Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

January 7, 2013

Cars: New convertible models are all hotties

By Derek Price
CNHI News Service

— It may still be winter, but that hasn't stopped auto makers from announcing some of their hottest new models for the upcoming year.

Here's a look at three smokin' European convertibles to dream about over a cup of hot chocolate:

E-Class Cabriolet

The E-Class has never been the most exciting car from Mercedes-Benz, but the addition of a convertible to the lineup added some spice a few years ago.

Now Mercedes is giving the drop-top E-Class Cabriolet — along with its coupe sibling — some sexy new styling for 2014.

The front end gets the most dramatic changes, where a V-shaped nose and new headlight style make it look sportier, almost like the classic SL roadster, but retaining the same "four eyes" look of the E-Class sedan.

It also gets a state-of-the-art sensor system that Mercedes calls "intelligent drive." It uses both stereo video cameras and radar sensors to create a 3D view of everything happening up to 165 feet in front of the vehicle, plus get some idea of what's happening up to 1,640 feet ahead. That means it can see cars, pedestrians and road markings, then take appropriate action to improve safety or warn the  driver.

Continental GT Speed

Want to drive the king of convertibles?

Bentley claims its new flagship convertible, the Continental GT Speed, will be the fastest four-seat car you can drive with the wind in your hair. It has a top speed of 202 miles per hour.

This new model is powered by a 6.0-liter, 12-cylinder engine that makes 616 horsepower, a number usually associated more with exotic supercars than comfortable, top-down boulevard cruisers.

And, make no mistake, Bentley says the new GT won't sacrifice comfort or quality to reach that insane top speed. It comes with hand-crafted, diamond-quilted hide upholstery and custom cabin trim made from your choice of fine wood veneers.

The price? Bentley hasn't announced it. And if you have to ask, you probably can't afford it.

Z4 Roadster

Twenty-five years after the legendary Z1 was introduced, BMW is rolling out a brand-new version of the Z4 roadster for 2014.

Knowing its reputation, the new Z4 ought to be one of the best convertibles in the world when it arrives at dealerships this spring.

It comes with either a four-cylinder or your choice of two different inline six-cylinder engines, all of which use twin turbochargers to boost the power output. Horsepower ranges from 240 on the base model up to 335 on the Z4 sDrive35is.

Styling on the Z4 has historically been avant garde, with futuristic, love-them-or-hate-them lines. The new styling is more timeless, though, with the sloping, sleek shape of a classic roadster and gracefully muscular hood bulges.

It also comes with a dial that lets the driver choose between Comfort, Sport and Sport+ modes, depending on how aggressive you want it to feel.

-----

Derek Price is an automotive columnist for CNHI News Service. Contact him at carcolumn@gmail.com.