June 16, 2011 at 2:59 pm EDT | by Joe Phillips
Ragtop roundup

The BMW 650 (submitted photo)

June is bustin’ out all over. Between Newt Gingrich’s imploding campaign and Anthony Weiner’s immodest photos, it’s becoming a long hot summer in Washington.

And it’s enough to make you head for the hills — or the beach.

That’s where a cool convertible comes in. From soft tops to retractable hardtops, there are more than 60 different models to help you get away from it all. Some are brand new. Others boast swanky upgrades.

To help you choose, here are four of the best.

Chysler 200
Mpg: 19 city/29 highway

Sure, Chrysler took its four-year-old Sebring, reshaped the front and rear ends, then slapped on new “200” badging. But this isn’t a case of bait and switch. While the chassis, doors and roof are still the same, the 200 is longer, lower and more chiseled. The interior — now much quieter — is also more stylish, with Euro-chic black (or black-and-cream) padded surfaces instead of the Sebring’s hard cheap plastic. Such styling cues seem to channel Audi. But the ride — while more nimble than before — is still a bit soft. Still, the optional V6 is no slouch (though the sluggish four cylinder is forgettable). And there’s a wind blocker — a luxury-car feature— along with choice of either vinyl soft top or steel hard top. Overall, it’s hard to beat the 200’s price: similar mid-sizers are often twice as much.

Chevy Camaro
Mpg: 18 city/29 highway

For drivers needing more testosterone, Chevy’s bad-boy muscle car boasts a 312-hp V6. The high-test SS model — with its whopping 426-hp V8 — hits 60 mph in just 5.2 seconds and costs $10,000 more. Yet despite such powerful engines and the 4,116-pound heft, gas mileage is decent. And — surprise — there’s almost no cowl shake: a big bugaboo with Camaro convertibles ever since they arrived in the 1960s. Retro styling and a brawny exhaust rumble are big plusses. Tight rear seating, minimal trunk space and limited driver visibility are not. Still, cornering and braking are BMW-like. It’s also quiet, thanks to the insulated acoustic liner in the cloth top.

Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet
Mpg: 17 city/22 highway

Whaaaat? That’s pretty much the reaction to seeing a topless two-door Murano CrossCabriolet, Nissan’s ballsy crossover/convertible mashup. The only other vehicle that came close was Chevy’s ill-fated SSR pickup/convertible, which lasted just four years. But the CrossCabriolet may fare better. It’s roomy, has Murano’s handsome styling and is brimming with so much standard gear — including large-screen nav system, kickin’ Bose audio and heated seats and steering wheel — that there are few options left to offer. As in the original Murano, seating is high for great visibility. And braking and acceleration are seamless. But Nissan didn’t just take a Murano and chop off the top. Almost everything is new from the windshield back, which is why the suspension is so solid and the fit and finish look custom-made.

BMW 650i Series
Mpg: 15 city/22 highway

BMW is a master magician. While this 6 Series redo looks leaner and lighter, it’s actually longer, wider and heavier. The result is more cabin and cargo room, as well as better handling and traction. While the Camaro CC has more horsepower, the BMW’s twin-turbo V8 packs more punch: 0 to 60 in a blistering 4.8 seconds. Plenty of high-tech marvels, including side cameras in the front fenders to help you see around corners. And a backup camera cleverly combines images from cameras in each side-view-mirror to give you a birds-eye panorama of the car from above. Biggest surprise: no retractable hardtop — only a cloth roof.

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