In taking a gander at several new convertibles, the Mercedes CLK 500, the Nissan 350Z Roadster, the Saab 9-3 Convertible, and the Toyota Solara, Times' writers confirm several things that many of us have suspected all along:

  1. Mercedes is good at doing the luxury thing. The CLK is a beautiful, powerful, comfortable, and packed with prestige, but at just over $61,000, all of these qualities are pretty much expected.

  2. The 350Z Roadster is as fun to drive as its hardtopped sibling, with a terrific 287-hp engine and loads of agility; and it does the job for cheap, too, starting at $35,000.

  3. The Saab 9-3 Convertible, tested in Arc (mid-level) trim, is a vast improvement over the previous-generation 9-3 Convertible, which was plagued by a flexy frame. The new competent chassis complements ample power, although it's not as exciting to drive as a 3-series convertible, which you can get for about the same price, $43,000.

  4. Regarding the Solara, I think this quote pretty much says it all: "Think of the Solara as a pair of sensible shoes among the Manolo Blahniks and Dada Supremes of the convertible market." A practical, non-thrilling ride for $30,000.

Potential glaring omission: where's the new Mazdaspeed Miata? The proven roadster gains power via turbocharger this model year, plus sharper handling, all for the relatively tidy sum of 25 large.


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