An article about convertibles....I think he's off on Sky debut of fall! Also MX-5 price of 26k seems high?
On Sunny Days, Practicality Yields to Fantasy
By Warren Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 15, 2005; Page G02
I only have to look at my driveway to know that it's spring and that summer is not far away. There are sports cars and convertibles, a welcome change from the preponderance of sport-utility vehicles, all-wheel-drive "sport wagons" and motorized mink coats -- super-luxury sedans with heated everything -- that occupy that space in winter.
It's not that I dislike SUVs, wagons or rich-mobiles. I'm a certified vehicle nut. I'm willing to drive or try driving anything that has at least two wheels permanently on the ground. (It's much safer than flying. I once made a wrong turn into the entrance of the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters in McLean. But that's not nearly as dangerous as straying into the White House's "no-fly zone." I was told to leave -- quickly. But no one fired warning flares.)
Convertibles and sports cars are special primarily because they lack any pretense of practicality. They exist simply to be driven for the joy of driving -- fast wherever possible, and on long runs whenever possible. There is something delicious about jumping into a pair of jeans, packing a small overnight bag, grabbing the keys, getting behind the steering wheel of a car and taking off just because the car and the road are there. I plan to do a lot of that in the current season of warmth.
Several rides are at the top of my list. One of them is the Chevrolet Corvette C6 convertible. It is a "must drive," without which the summer of 2005 won't be much of a summer. The new Corvette recognizes that lifelong Corvette lovers are a little older, wider and heavier; and so it has been redone to accommodate the changing proportions of those bodies. But in getting along with fatness, it hasn't gotten sloppy. The $53,000 (in round numbers) car comes with a 6-liter V-8 engine that develops 400 horsepower at 6,000 revolutions per minute and 400 foot-pounds of torque at 4,400 rpm.
That's a lot of oomph! But it does not come with a humongous fuel penalty. With the standard six-speed manual, the rear-wheel-drive Corvette C6 has an Environmental Protection Agency rating of 28 miles per gallon on the highway and 18 miles per gallon in the city. That rating falls to 26 miles per gallon on the highway, but remains the same for the city, with the optional four-speed automatic transmission.
Next is the Bentley Continental GT, probably one of the world's most beautifully sculpted coupes. I love this one just because it looks so darned good. The interior is a work of supple two-toned leather perfectly stitched; fine wood veneers, and thick, rich carpeting. The exterior is so sexy it should come with a second layer of protective coating. Park it somewhere and watch what happens: People walk up to it, walk around it, eyeball it and touch it, touch it, touch it. The Continental GT runs with Volkswagen's twin-turbo W12 engine -- think of two V-6 engines joined side-to-side. Volkswagen? Yes. When it comes to automobiles, the British own nothing except past glory. Foreign companies now control Britain's auto industry. Britain's Bentley belongs to Germany's Volkswagen.
And if it's true that power corrupts, then Volkswagen's W-12 engine has the power to corrupt absolutely. The thing develops 552 horsepower -- that's five hundred and fifty-two -- at 6,100 rpm. Maximum torque, which measures power available to turn the drive wheels, is 479 foot-pounds at 1,600 rpm. Ah, and "twin-turbo" refers to the use of dual turbines used to pull more air into the engine to yield better combustion of the air/fuel mix and produce more power.
The Continental GT's mileage won't get you an invitation to join the Sierra Club; and if you already are a member of that august environmental group, it will get you kicked out. The all-wheel-drive sports car gets 11 miles per gallon in the city and 18 on the highway, and it drinks unleaded premium gasoline at that. So, combined with a base sticker price of $155,000, a federal gas-guzzler tax of several thousand dollars and fairly hefty operating costs, you might think there isn't much of a demand for a car such as the Continental GT in a world of rising oil prices and diminishing fossil fuel supplies. Think again. Globally, there is at least a 10-month waiting list for the Continental GT, and there isn't a gasoline-electric hybrid model of the car on the drawing boards -- at least not at this writing.
On the affordable side, by which I mean cars $35,000 and under, there are several models I want to get into this season. Tied for first place in that category are the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky roadsters from General Motors Corp. Those exceptionally well-designed little runners will be offered at attractive base prices -- about $20,000 for the Solstice and $25,000 for the Sky. But GM won't bring out the Solstice until late summer, when the fantasy-driving season is almost over; and the Sky isn't likely to see light until early fall.
So, here's hoping for an early spin in the 2006 Mazda MX-5 Miata, which I saw perched in resplendent glory at the North American International Auto show in Detroit earlier this year. The new Miata is a tad longer and wider than predecessor models, which means it should be better for taller and wider bodies. Yet, it still looks as sexy as all get-out; and there is something about the rear-wheel-drive two-seater, which should come in at a base price of about $26,000, that makes you want to get out in it, find a happy road and not come back for a long, long time.