The New England Motor Press Association had its 15th annual Ragtop Ramble on July 20. It’s a put-the-top-down and hit-the-road event, cruising from Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline to Kennebunkport, Maine.
It’s a toss-up as to which is more fun, the drive or the ensuing clambake.
The drive, along Routes 128 and 95, had other drivers staring, pointing, photographing (gotta love those smartphones) as the parade passed them by.
NEMPA members circle the Ramble date early because it’s a car-lover’s paradise. All sorts of rare vehicles miraculously appear to participate, from Bentleys and Rolls-Royces to Lamborghinis, exotic BMWs, and high-end Audis and Jags. This year, there were even a quartet of street-legal racers from Factory 5 inWareham.
The only drawback is that you can’t drive everything.
For example, I got to drive a BMW M6 to the event. It’s an amazing high-end car and was the first high point of the day.
Later, Cape Cod newcomer Mike Geylin, a serious player on the national automotive PR scene, was my driving companion as we experienced the joys of a loaded new Porsche Boxster and Audi S5 convertible. They both were terrific cars and a joy to drive.
En route to Kennebunkport we switched cars at the New Hampshire visitors’ center just before the Hampton toll booths, causing some consternation among state employees because traffic got backed up but giving vacationing car-lovers a chance to see some automotive eye candy.
One of the later treats of the day—after many lobsters have been reduced to shells—is deciding who gets to drive what home for the weekend.
I was thinking the Lamborghini or Corvette would have been great parked in my driveway alongside a recent adoptee—a 1978 GMC Caballero (sibling to the El Camino).
It didn’t work out that way.
Instead, I got the keys to a 2012 Chrysler 200S Convertible. At first, it was a bit of a disappointment; however, who can knock having a nice coupe that’s both a hardtop and drop top?
Heading home, the 200S grew on me … and grew on me. Instead of being a weekend ride, it became this week’s test car.
When the folks came to take it away on Monday morning, Mrs. G was threatening a protest—either laying across the driveway or chaining herself to the car.
That’s how much we enjoyed the 200S for the weekend. The short version is that it’s finally the car that Chrysler always wanted the Sebring convertible to be.
“Take me for a ride,” Mrs. G demanded when the car hit the driveway. It didn’t matter that I was tired and sunburned. So off we went, cruising down Rte. 1 from Newburyport, cutting off for a swing through the Governor’s Academy in Byfield and doubling back through the worst local road I’ve found, a high-tide-ravaged stretch that cuts across the Great Marsh adjacent to the academy.
The 200S was amazing. It cruised across that normally teeth-rattling stretch with aplomb, as smooth as cars costing twice as much.
Speaking of cost, our 200S was about as pricey as a 200 gets—$35,990. It had the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine (280 horsepower and 263 lb.-ft. of torque) that gave us 23.7 miles per gallon. It’s mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.
The drivetrain was a pleasure and the styling of the S version was spectacular. Ours was painted in Deep Cherry Red with a black interior and 18-inch, black-trimmed aluminum S wheels.The S model also had a special black grille, body color mirrors and door handles, S headlamps with black background, S fog lamp bezels, S heated leather front seats, and premium Boston Acoustic speakers that did the job cruising with the top down.
You can get into a 200 convertible in the base version for $27,325 (including destination). That comes with a 2.4-liter engine that’s mated to the same six-speed automatic and has an EPA mileage rating of 18 mpg city and 29 highway as opposed to the six’s 19 and 29. There’s a five-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty on both versions and all versions are loaded with safety features.
Move up to the mid-range Limited model and you get the V-6, dual bright exhaust tips, leather seats, a Media Center (we liked this one), Uconnect hands-free phone, iPod connection, fog lamps, remote start, and key fob-activated top.
Both soft and hard versions of the top are available.
My feeling is that Chrysler has nailed this convertible in the same way that it did with the minivan, the Charger, the Wrangler, and Grand Cherokee.
The best part is that it came as a total surprise. A welcome one.