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New convertibles for 2007

The 2006 Australian International Motor Show heralded the opening of open-top motoring season, and summer could not then have been celebrated in a better way than with a hefty V10-engined super-cabrio, a stylish sultry Italian, some topless European flair and some ‘home-grown’ hotties.

Many flocked to the BMW stand to spend what will be a rare moment with the new BMW M6 Convertible.

The wild Chris Bangle styling of the 6 Convertible is matched to the German marque’s phenomenal five-litre V10 engine.

With 373kW and a sprint time of 4.8 seconds from 0-100km/h (just 0.2 behind the more aerodynamically-friendly Coupe), there is nothing soft about this soft-top.

Unfortunately for those interested parties with a spare $295,000 to spend, the global allocation of the M6 Convertible for 2006 was completely sold out.

Fifty additional Limited Edition M6 models made for the infamous Nieman Marcus Christmas Catalogue in the USA recently sold out in 1.5 seconds of the magazine’s online release. Another eagerly-anticipated convertible is the new Alfa Romeo Spider.

Born of the beautiful new Brera coupe, the Spider misses out on the Coupe’s sublime behind and its two (compromised) rear seats, but strikes an equally imposing, aggressive stance with the roof down.

The Spider was launched at the show in two engine and drive layouts - but for the moment transmission choice is manual only.

This is a move that has proved disastrous for convertibles in the past (most recently, the Holden Tigra), but automatic transmissions should follow in 2007.

The 2.2-litre petrol will set you back $76,950, but the flagship 3.2-litre V6 AWD strikes six figures at $100,950.

The Eos is the next big thing from Volkswagen, and while it may be based on an old favourite, the trick folding roof is a completely new concept, it looks hot, and comes with a choice of two-litre turbo petrol or diesel drivetrains. It almost makes up for the Beetle convertible. Almost…

Sharing much of the platform and DNA of VWs biggest seller, the Golf, it actually commandeers the suspension of the larger Passat sedan and wagon to carry the weight of the five-piece retractable hardtop.

The first cutaway section acts as a sunroof when only a hint of UV is required, but folds a further four times into the boot like a deftly dealt deck of cards in a decent 25 seconds.

The innovative roof, called a CSC or ‘convertible sliding coupe’ roof, still leaves room for luggage, while the design is resolved and solid with or without the roof down in coupe or convertible guise.

The retractable hard top (RHT) is the emerging trend in the burgeoning convertible market. Even the second-gen Volvo C70 Convertible drops its traditional cloth roof in preference of the retractable hard top; the new version of Holden’s best selling Astra Convertible, the Astra TwinTop, does the same.

Both the new TwinTop and opposition Ford’s new cabrio, the Ford Focus RHT (due here mid-2007), are designed and built in Europe where the trend obviously fired up – in a region of vastly fluctuating weather through the seasons, it makes sense to take the top off or completely shut out the cold.

But for now, with these exciting new models coming to or on the Aussie market, we can all take the chance to enjoy a little ray of sunshine. And with a RHT, it seems that style does not go out with the seasons…

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