at first glance to be a coupe until you hit one little button. The car then transforms from a closed car to an open one.

"That way you get a really quiet Lexus ride when the top is closed and when the you open it up you are in the great outdoors," said Bob Allan, Lexus spokesman.

The IS-C is the latest in the growing field of hardtop convertibles. The idea is that they transform easily.

"Hold the open button and if you've got 20 seconds at the light you are good to go. Just make sure that you don't start moving before the top is completely open," said Allan.

The IS-C is available in two models -- the 250 and 350. The latter getting more power from a bigger engine and more standard equipment. Competitors include the BMW 3 Series and Volvo C70.

Also new this year is a folding hardtop Infiniti G37. Like the Lexus, it goes from a coupe to a convertible without much effort from the driver.

The beauty of these hard top convertibles and why they are becoming more popular is because they are like two cars in one. With the top down they are just like any other convertible with open-air motoring. With the top up they are like a coupe with all of the comfort and security you'd expect from a closed car.

The folding hardtop trend is also expanding to more two-seat sports cars, like the new BMW Z4. Its predecessor had a soft top, but the new one gets the metal roof treatment.

Pure driving enthusiasts might not like the change. The top mechanism comes at a small weight penalty and weight tends to be the enemy of performance. Still, the 3.5 S-Drive version can hold its own with 300 turbocharged horses.

Another two-seater is resisting the hardtop trend for now. Audi's TT still uses a conventional fabric top. The performance-oriented TTS puts down lots of power, yet does it with a relatively small Turbo 4.

It gets 21 to 29 miles per gallon with 265 horsepower -- that's pretty efficient.

Whether you like two seats or four the choices of convertibles has just grown quite a bit and right in time for sunny summer weather.


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