|The Boxster S packs a 310-horsepower six-cylinder engine that's placed behind the car's two seats.|
Ford ( F), Nissan ( NSANY) and Audi unveiled convertible sports cars that cost a little more than $30,000, hoping that consumers will pay just a bit more for luxury in a battered economy. German carmaker Porsche introduced a more powerful Boxster that can be had for less than $60,000, a bargain when you consider it's almost as fast as the flagship 911. Here are five convertibles guaranteed to make your summer days -- and just about any other day -- unforgettable. 2009 Porsche Boxster S; From $56,700: Now in its second generation, the Boxster re-energized Porsche when it was introduced in the late '90s as a less-expensive alternative to the 911. While the base Boxster, with a 255-horsepower six-cylinder engine, starts at about $10,000 less, the Boxster S, with its 310-hp six, provides a more spirited ride. Both versions feature a mid-engine design, which places the powerplant behind the two-seat cockpit but in front of a small trunk for better balance, handling and responsiveness. Add in a power soft-top that operates at speeds up to 30 mph and a wide range of upscale features, and you have all the makings of a perfect afternoon on the road.
2009 Volkswagen Eos Convertible Coupe; From $31,615: It's been a while since VW ( VLKAY) offered either a convertible or a production coupe, but the Eos wraps both into one neat package. Borrowing some styling cues from Audi (they're owned by the same parent company), especially in the front grill area, the Eos comes equipped with a retractable hard top with an integrated sunroof, a first for the German automaker. The Eos is available in Komfort (basic) and Lux (upscale) trims, both powered by a 200-hp four-cylinder engine.
2009 Ford Mustang GT Convertible; From $32,995: The Corvette convertible has long been popular with enthusiasts, but might we suggest the Ford Mustang convertible as viable alternative? It offers muscular lines rather than the Vette's sleekness, and in its most recent incarnation has returned to its iconic mid-'60s roots. Plus, with a starting price point of about $33,000, it's also a lot easier on the pocketbook. The Mustang's throaty 315-hp V8 provides plenty of power under the pedal, and the 'Stang comes equipped with a power retractable soft-top roof with a glass rear window. For a real treat, check out the Shelby GT500 Convertible, powered by an awe-inspiring 500-hp V8. 2009 Nissan 350Z Roadster; From $36,280: Nissan's legendary Z continues to impress. For proof, just jump behind the wheel of the quick and nimble two-seat Roadster. A hefty 306-hp V6 provides plenty of pop and rumble, while the power convertible soft top, which retracts in 20 seconds and stows neatly away under its own hard cover behind the seats, makes open-air driving a cinch. A rear wind deflector minimizes swirling winds, while the driver-oriented cockpit includes such standard features as a sport steering wheel, a padded shifter, drilled aluminum pedals and bolstered seats that keep the occupants firmly planted on even the twistiest roads. 2009 Audi TT Roadster; From $37,200: With a low center of gravity, a nearly 50/50 weight distribution and neat retractable rear spoiler that automatically deploys at 75 mph and retracts at 50 mph, the TT Roadster is the perfect car to toss around some tight curves on the Pacific Coast Highway or take on a sightseeing trip up the New England coastline. It comes with a fully automatic retractable soft top and an automatically extending and retracting mesh wind deflector that reduces interior wind-whip, so you won't muss up your 'do. Engine choices include a 200-hp turbocharged four-cylinder or a 250-hp V6. For extra stability, add Audi's excellent Quattro all-drive-system.