Audi, Mercedes, Saturn: Roadster Mania Continues

by : Anthony Fontanelle

Driving is passion. And cars could dramatically alleviate the passion that drivers feel. And in today's auto trend, one segment seems to captivate the soft spot of modern generation drivers, and that would be the roadsters.

According to Jason Harper of Bloomberg, if cars are all about freedom, and any 16-year-old dying to get out of the house would confirm that they are, then the two-seat roadster is the ultimate expression of that feeling.

"After all, what could be more divorced from humdrum practicality, and better suited to escape reality, than a convertible? Since a roadster is likely the second or even third car in your garage, how much should you spend for something that sees limited use? Do you lose out on the feeling if you spend too little, or even too much?" he added.

Harper noted, "At its best, a convertible is a simple machine, designed to let the driver taste the air while eating up the road, preferably on a hot day with an even hotter passenger. I've spent months testing different makes and models, looking specifically for the sweet spot between price and hair-mussing payoff."

There are ample choices available in the auto industry. Different features, colors, and performance. But there are three roadsters that have dramatically captivated the desires of young drivers. Their score cars are consistently showing excellence.

The first roadster to make the Saturn thermostat temperature rise like erratic heartbeat is the Sky Red Line. When you check out the stats of the Saturn, 260 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque in a sexy-sleek two-seater package, with a starting price of $29,025, you just might wonder how you can afford not to have it in your garage, said Harper.

"My canary-yellow tester with black interior had options like 18-inch chrome wheels, leather seat insets and premium paint, and it was still only $31,029. I took the two-seater on the twisty back roads of the upper Hudson Valley with great expectations. After all, its less- powerful version, the base Sky, is decently fun if anemically powered. Saturn's solution was to strap a turbo onto a 2.0- liter, four-cylinder engine," Harper noted.

Another breathtaking roaster is Audi TT. Earlier, the automaker has announced that the next-generation TT will be made of aluminum and would go into production this year. The car is constructed of aluminum in the front and steel in the rear to enhance its balance and is available in front- or all-wheel drive.

Also for 2008, a TT-S(S for Sport) and TT-RS (RS for Race Sport) are in the works. The variants are identical to the S4 and RS4 versions of the Audi A4. The automaker refreshed the roadster by flaunting attractive folds and crisp lines.

"When the 2.0T is coupled with the superb S Tronic six-speed automatic transmission, it's a blast to drive, especially if you just drop your foot on the gas pedal and hold it there. The 2.0T begins at $36,800; as tested, with upgraded leather and sound system, $41,425. The 3.2 with the S Tronic transmission has a base of $45,900 and quickly spirals above $50K with options," said Harper.

The high-end Mercedes-Benz SL550 could not be removed from the list. The classic roadster has been around since the '50s. The car is not simple. "It has an aluminum hardtop that retracts in 16 seconds. The base price of $96,075 reflects that complicated nature. Still, it's a great-looking car, taking cues from the SLR McLaren: long, angled hood, with the cockpit sitting way back near the haunches. With the top up, you might not even know it's a convertible, even while," concluded Harper.