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Celebrate spring and summer in the comfort of a convertible

To celebrate the arrival of spring and get in tune with the season, it's time to look at cars that will raise your spirit when their tops go down. Larry Printz, Virginian-Pilot

BMW 3-Series, starting at $45,000

Long the heart of the BMW brand, the 2011 328i (230 horsepower) and 335i (300 horsepower) mate to a standard six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Uniquely, the car uses sun-reflective technology to reduce temperatures on leather seats, armrests, headrests and shifter. It goes on sale this month.

Chevrolet Corvette, $54,530

A famous Corvette moniker returns for 2010: the Grand Sport. Like the base Corvette convertible, it uses a 430-horsepower V-8 and a six-speed manual transmission. A six-speed automatic that can be shifted manually is optional. Fast? Yup. Burly? Sure. An iconic blast of spring-summer coolness? No doubt.

Chrysler Sebring, $27,850

Thoughtfully, the Chrysler Sebring Convertible comes with a choice of a folding soft top or hardtop. The Sebring is one spacious convertible, and its styling has been revised for 2010. You will give up some refinement compared with its competition, but opt for the V-6, put the top down, and you'll find its sins are easy to overlook.

Ford Mustang, $27,145

Although it's only four months into 2010, the 2011 Ford Mustang Convertible is on sale. There's more power for this pony starting with the 3.7-liter V-6, which produces 305 horsepower, only 10 less than the V-8 in the 2010 model. Meanwhile, this year's 5.0-liter V-8 cranks out 412 horsepower, transforming the pony into a stallion.

Mazda MX-5 Miata, $22,810

The affordable roadster, a vehicle pioneered by the British and perfected by Mazda, still lives. Now known as the MX-5 Miata, it has a retractable hardtop or soft top. It's still a sporty car with a four-cylinder engine, cozy accommodations for two and enough trunk space for a weekend getaway.

Mercedes-Benz SLK, $47,775

Mercedes' entry-level roadster gets a limited-edition SLK300 Diamond White edition, with Diamond White metallic paint and a two-tone interior. A 228-horsepower V-6 is standard. The SLK350 has 300 horsepower, while the SLK55 gets a bit more: 355. And the hardtop disappears at the touch of a button. Just pack lightly — the trunk is small.

VW New Beetle, $26,170

Although no longer new and often overlooked, the New Beetle drop-top offers a lot of style for just a little cash. The 150-horsepower 2.5-liter engine provides enough power to put wind in your hair once you put the power top down. And for those cool nights, the standard heated front seats will keep you warm.

Volvo C70, $39,950

Being a Volvo, you would expect the forthcoming 2011 C70 to be among the safest hardtop convertibles. To ensure that, there are sturdy roll bars that shoot up in case of a rollover, and a door-mounted inflatable curtain protects against side impacts. Safety aside, there also are updates to keep the C70 in style.

Celebrate spring and summer in the comfort of a convertible 04/15/10 [Last modified: Thursday, April 15, 2010 12:40am]

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