For the record, I'm a convertible fanatic. I've driven my fair share of
them, and can tell you honestly that (IMHO) nothing compares to the
feeling of a long cruise with the top down on a lovely summer day. Make
it red, and the feeling only gets better.
Okay, okay, there's the risk of skin cancer (and any person who owns a convertible should be responsible enough to carry sunblock and caps in the glovebox) from sun exposure, a relatively limited amount of trunk space in many roadsters, and a small tendency to leak in drive-through car washes. But somehow, I'm willing to forgive these inconveniences the moment I feel my hair blowing freely behind me, and the sun gently warming my face.
I spent some time recently in a 2007 Saturn Sky. This lovely little roadster made its debut into the Saturn lineup at the 2005 Detroit auto show as a sister to the stylish Pontiac Solstice and features a 2.4-liter/177-horsepower DOHC inline four-cylinder engine. Some may say it's underpowered, but stand on the gas when you're the first car on the greenlight, and it still offers neck-snapping acceleration that will leave those around you far behind. Official statistics promise zero to 60 in about 7 seconds and a 15.7-second quarter-mile. Top-down cruising at highway speeds still allows easy conversation between passengers, with power for passing, even at 70 mph. Estimated fuel economy is 20 mpg city, 28 mpg highway.
And it's sexy. I can't tell you how many people stopped to ask me questions about this chili-pepper-red roadster; one man even asked for my phone number at the gas station, making it fun transportation as well as a way to make new friends!
It features an entry price of $24,725, which includes four-wheel disc
brakes with ABS; power locks, windows, and mirrors; remote keyless
entry with alarm; air conditioning (for those days when it's so hot you
have to keep the top up); AM/FM/CD sound system with six speakers;
glass rear mirror with defogger; remote trunk release; cloth seats
(upgrade to a premium trim package including leather and steering wheel
audio controls for $750), 18-inch painted aluminum wheels wearing
P245/45R18 tires (upgrade to 18-inch polished aluminum for $545);
24-hour roadside assistance, and one year of On-Star Safe & Sound
service. Dual-stage front airbags with passenger sensing system allowed
me to easily install my childseat to bring my four-year-old along for a
cruise without fear of airbag danger.
As much fun as this car is, however, it does have some drawbacks that would limit my decision to consider it as an only car. First of all, the operation of the convertible top requires a series of steps that could frustrate even the most patient of soft top admirers: press a button to release the top fairings from the trunk, pull the handle to release the top, get out and open the trunk, fold the top down into the trunk, snap each side down into place, then close the trunk lid. Reverse the procedure to put the top back up, but be sure you really smash those fairings down onto their hooks. Because of the way the top snaps onto the trunk top, accessing the trunk requires releasing the stylish (but pointless) fairings to open, and re-snapping them into place after closing the trunk lid. To make matters worse, when the top is stowed, there is barely enough cargo room (two cubic feet!) to hold an average purse, and maybe a couple of carefully arranged bags of groceries. If you spend most of your time alone in the car, that's not so inconvenient because you can throw that stuff into the passenger seat, but if you often bring passengers along, they might tire of stashing your purse at their feet -- though if you're short like me (5'2"), you can squeeze a bag behind the seat. And you can just forget about stowing any luggage for a weekend getaway unless you plan to take the entire drive with the top up.
Adjust your seat before you close the door! Because the space inside the car is quite snug, there's barely enough room to swing the seatback into position with the door closed. And, even though it offers an ample glovebox, and a locking compartment between the seats, there aren't any convenient cubbies for holding tchotckes like your cellphone or MP3 player (a stereo upgrade includes an auxiliary input for such gadgets). Yes, it has three cupholders, but their airy stowable design prevents them from being used to hold hair clips or anything less substantial than an actual cup. I wound up tossing my cell phone into the speedo binnacle -- probably not the best choice. I recommend you just keep it in your purse and go handsfree with a Bluetooth headpiece.
Don't get me wrong; I don't want to sound like a complainer. This car is great fun and super sexy, and I've been told nearly half the registered owners are women. But it's best for weekend playtime and ladies without tall companions.
By Brandy Schaffels
Contributing editor and convertible lover