With warmer weather comes one of the best aspects of motoring: the ability to drop the top on a nice sunny day. Many convertible options are available in today’s market at a variety of price points and sizes. Among the more practical convertibles are those with a back seat. One of the nicer examples is the Lexus IS350C.

    The IS350C is a sharp-looking vehicle, with an aggressive front end, rising beltline and sculpted rear. It also is a comfortable car; and last but not least, it’s a nice performing car. The interior is typical Lexus: comfortable, powered, heated and cooled seats covered in rich leather, quality materials, and has a solidity rarely found in convertibles. The electrically adjustable steering wheel is leather-covered and contains controls for the radio. A large screen navigation system also is used to control the radio and climate control, and to project the image from the back-up camera.

    The rear seat is large enough for an adult to sit back there for an in-town dash, but I wouldn’t drive cross-country sitting in the back seat. The retractable hardtop raises and lowers at the touch of a button in a 20-second mechanical ballet. Top down, it’s all the fun of a convertible; top up, it offers all the protection and quiet of a hardtop coupe. With the top up, there’s a decent amount of trunk room.

    The IS convertible is offered with two engines: a 2.5 liter 204 horsepower V-6 (IS250C) and a 3.5 liter 306 horsepower V-6 (IS350C). Gas mileage is 21 city, 30 highway with the 2.5 liter engine and 20 city, 27 highway with the 3.5. Both engines send power to the rear wheels via a 6-speed automatic that offers paddle shifters. Acceleration is brisk and smooth with the 3.5 liter engine, which is remarkably quiet. Braking also is good. The suspension is stiff enough to provide decent handling, yet soft enough to provide a comfortable ride.

    Plaza Lexus general sales manager Dennis Breheny says, “The steel retractable top of the IS350C gives the car some weight, which makes it feel stable and balanced. It’s got a nice ride and is a solid car.”

    To put an IS350C in your garage, figure on parting with around $55,000 with options; base price is around $47,000. For the smaller-engined IS250C, figure about $43,000 to start and high $40,000s with options.

    Another new convertible on the market is the Chrysler 200. Following on the heels of the stylish new 200 sedan, the 200 convertible offers the same aggressive styling in a two-door drop top. Interestingly, the drop top can be a conventional soft cloth top or a retractable hard top. Either way, the top drops at the press of one button into the trunk like a hard top, so trunk room is greatly decreased with the top down.

    Dual-stage heated, moderately bolstered leather seats and automatic climate control help ensure passenger comfort. The radio is controlled on a touch screen at the top of the center stack, and is easy to use. Audio controls on the leather-wrapped steering wheel are a nice convenience and safety feature. Even with the soft top, the rear window is glass and has a defogger. The rear seat is big enough for an adult for a short trip, but not a long one.

    The 200 offers a smooth ride with decent handling, good brakes, but overboosted power steering. With the V-6, there’s plenty of power and good pick up. It has a nice, solid feel to it. With the top up, it’s well sealed, even with the soft top, which is lined for noise and temperature insulation.

    The 200 is available with either a 173 horsepower 2.4 liter 4 cylinder, or a 283 horsepower 3.6 liter V-6 Pentastar flexfuel engine, which returns gas mileage of 19 city, 29 highway. Both engines drive the front wheels through a 6-speed automatic transmission. Electronic stability and traction control can help keep you on course in slippery conditions.

    Marty Cancila Chrysler president/GM Tony Cancila says, “The new Chrysler 200 convertible is a sexy, affordable and elegant vehicle that offers every available safety and security feature as standard, and the new Pentastar V6 engine offers great fuel economy and power.”

    Prices for the 200 convertible start at about $27,000 and can go up to around $35,000 for a fully loaded retractable hardtop.  LN

Robert Paster is also an attorney in private practice, concentrating in estate planning and probate, see http://robertpaster.com">robertpaster.com.