The good life takes a turn for the better



BMW’s new 3 Series Convertible recently made its debut at the North American Auto Show in Detroit.



Likely buyers of the Mercedes-Benz Ocean Drive are Hollywood celebrities and other wealthy warm weather residents.

The weather until this week has been uncommonly mild for January this year — only light snow flurries, if at all, and temperatures often well above the freezing point. Even then, the crop of luxury convertibles just unveiled at the North American Inter­national Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit seemed somewhat incongruous.

Of course, the new soft-tops launched by Rolls-Royce and Mercedes-Benz are more Malibu than Michigan — likely buyers for the Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupé and the Mercedes-Benz Ocean Drive are Hollywood celebrities and other wealthy, warm weather residents.

Mercedes-Benz at least acknowledged the colder climate of Detroit by displaying the Ocean Drive on part of its stand that had been turned into an ice rink. The V12-engined car is basically a convertible version of the company's’ flagship S-Class sedan with a custom, coach-built body. It’s something Mercedes-Benz is actively considering, and it could be called CLC in the Merc range.

Rolls-Royce is definitely building the Phantom Drophead Coupé, and production will start at its Goodwood plant in England this the summer. The two-door, four-seat convertible is described as “a less formal interpretation of classic Rolls-Royce design.” It is derived from the 100EX concept car and uses an aluminum space-frame to give a combination of rigid bodyshell and low weight.

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Chairman Ian Robertson told reporters: “The Drophead leads us in a more informal direction, attracting new buyers to the marque.” And he confirmed Rolls would expand its range: “In the coming years other new models will strengthen the company still further,” he added.

For those on a slightly lower budget, BMW’s new 3 Series Convertible made its debut. It’s the first BMW to have a retractable electric hardtop roof. When it arrives in Canadian dealer showrooms it will be available in two models: the elegant 328i powered by a 230 horsepower, 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder engine, and a more potent 335i model with a twin-turbocharged six producing 300 hp.