August 16, 2018 at 4:05 pm EST | by Joe Phillips
Dodge Challenger, BMW 13S offer spunk, panache

Dodge Challenger GT

Want the scoop on coupes and convertibles? They’re not as popular or practical as crossovers, hatchbacks or other rides built for hauling cargo and companions. But they sure are sexy. That’s why some vehicles with beaucoup doors, like the BMW below, are cleverly designed to look like two-door turn ons.

DODGE CHALLENGER GT
$35,000
Mpg: 18 city, 27 highway
Zero-60 mph: 6.3 seconds

Keeping track of the hot Dodge Challenger is, at times, a challenge. Along with major trim levels — from the base SXT to the GT, R/T, R/T 392, SRT 392 and SRT Hellcat — there are a slew of variants, like the R/T Scat Pack, R/T Shaker, SRT Hellcat Redeye, SRT Hellcat Widebody and, well, you get the picture.

All showcase the Challenger’s nostalgic muscle-car looks. This includes the old-school grille, a sweeping hood that seems to stretch two football fields and a trunk the size of Kansas. Compared to a Ford Mustang or Chevy Camaro, the Challenger is a land yacht, but in a good way.

Large 19-inch wheels, sturdy brakes and solid suspension make for smooth sailing on all kinds of roads. The GT debuted last year and is the only model with all-wheel drive, a major plus in bad weather. The 305-hp V6 is reasonably fuel efficient and plenty powerful, though it’s no V8 Hemi engine (which is available in the higher-performing and higher-priced Challenger models).

The retro cabin, with a pleasing array of simple dials and gauges, is a bit plasticky but also spacious. And there are plenty of modern features, including heated steering wheel, heated side mirrors, backup camera, interior ambient lighting and smartphone integration. All in all, the Challenger GT is a nice step up from the base model yet doesn’t break the bank.

BMW I3S
$49,000
Range: 180 miles (114 miles battery-only)
Zero-60 mph: 6.8 seconds

Alas, sexy may not be the word to describe the BMW i3 electric vehicle. But the sliced-and-diced design certainly gives it personality, somewhere between cute and quirky. The funky shape cleverly disguises two rear doors and a hatchback, which are all a blessing when loading/unloading passengers or packages.

An optional 2.4-gallon fuel tank extends the range to 180 miles, which is more than enough for most daily drivers. And the tree-hugger cabin is made from recycled and renewable materials. BMW’s latest tech and safety gear is here, with a floating infotainment screen, gear-selector knob on the steering wheel, on-street parking locator, pedestrian warning, collision alert and much more.

This year, there’s the new performance version, the i3s. It’s lower to the ground than the base model, with bigger tires for better grip and zip around curves. Along with some special exterior styling, there’s a surprise inside: the bizarro bright-blue seat belts, which are the same vibrant color as in the BMW logo.

Most impressive is the Sport mode, with quicker acceleration and tighter steering to help the i3s break away from being just another EV. It works, because this is one fast and fun ride that also happens to be eco-friendly.

BMW I3S

MERCEDES E400 4MATIC CABRIOLET
$69,000
Mpg: 20 city, 26 highway
Zero-60 mph: 5.2 seconds

The E-Class often sets the standard for midsize sedans, wagons, convertibles and coupes. The latest generation is no exception, especially with the coupe and convertible — two primo rides that share the same DNA. Yes, the coupe is a hair sexier, thanks to unbroken lines of sheetmetal flowing gracefully from front to back. But with the top down and the wind blowing in your hair, the cabriolet can’t be beat.

Available in rear-wheel or 4Matic all-wheel drive, this sensuous soft-top has 10 layers of acoustic insulation to muffle outside noise. Toodling to the beach via freeways and back-country roads is a joy, with a surprising amount of legroom for rear-seat passengers.

On hot days, sun-reflecting material keeps the seats cool. For chilly nights, the headrests blow warm air directly on your neck. Using a smartphone, you can start the car and even park it remotely. And a special windshield wiper system prevents fluid from spraying into the car with the top down. The list of other add-ons seems endless, from upgraded paint and massaging seats to an aromatherapy system, semi-autonomous driving and 64 shades of ambient lighting. But there’s a catch: such extras can boost the price to nearly $100,000.

Mercedes E400 4Matic Cabriolet

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