Ah, to have full pockets, free time and be in the market for a new convertible. Three particularly interesting models are arriving just in time for summer.
We start with the latest from Audi. The 2011 R8 Spyder 5.2 FSI Quattro ($190,000) is a car the company modestly calls its most beautiful car. Ever. Who are we to argue?
The true "halo" car in the Audi brand - the car that casts a positive light on all the models and best expresses what Audi says it's all about - has a V-10 sourced from corporate cousin Lamborghini (the Gallardo) and all-aluminum construction. The 0-100 km/hour sprint: 4.1 seconds.
The roof, of course, folds away tidily in back, but it's not one of those tumbling tin tops. No, it's a well-fitted fabric design that tucks away in 19 seconds at speeds up to 50 km/hour. Cool features include three tiny microphones sewn into each seatbelt (with a fourth on the windshield frame) to make Bluetooth phone conversations unsullied by the elements.
Audi is as excited about the Spyder as Ferrari about the California ($249,000). The California actually got to Canada last fall, so this is its first summer in the Great White North.
Speaking of which, Ferrari types love to chat about all the "firsts" here: first mid-mounted V-8 in a Ferrari; first Ferrari using direct fuel injection; first with a two-piece folding hardtop; first with a rear-mounted, paddle-shifted seven-speed dual clutch automatic manual transmission …
With 453 Prancing Horses under the hood, the 0-100 km/h time is less than four seconds. This is not Ferrari's first fast car, but it may be the most comfortable one on a long drive. The California fits nicely into the true Gran Turismo niche.
A third interesting new convertible for the summer of 2010 is 2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet ($67,900-$77,500). This model takes over from the old CLK.
Mercedes calls this one a four-seasons, four-person cabriolet and there is truth there. Something Mercedes calls the "AirCap" keeps the cabin climate under control when the lid is down. We're talking about a spoiler rising from the top of the windshield frame that is designed to kick wind up and over the open cabin.
Then there is the "AirScarf." It vents warm air from the headrests to keep you cozy. The climate control system is programmed to know when the roof is fixed or folded, and sort things out accordingly.
As for the roof, it's cloth, so when folded away it does not take up as much room as the metal tops in rivals from BMW, Infiniti and Volvo. Mercedes says its thick fabric top is a sturdy, all-weather unit that keeps out both the elements and noise. It powers down in 20 seconds at up to 40 km/hour.
Three new additions to tantalize the convertible cognoscenti.