New Drop Tops Get Day in the Sun

As the Detroit Auto Show (officially the North American International Auto Show) winds down this week, a number of automotive trends have emerged. The biggest, of course, is that all automakers are steering toward greener, more fuel-efficient cars. Hybrids are popping up everywhere (see previous posts). Even Ferrari has announced a green version of its F430 spider (above), a projected 489-horsepower sport convertible with a V8 engine that will run on E85 biofuel.

That’s a newsworthy development, and it brings us to another, more subtle trend, but an important one nonetheless — the debut in the past week or so of a number of new convertibles. BMW, for instance, has just leaked details about its 2009 BMW M3 Convertible (the car’s world premiere will take place in Geneva in March). As its M3 designation indicates, the new convertible continues BMW’s line of motorsports-derived cars, and will feature a new 420-horsepower, 4.0-liter V8 engine that will drive the drop-top from 0 to 62 mph (100 kilometers per hour) in just 5.3 seconds.

Reportedly, the new BMW convertible will feature an updated, more muscular exterior, a stiffer body, a reinforced suspension, and a new seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The M3 Convertible, which should be available at dealers later this year, will also come with a retractable three-piece hardtop.

Not to be outdone, Lexus also showed off a new convertible, the LF-A Roadster, which debuted as a concept but is expected to go into production soon. The shapely roadster will be constructed from carbon fiber and aluminum to create a rigid yet lightweight body, and will be powered by a V10 engine expected to produce about 500 horsepower. Details beyond that are still sketchy, although the new roadster will come with a retractable rear spoiler, but it seems clear that Lexus has set its sights on convertibles from Ferrari and Lamborghini with its new drop top. The price tag is sure to be in the stratosphere — somewhere north of 100K — but perhaps for its next trick, Lexus will produce a green or hybrid super-convertible. Lovers of open-air driving can only hope.

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