Redesigned for 2004, the Toyota Solara coupe lends its elegant lines to a new-for-2005 convertible. Although they’re basically the same car, and built in the same plant, the convertible is engineered with chassis modifications for the structural rigidity necessitated by its lack of a roof.

Based on the Camry, the Solara coupe offers a four-cylinder or V6, in three trim lines. The V6-only convertible comes exclusively in upper-line SLE trim, although it will be joined by a lower-priced trim model in 2006.

The Solara’s base engine is a 2.4-litre inline four-cylinder that’s only used in the SE. The six-cylinder, used in the SE V6, SLE V6 and the convertible, is a 3.3-litre V6.

The Solara comes nicely appointed even in base form, with air conditioning, 16-inch alloy wheels, CD player with six speakers and wheel-mounted controls, 60/40 folding rear seat, power locks with keyless entry, power windows, tilt and telescopic wheel, cruise control, side airbags, and power heated mirrors with auto-dimming on the driver’s side, as well as on the rearview mirror.

The SE V6 adds the bigger engine, plus a six-CD changer, 17-inch alloy wheels, power adjustable driver’s seat, and power sunroof.

The SLE V6 adds automatic climate control, leather heated seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter knob, and integrated garage door opener.

The convertible comes with the SLE V6’s features, but with a non-folding rear seat and power rear quarter windows.

Based on the Camry, the Solara shares that model’s characteristics: a smooth, comfortable ride, roominess that even extends to the rear seat, and nimble handling. It improves on the vanilla Camry’s styling, though, with gorgeous lines that mimic the Lexus SC 430 but for fifty grand less. The convertible’s top is a single-button, ten-second operation, and comes with a glass rear window and headliner. Not quite as good-looking, the Chrysler Sebring convertible offers up comparable value while letting the sun shine in as well, although the Solara convertible’s upcoming lower trim line, at a 2006 price of $34,700, should provide healthy competition.

The Solara is built in Georgetown, Kentucky.

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