eBayfreak None
Feb. 20, 2014 10:53 a.m.

Hello all, long time lurker but first time poster here.

Wife said yesterday, "you know, I'd really like a convertible." One does not hear such words and wait to act, so now I'm starting the search. Right now, our automotive stable consists of a '93 MX-5, a Jeep Wrangler, and her car, a '02 BMW 325xi that's getting close to the 200K mile mark. Replacing her car with something a little less worn and more fuel efficient would help us hit a few birds with one stone. Budget for this is pretty low, preliminarily in the $5-8K range.

She really, really likes the BMW, so my first idea is an early, (relatively) low miles Z3 with the 1.9L four. Also have considered the Benz SLK230. I've had experience with a couple older German autobahn mobiles, so they don't scare me too badly, and the resale values are favorably low.

Why not another Miata? Well, we've got one, and some variety would be nice. Also, though she loves riding in it, I think she'd appreciate something more refined, probably an auto trans too (yes, I know :what the:).

So, the TL;DR: what roadster for wife, cheap, not gas hog? Any other ideas, folks? Thanks!

Feb. 20, 2014 11:04 a.m.

Mustang is not a terrible choice.

My issue with convertibles, and why the Miata always wins is the ease of going topless and reverting to closed roof.

My commute is only a few miles to work. In the Miata, I think nothing of dropping the top as I back out of the driveway and doing the one-arm lift as I pull in to my spot at work.

The other convertibles that I have tried all have a "ritual" to raise and lower the top. The novelty gets old and I would end up not lowering the top, so why own a convertible.

The other issue is top replacement. Sooner or later, for whatever reason, you need a new top. Miata is an afternoon in the garage and about 600 dollars. Cant see any of the other options at less than 2k.

cdowd Reader
Feb. 20, 2014 11:10 a.m.

also look at the Saab 9-3. My wife and sister have the sedans and my mother has an 08 vert. They can get in the low 30s mpg. we bought the 08 a year ago with 25k for 15. you should be able to buy an 06 or so for around your range.

pres589 UltraDork
Feb. 20, 2014 11:38 a.m.


Klayfish SuperDork
Feb. 20, 2014 11:38 a.m.

Solara convertible?

BoxheadTim PowerDork
Feb. 20, 2014 11:42 a.m.

I'd also look at Mercedes R129 320SL (not the 500, that one does like a drink). They're pretty much at the bottom of their deprecation curve right now and do (well, should) come with a hardtop.

SlickDizzy PowerDork
Feb. 20, 2014 11:43 a.m.

9-3 is a good & underrated choice, very high quality winter-proof top if original, there are a lot of E36 BMW 318i convertibles out there too that are being given away because nobody wants them. The Z3 1.9 is cool but they fetch a surprising amount of money still.

amg_rx7 Dork
Feb. 20, 2014 11:43 a.m.

The SLK is pretty nice ride. I had one. Pretty easy to work on. Decently fun to drive but more of a cruiser. Nice interior. Great car to drive with the top down. unlike the Miata and other 'verts, the wind doesn't beat you up too badly in the SLK. Don't get the 2.3L supercharged 4. That is a dog of a motor and sounds terrible. I think this may be my all time favorite convertible car.

The Z3 is pretty nice as well. It is a sportier driving car compared to the SLK but not as good with the top down since the wind beats you up more. Feels a bit more cramped than the SLK.

JohnRW1621 UltimaDork
Feb. 20, 2014 11:43 a.m.


turboswede UltimaDork
Feb. 20, 2014 11:43 a.m.

A Z3 seems like the best option and while not the best solution for driving quickly, compared to a Miata for example, it is a decent "sporty" cruiser for the wife and should be pretty comfy.

Matt B SuperDork
Feb. 20, 2014 11:51 a.m.

If she's serious about wanting more refinement, I'd go bigger than a Z3. E46 verts are into the $8K range now.

Of course, I'm sure the Solara is going to be more comfortable and probably more economical to run long-term. Doesn't have the panache though.

nocones SuperDork
Feb. 20, 2014 11:55 a.m.

So you would own 3 convertibles?

pinchvalve MegaDork
Feb. 20, 2014 12:03 p.m.

Can you get a E320 with a diesel and a convertible?

1988RedT2 PowerDork
Feb. 20, 2014 12:13 p.m.

Gaaak! Solara? Every review I've read on that car says it flexes like a piece of cooked spaghetti.

I vote for an E36 BMW. Or maybe an E46 if the budget allows. Plentiful supply and the usual 3-series strengths. True, the top is going to involve more maintenance, but that's the price you pay.

I put a lot of time, but very little money reconditioning the top on my wife's '97 328iC and fixing a few issues like the tension straps, rear window, and top cover struts. None of it was terribly difficult, but I had some hours in it. Fully automatic and worked like a champ with the push of a button on the dash. The car was about perfect when we sold it maybe a year later. It never really tickled my wife's fancy, as she wanted something a little faster and favored the curvier E46 over the E36 styling.

Me? I loved the car, although I don't like getting sunburn whilst out on a drive, so I'd opt out on the convertible feature!

Klayfish SuperDork
Feb. 20, 2014 12:49 p.m.
1988RedT2 wrote: Gaaak! Solara? Every review I've read on that car says it flexes like a piece of cooked spaghetti.

Yes, I've read it too. But I was looking at the other criteria he listed. More refined, auto, fuel efficient, affordable. It hits all those pretty well. Don't know how much his wife cares about body flex. A lot of women don't worry about that...most Solara 'verts I've seen have been female owned (same with the Sebring, though I wouldn't recommend those). And it's a Camry...it'll run forever

mazdeuce UltraDork
Feb. 20, 2014 12:51 p.m.

You know, I think the Solara isn't too bad. It does wiggle like a noodle, but that's OK, it's not a sports car and doesn't pretend to be. It's a very honest mid range cruising convertible. I borrowed one for an afternoon last summer expecting to hate it, but I didn't.

Keith Tanner MegaDork
Feb. 20, 2014 1:08 p.m.

See if you can find an 2006+ Miata, especially the power hardtop version, in your price range. It'll likely be near the high end, but I'll wager that maintenance will be less than the BMW options. At the very least, take one for a spin. Quite a different car than a 1993.

Duke UltimaDork
Feb. 20, 2014 1:11 p.m.
pinchvalve wrote: Can you get a E320 with a diesel and a convertible?

That sounds like an effective way to make yourself look like pinkeyed Bob Costas within 5 miles of putting the top down. Or getting a migraine every time you drive it.

Gearheadotaku UberDork
Feb. 20, 2014 1:26 p.m.

98-02 F-body V6. 2000-2002 had some updates that make them easier to work on. You might find a nice high milage V8 if you search long enough.

confuZion3 SuperDork
Feb. 20, 2014 1:38 p.m.

Almost all of my cars (except for one) have been convertibles. Three roadsters and a Mustang GT convertible. I liked my Z3 more than my Miata as a driving car (don't tell the GRM forum folks I said that) but it was cleaner than my Miata, more comfortable, sounded better, looked better... it was just more expensive and unnecessary when I moved to NYC a few years back, so I kept the Miata for track fun and sold the BMW.

If I didn't have the Viper now, I would look at the Z3 M Roadster or at least try to find another example of the regular Z3 that I had (the 2.5 liter, 170 HP I6). The interior is classy, the wheel is way too big and reminiscent of old roadsters (which I liked), the electric top is super easy and pretty darn quick and it got good gas mileage. They're super classy. I even liked the Z3 more than the Z4 in a lot of ways. I've driven all of the Z3 engines (including both M engines), and it's fair to say that even the four will be quite fun if horsepower is not a concern. The Z3, particularly the M, is my favorite car that BMW ever built.

The Mustang was super cool but that may be my own cognitive bias since I grew up with the car when my dad owned it and it was my first car. It also had an electric top which was easy to deal with. It was also one of the fastest cars I've ever owned (never modified). It didn't have a very stiff chassis, but I never noticed and I never cared--it wasn't a race car.

Flight Service MegaDork
Feb. 20, 2014 1:39 p.m.

A4 and 3 series, both are find-able depreciated nicely and give you a second row of seats. Something the Z3 won't

eBayfreak New Reader
Feb. 20, 2014 2:03 p.m.

Thanks for the ideas so far! The E36 sounds like a possibility; did they make a 318is 'vert (cis)?

Saab might be possible; just saw a cheap one in town for sale. She has a specific hatred of Mustangs, so that's out, as are Solaras.

My dad has close to a dozen 450SLs with maybe three rough runners at any one time. That wouldn't really help the mpg/age related goals, but I guess infinite spare parts would be nice. My dad is trying to collect one of every 80s-era Mercedes, and I think he's close. Even has two L-series rollback trucks and a T2 van.

pimpm3 HalfDork
Feb. 20, 2014 3:16 p.m.

Boxster. My wife enjoyed hers until we had kids and had to sell it. I am pretty sure they make them in an automatic.

spitfirebill UberDork
Feb. 20, 2014 3:32 p.m.

My wife has a 2007 Solara and loves it. For someone who drives Triupmhs, I don't find the body flex bad at all. To get in your price range you are going to be looking at earlier models that are probably going to have some miles on them.

It just so happens we have a family friend (young female professional) who is selling her 2005 Audi A4(not positive on the model?) convertible. One owner, 55-59k miles. Maintained by the dealer. She is asking 10k. I have no idea what the retail or wholesale is. She is taking a job in Colorado for 1.5-3 years and the company is renting her a car. She doesn't want hers to sit for that long. so she is going to sell it.

BoxheadTim PowerDork
Feb. 20, 2014 5:05 p.m.
pimpm3 wrote: Boxster. My wife enjoyed hers until we had kids and had to sell it. I am pretty sure they make them in an automatic.

They do/did, and conveniently, at least for the 986, the Tiptronic equipped ones are cheaper than their manual counterparts.

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