For some drivers, there's nothing quite like driving down the open road with the wind whipping through their hair. And for those who want the ultimate wind-blown experience, merely rolling the windows down simply isn't good enough.
Convertibles are vehicles that provide the added fun of a retractable rooftop for open-air enjoyment. Perfect for those summer days, a multitude of vehicles make up the 2009 convertible lineup. As such, if you're searching for a new joy ride, then you've got your work cut out for you. From compact ragtops to full-size luxury hardtops, convertibles come in just about every size and price point. To help you weed through all those options and land behind the steering wheel of your perfect convertible, continue reading our 2009 convertible buying guide.
Narrowing Your Options
Convertibles are inherently not economical vehicles. These vehicles are for drivers who love to drive, and want a vehicle that delivers superior style, comfort and performance. Because of this, the majority of 2009 convertibles lean towards the luxury end. However, more affordable models do exist. As a whole, the vehicle segment ranges in price from around $20,000 to $80,000. Determining how much convertible you can afford is likely the first step in your selection process.
Vehicle size is an important factor for any new car purchase. Sport-oriented convertibles offer some of the smallest interior volumes of any vehicle segment on the road - many feature two-seat designs and virtually non-existent trunk space. What these models lack in size, they more than make up for in performance. For those who care about things like 0-to-60 speeds and total horsepower, these compact roadsters are excellent choices. For a more relaxing drive through the country, four-seat sedans offer a roomier environment for families and comfort-seekers. Low rooftops mean that larger individuals will likely require a larger-sized convertible.
A quick way to whittle down your potential vehicle list is by choosing between a manual and automatic convertible top. Less expensive models feature a ragtop or hardtop that must be manually removed. More expensive options provide the convenience of an automatic retractable top. Historically, automatic tops were of the ragtop variety, though hardtop models are becoming increasingly more available. Benefits of a hardtop design include improved durability and a quieter drive when the rooftop is closed.
Hardtop convertibles also offer a boost in safety performance. Rollovers are dangerous for any convertible, but the added strength and weight of a hardtop design helps to reduce passenger vulnerability.
Other important factors to consider when purchasing a convertible include engine size, fuel efficiency, available features and cargo capacity. Features specifically tied to top-down driving - such as turbulence-reducing windscreens - may also be important.
2009 Affordable Convertible Lineup
Approximately ten 2009 vehicles can be classified as an affordable convertible. The entry-level model for the vehicle segment is the Volkswagen New Beetle convertible, with a base price of $25,990. The famed revamp of the classic VW design is a great option for those who love the Bug's unique rounded design. However, sportier and roomier drop-tops are available, so look elsewhere unless you're completely taken by the Beetle's layout.
Though smaller than the Beetle, the two-seat Mazda MX-5 Miata is a top pick for those looking for a fun, sporty drive at an affordable price. Starting at $21,750, the Miata serves as the quintessential convertible. Superb handling, competent engine and attractive design all combine to make the Miata one of the most fun cars on the road. Three convertible tops are available on the Miata - an easy-to-use manual soft-top, manual hardtop and automatic hardtop.
If you like the Miata, then it will probably be worth your while to investigate other two-seat convertibles as well. Options include the Saturn Sky, Pontiac Solstice and Honda S2000 (pictured). The Sky and Solstice are similarly designed GM models that both receive accolades for their bold, head-turning designs. However, a higher base MSRP and average performance may do little to detract shoppers from the well-rounded Miata. The Honda S2000, on the other hand, delivers the racing prowess and speedy acceleration that combine to outperform the lower-priced Miata - making it a great option for speed demons and weekend racers.
For those looking for a little more room in their sport-oriented convertible, check out the Ford Mustang or Mitsubishi Eclipse. The Eclipse benefits from an aggressive exterior design, while the Mustang offers a solid mix of style, power and safety. Both the Mustang convertible and Eclipse Spyder are equipped with an automatic soft-top design.
Shoppers who are more interested in a comfortable drive than a sporty ride would likely be better served in a Toyota Camry Solara, Chrysler Sebring or Pontiac G6. The Solara is perhaps the best all-around option out of the tamer trio, delivering a spacious interior, smooth handling and best-in-class trunk space. The Sebring has warranted lukewarm reviews due to a ho-hum design and mediocre reliability, but good crash test ratings and a value price may make it worth a look. Thoughts on the G6 are similarly apathetic, but a sharp exterior design, quality interior and good safety features serve to bolster its appeal.
Rounding out the affordable convertible lineup for 2009 are the BMW 1 Series and Volkswagen Eos. Both models start around $30,000 and are the best options for near-luxury refinement. If you don't mind the odd exterior design or confining rear seat of the 1 Series convertible, then you may benefit from its precision handling and smooth engine. The Eos is a jack-of-all-trades that delivers decent comfort, convenience, power and safety.
2009 Luxury Convertible Lineup
The majority of 2009 convertibles breach the $35,000 mark. These models can be classified as luxury vehicles that deliver either true sports car performance or optimum opulence. The most affordable luxury convertibles include the BMW 3 Series, Nissan 350Z and the Volvo C70. The 3 Series builds upon the solid performance of the 1 Series and delivers a larger and more attractive design that may make it a better option than its less-expensive brother. The Nissan 350Z delivers a sleek, rounded design and pulse-pounding speed and handling. The Volvo C70 is a more modest drive that excels in the categories of comfort and safety. All three models boast a retractable hardtop design.
Nudging up the price line a bit, the Porsche Boxster, Chevrolet Corvette (pictured) and Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class all start at about $45,000. The Boxster is an excellent option for those looking for a good balance between comfort and performance. The Corvette is a sportier option that offers improved horsepower, yet features reduced interior luxury. The two-seat SLK slants the opposite way, offering plenty of standard and optional features.
Past the $65,000 threshold, the Porsche 911 Carrera and Mercedes-Benz SL-Class are both worth investigating. The Porsche 911 has long been a favorite among luxury sports cars, and the convertible variant fails to disappoint. From the car's classy, yet sporty design to the comfortable interior and powerful 345-hp engine, the Carrera cabriolet is one of the best buys in the luxury class.
With a base price of $98,500, the SL roadster is perhaps the most refined convertible for the year. Unique features include an Airscarf that blows warm air around the neck and a folding steel hardtop. Throw in a capable V8 or V12 engine that nearly matches the Carrera, and it's easy to see why this luxury convertible is such a hit.