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Convertibles Review 2008

And, given the push-button convenience of the latter these days, the car's upper garb often comes off quicker.

Spring is also, of course, the time when Carsguide preaches to the convertible.

It's a task made easier by the ever-expanding range of topless four-seaters _ cars that combine a decent degree of utility with a goodly serving of desirability _ so that now ever more are converting.

The facility to have it off and on at will (most such lids fold up or down in around 20 seconds and some can do it at 30km/h) is worth a lot more as a selling point than all the kilowatts and cornering force figures in the world combined. Otherwise, just buy a coupe.

Not that BMW's 125i (priced from$63,755) lacks a means of propulsion or is in any way reluctant to address bends.

Even detuned to 160kW/270Nm, this three-litre jobbie is a classic example of the Bavarian's trademark in-line six _ which, combined with rear-wheel-drive dynamics, is unique among current compact convertibles.

Contrary to the hairdryer image of this genre, the only thing soft about the 125i is its roof which, in a world increasingly given to folding metal numbers, is of fabric construction.

For a car that, even by the compromised norm of this type, is knee-crushingly cramped in the back, it's starting to get bloody dear _ though even that's relative, given it's $30K easier on the wallet than the identically engined 325i.

Equally, the Volkswagen Eos TFSI (from $49,990) offers value _ indeed, allure _ that would necessitate spending maybe $40K extra on a more prestigious badge.

The VeeWee also boasts the best top of all these sometimes-roofless Germans: one with a number of variations, all of which enable it to be completely convincing as either a convertible or as a coupe. In either guise, it looks great.

The TFSI shares the Golf GTI's platform and drivetrains: a slick, six-speed manual or a twin-clutch auto driving that sublime two-litre, direct-injection turbo four-potter.

If you tick the optional sports suspension with 18-inch tyres box, it can do a fair dynamic imitation of this now-ubiquitous warmish hatch.

So can Audi's A3 2.0 TFSI Cabrio (from $54,900) _ as it should, given that it has the same underpinnings and go bits as the allegedly humbler Eos.

But although perceived prestige badges can have a disorienting effect on some punters' sense of proportion, the Eos's trick roof is enough to see it shroud out its soft-topped cousin.

It used to be that to go topless in traffic, you had to be Swedish; time was, indeed, that Saab's 9-3 was synonymous with this sort of behaviour.

But that was 10 years ago. Today, a 9-3 Convertible is an unreliable and outclassed alternative to simply wearing a T-shirt that reads: “Clueless”.

Fortunately for Scando enthusiasts, there's Volvo's C70 T5 (from $79,950). No, it doesn't get up and go anything like those mentioned above (despite a worthy 2.5-litre, five-cylinder turbo), much less handle.

But it does have visual presence, GT composure, a smart folding metal roof and _ perhaps more to the Swede-lover's point _ a perceptible quality of having been hewn from something extremely solid and ever-so safe.

Just as Lexus's IS sedan chucked a spanner into the compact prestige segment by doing a rear-drive/six-pots-up-front package that undercut the Germans for value, so too will the Lexus IS250C coupe/convertible.

Seen at the Sydney motor show, this folding-aluminium-roof number is due in these parts in the second half of 2009 _ no doubt priced at a point to cause the Europeans maximum discomfort.

The IS250C has a rear overhang some 50mm longer than the sedan, and Lexus claims class-leading boot space even with the lightweight, three-piece lid folded.

Roof up, it looks better still, with a coupe sleekness that becomes the IS more than the four-door shape.

The IS250C shares the sedan's 153kW/252Nm 2.5-litre V6 and six-speed, paddle-shift automatic.

At $1.19 million, the ultimate convertible costs 20 times more than the least expensive car here, but the Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe is quite possibly the world's best car _so this seems only right and proper.

We mention it mainly to have an excuse to run its exquisite likeness, because next to none of us is ever going to get into one.

But it somehow helps to know that those who do have the wherewithal aren't wasting their dough on rubbish.

Besides, as the stock market goes at the moment, a Rolls is probably a better investment than shares.

 

Pricing Guides

$9,990
Based on 13 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$7,990
Highest Price
$12,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
103 TDI 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN $8,985 – 12,498 2008 Volkswagen Eos 2008 103 TDI Pricing and Specs
147 TSI 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $11,990 – 12,990 2008 Volkswagen Eos 2008 147 TSI Pricing and Specs
2.0 TDI 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $7,888 – 8,888 2008 Volkswagen Eos 2008 2.0 TDI Pricing and Specs
2.0T FSI 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $9,956 – 9,990 2008 Volkswagen Eos 2008 2.0T FSI Pricing and Specs
Pricing Guide

$8,998

Lowest price, based on 8 car listings in the last 6 months

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