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Byline: Mark Phelan
DETROIT _ The hardtop convertible goes mainstream this year, as an engineering marvel only the rich could attain a decade ago becomes commonplace.
This year's roundup of new convertibles includes three with hardtops: the Chrysler Sebring, which offers a hardtop as well as vinyl and cloth; the Volkswagen Eos, which has a unique glass hardtop, and the popular Mazda MX-5 Miata.
For years, you couldn't buy a hardtop convertible at any price from any automaker. A folding, stowable metal roof was too heavy, complicated and delicate for any company to attempt, even though it had been done successfully in the past.
The Mercedes-Benz SLK rewrote the rules for what was possible, introducing luxury buyers to the convenience and comfort of the retractable hardtop, which provides better insulation from noise and outside temperature than cloth or vinyl.
The Pontiac G6 became the first affordable modern hardtop convertible when it debuted last year, and several competitors join it this summer.
COOLNESS FACTOR RATING GUIDE
4 suns: Stops traffic.
3 suns: A great way to meet people.
2 suns: It beats a …