Bill Pugliano
The overhauled 2005 Ford Mustang convertible relies too heavily on a retro look but counteracts the old Mustang with sharp, racy styling and an interior that has really grown up, writes Forbes' Dan Lienert.
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updated 6/30/2005 6:31:43 PM ET 2005-06-30T22:31:43

All year long, as we write about fuel-efficient cars, family cars and practical cars such as sport utility vehicles, we look forward to writing our annual feature on the coolest convertibles. This is because discussions about convertibles are not about pragmatism; they are about fun.

And, this year, as we head into summer, it's more important than ever that cars should be fun, because the automotive news this year — frightening gas prices and the potential collapse of the American auto industry — have not been much fun.

Although the U.S. Department of Commerce says energy prices were up 4.5 percent in April, led by a 6.4 percent jump in gas prices, oil and gasoline prices have been falling in recent weeks. And here's a bit of timely good news for fans of driving — and especially of convertibles: According to the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business, prospects for gasoline supplies during the summer driving season are very encouraging, and gas prices should remain at their current levels or be lower through the summer driving season

The slide show showcases our picks for the ten coolest convertibles of 2005, but in a more general sense it is a guide to maximizing fun in a car. After all, no vehicle is more exhilarating than a sports car. You may, for example, love pickups — but no vehicle type is designed and engineered to maximize performance, and thus entertainment and excitement, the way a sports car is.

"The Road & Track Illustrated Automotive Dictionary" defines sports cars as "two-seat and two-plus-two (i.e., a car with a tiny backseat) open designs with low, sleek bodies as well as their closed coupe equivalents, which should more precisely be called Grand Touring, Gran Turismo or simply GT cars."

This is a strict, traditional definition, but if we abide by it — if we call sporty coupes "GT cars" and reserve the term "sports cars" for drop-tops — then we have this premise: Not all convertibles are sports cars, but all sports cars are convertibles. In other words, if fun is your top priority in buying a new car, your best bet is to buy a convertible.

But which one to buy? In the slide show, we have broken down our list of selections based on price, in order to provide recommendations for many different levels of purchasing power.

We did not consider writing about cars that are being discontinued or are headed for replacement. We made our selections with a mind toward such objective factors as reliability, recall histories, depreciation, safety and owner satisfaction. Some objective data are not available for new cars, such as Ford Motor's Mustang, but in all cases we considered performance characteristics such as acceleration and horsepower.

One technical note: One of our price brackets in the slide show covers a large field — the $50,000-to-$80,000 ballpark. The winner in this category is General Motors' Chevrolet Corvette. We made that particular price bracket so wide because of a dearth of competitive vehicles.

© 2012 Forbes.com

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