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Battle of the convertibles


Never mind the sunburn — from $35,000 to nearly $300,000,open cars are being lined up for eager buyers.

The flood of new models is heating up the rivalry between traditional fabric-roofed convertibles and a new breed with foldaway hardtops.

Holden, Volvo and VW will make the switch from their soft-tops to solid roofs as replacement models arrive.

Mitsubishi is joining the trend, with an open-air version of its Colt hatchback due next month. The Italian-made cabriolet, expected to cost $35,000, will have a retractable hard roof.

And Mazda is having an each-way bet. Its traditional canvas-topped MX-5 — billed as the world's best-selling roadster — has been joined by a folding hardtop version, called the roadster coupe.

The $47,660 "coupe", costing $2930 more than the basic model, has a composite plastic roof that folds away in 12 seconds, claimed by Mazda to be the fastest in its class.

MX-5 program manager Takao Kijima said he expected traditional enthusiasts to prefer the soft-top original.

"Even so, there are many potential customers who . . . have hesitated because of concerns about security and comfort."

Mazda expects 60 per cent of MX-5 buyers in Australia to take the hardtop.

The latest fabric-roofed models to arrive are the Audi A4 (from $83,000) and the Chrysler PT Cruiser cabriolet (from $36,000).

On the way late this year is the Alfa Romeo Spider, based on the Italian marque's new Brera coupe, expected to be $70,000-plus.

The soft-top ranks will be further boosted in December when Mini introduces a new cabriolet version, called the Chilli, from $41,100.

And Sweden's Saab is marking 20 years of convertible production by releasing a $68,400 anniversary model.

Holden dealers say the present Astra soft-top — now $39,990, a $6000 price cut — is to be replaced by a radically different TwinTop, so named because of its two-piece solid folding roof. It is expected to be unveiled late next month, and be on sale for summer.

Mercedes-Benz already has both fabric-roofed (CLK) and hard-top (SLK, SL) convertibles.

In the extra-pricey league, Audi says it will introduce a high-performance version of the A4, the $187,500 RS4, in January.

Only 25 V8-powered cars will be imported from Germany, and the company says it has 15 orders already.

Its rival, BMW, is to introduce an M6 convertible with a 10-cylinder engine, expected to cost about $290,000 and arrive before Christmas.

Safety-minded Volvo has a second-generation C70 convertible on the way, introducing a three-piece steel roof in place of the previous model's fabric top. The five-cylinder model will be priced from $69,950.

Early next year, VW is to release the Eos, a larger hardtop model replacing the fabric-roofed Golf convertible. The VW is likely to be the first convertible to have a diesel engine as an option.

FAST FACTS

Mitsubishi Colt Cabriolet

-Turbocharged 1.5-litre MIVEC engine.

-110kW (150hp) @ 6000rpm and 210Nm of torque @ 3500rpm.

-18-inch alloy wheels.

Audi A4 Cabriolet

-1.8T with 120 kW and 225 Nm.

-new 3.2 FSI petrol direct injection V6 is also now available with 188 kW and 330 Nm.

-$83,400 and $107,800 for the 4-cylinder and V6 models respectively.

PT Cruiser Cabrio

-power-folding soft retractable roof, which can be raised or lowered in just 10 seconds.

-normally-aspirated 2.4-litre petrol engine.

-105 KW at 5, 200 rpm and 214 Nm of torque @ 4,000 rpm.

-16" alloy wheels.

-$35,890

Alfa Romeo Spider

-3.2 JTS V6 and 2.2 JTS.

-twin phaser continuous variator for control of the intake and exhaust valves.

-191kW and 136kW.

-Q4 permanent AWD.

-0-100 km/hr in 7 seconds.

-18” sport or multispoke.

-$70,000-plus

Mini Chilli

-1.6 litre, 4 cylinder/16 V.

-85 kW (115 hp) at 6000 rpm.

-150 Nm at 4500 rpm.

-0-100 km/hr: 9.1 s.

-top speed: 200 km/h.

-$41,100

Saab limited edition 20th Anniversary

-turbocharged 2.0 L.

-110 kW and a powerful 240 Nm of torque.

-five-speed automatic transmission.

-17-inch alloy wheels.

-$68,400

Astra Twintop

-petrol and diesel.

-77 to 147kW (105 to 200hp), with the top-of-the-line 2.0-litre turbo motor reaching a top speed of over 230 km/h.

-two-piece electro-hydraulic retractable steel roof.

-likely to be named 'Astra Convertible' in Australia.

Mercedes CLK

-5.5-litre V8 engine powering the CLK 500 (peak torque of 530 Nm).

-0-100 km/h takes just 5.2 seconds.

-top speed is 220 km/h (electronically limited).

-CLK 63 AMG uses AMG 6.3-litre V8 engine and produces 354 kW of power and a peak torque 630 Nm.

-CLK 200 KOMPRESSOR: $99,400

-CLK 280: $109,100

-CLK 350: $134,100

-CLK 500: $163,100

-CLK 63 AMG: $213,100

SLK SL class

-285 kW and 530Nm.

-V8 engine in the SL 500.

-0-100 km/h in 5.4 seconds.

-six-cylinder engine in the SL 350 is another new unit, with 200-kW V6, and accelerates from 0-100 km/h in 6.6 seconds.

-SL 600 has a V12 biturbo engine, with output of 380 kW and torque of 830Nm. Accelerates 0-100 km/h in 4.5 seconds.

SL 350: $214,900

SL 500: $299,900

SL 600: $374,900

SL 55 AMG: $374,900

SL 65 AMG: $457,900

Audi RS4

-4.2 FSI V8 engine

-V8 engine with an output of 309 kW and peak torque of 430 Nm at 5,500 rpm.

-electro-hydraulic hood can be opened entirely automatically in 21 seconds and can be operated up to speeds of 30 km/h.

-$187,500

BMW M6

-5.0-litre V10.

-373 kW, 507 bhp, 520Nm.

-0-100 km/h in 4.8 seconds with the standing-start kilometre completed in 22.9 seconds.

-top speed limited electronically to 250 km/h.

Volvo C70

LE

-2.4 (125kW), 170hp, 230Nm.

-5-cylinder petrol.

-0-100km: 10s (auto).

-Max speed: 215km/hr (auto).

-$69,950.00

-T5

-5-cylinder turbo charged petrol.

-162kW, 220 hp, 320Nm.

-0-100km/hr: 8s (auto).

-Max speed: 235 km/hr (auto).

-$79,950.00

-VW Eos

-two engines are available: a 2.0-liter turbo 4-cylinder motor putting out 200 horsepower and a 3.2L VR6 motor that makes 250 horsepower.

-200hp 2.0T FSI or a 250hp 3.2l VR6 FSI (according to current data for the US market).

-five-section roof structure with glass/sliding/tilting roof integrated as standard

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