Luxurious Summer Rides

P90137599_highResCruising the Bay Area German style

By Don Armstrong

The war between two of Germany’s hottest manufacturers have ringside fans cheering for more, but the real winners are you and I. Here are two models that will have you running to dealers.

P90133919_highResBMW 2 Series Coupe

You probably haven’t seen many BMW 2 Series in showrooms because dealers sell them before they even hit the lot. The BMW 228i made its U.S. debut last year, and its popularity among college grads and empty-nesters is huge.

This 2-door sub-compact touts seating for four but, like most in this category, lacks backseat legroom. The interior is high-quality with a driver-focused cockpit and an understated elegance. The iDrive interface is standard and includes a 6.5 inch display. Because space is at a premium, it’s nested between driver and passenger atop the center dash.

Our 228i comes with a twin-scroll I-4 with a respectable 240 horsepower and an 8-speed automatic or 6-speed manual. The twin-scroll design eliminates turbo lag, so power is delivered to the rear wheels immediately.

You may have heard about the unique BMW ride. Although the 2 is tiny when compared to the 5 or 7 Series, that famous suspension can still be enjoyed even at this level.

The best part is the price; it starts at $33,900.

E400 Cabriolet

Finally, a convertible that follows the roofline of its coupe counterpart. The Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet is among the elite in the highly competitive mid-size luxury class and this year’s iteration is better than ever.

What can be said about the M-B interiors that hasn’t been said before? Here is the pentacle of automotive materials, style and function. Add a splash of color – red – and you’ve got a car for the Astronaut Wives Club circa 2015.

The big news this year is the all-new 3.0-liter bi-turbo V-6 engine that delivers 329 horsepower and 354-lb-ft of torque through a buttery smooth 7-speed automatic transmission. Shift paddles are standard.

A $2,800 must-have option is the Driver Assist Package and the $875 Lane Tracking Package. Other option packages you’ll want to investigate include Premium (with built-in neck warmers), Parking Assist and Sport.

Ride and handling characteristics are neck-and-neck with the BMW and are some of the most sought-after features that competitive manufacturers try to emulate. The Sport Package up’s the ante another notch.

Pricing begins at $61,350.

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