If business has been good this year, why not reward yourself with a well-deserved treat? Enjoy a breath of fresh air in three racy luxury roadsters that are not only pure fun, but serious machines for the enthusiast. Acura's NSX, Lexus' SC 430 and BMW's M3 all promise that 2004 will be performance-oriented, at least behind the wheel.
The $89,000 NSX is the biggest and most comfortable of the three, with driver and passenger seats almost as large as comfortable leather armchairs. The midmounted powertrain in the six-speed manual model is a thunderous 3.2-liter V-6 that rips out 290 horsepower, or pick the 3.0-liter V-6 four-speed Sequential SportShift automatic with 252 horsepower. The all-aluminum body has the rigidity of steel, the four-wheel independent suspension boasts superior handling, and the wedge-shaped body design and fighter-jet-style cockpit proclaim that the Acura NSX is a car on the cutting edge. Features include ABS, traction control, cruise control and a removable roof panel.
A little lower on the financial scale is Lexus' $62,575 SC 430, an elegantly stylish convertible with a powered, retractable hardtop. The 4.3-liter V-8 engine teams 300 horsepower with a five-speed automatic transmission. And technology abounds in the continuously variable valve timing system; ABS; electronic throttle, traction and skid control; and a split-screen DVD navi-gation system.
If Beemers are your bag, look no further than the $55,195 M3 convertible. A true European roadster for the purist, it's packed with performance and handling components: variable valve timing, throttle control, digital motor electronics, stability/traction control, ABS, independent suspension, and massive four-wheel ventilated disc brakes. The racing-inspired engine, a 3.2-liter in-line six-cylinder, works with a six-speed manual transmission with a heavy-duty clutch. Fresh-air fiends will appreciate the powered soft-top and glass rear window.
Editor and consultant Jill amadio has been reporting on the automotive industry for 24 years.