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AL FRESCO FOR QUARTET

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, Dec 12, 2004

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

© All photos by Harvey Schwartz

AL FRESCO FOR QUARTET By HARVEY SCHWARTZ

Toyota chops the top off the hot selling new Solara coupe to add more fun and enjoyment to the ride in the 2004/2005 Solara SLE convertible. The all-new, more refined, second-generation Solara convertible was introduced in the spring, just in time for summer's warm days and nights. The Solara convertible comes standard with a 225 hp 3.3-liter V6, a power retractable roof that lowers or raises in just ten seconds by pushing a dash-mounted toggle button, and another dash-mounted toggle button that raises and lowers all four windows. Top up or down, the Solara convertible has a sleek and elegant exterior design, and comes with a roomy and luxuriously designed interior with a high-level of sporty performance and safety technology. The Solara convertible is available in SE and SLE trim levels with the SLE having greater standard content and a wood grained interior.

The Solara design emphasizes an arc-shaped theme with a continuous line from the front bumper, over the roof to the rear bumper. Its proportions project a substantial, road-hugging stance. The new grille treatment defines a pronounced V-shaped character line that flows into convex and concave surfaces that conveys motion. The large front cats-eye, projector ellipsoid headlights, and rear taillights anchor and define the car's corners. Big, round foglamps help illuminate the night during harsh weather conditions. The rear combination lamp begins at the end of the character line, forming a 'teardrop' shape. The front and rear fascias have been tightly integrated with minimal body gaps to enhance the high-quality appearance. Under the rear bumper is a single, 2in. wide polished stainless steel exhaust tip, and there is also a standard rear lip-spoiler to add a sporty flair and to keep the rear firmly planted during high-speed driving. Interior road noise in the convertible is held in check with a premium quality headliner, plus vibration-damping and noise suppressant materials throughout the cabin, as well as in the wheel housings, dash panel and trunk. Underneath are braces and other reinforcements to keep the body and frame rigid and torsional for added control and a smooth ride. Open the hood and you'll notice a thick strut tower brace that further enhances handling and control.

When lowered the convertible's soft-top stows behind the rear seat and sits low for a sleek overall appearance. A vinyl boot neatly fits over the exposed top and gives a neat, finished look. It only takes a minute or two to install the boot. There is plenty of legroom and headroom for two adults in the rear seat, as well as generous front and rear shoulder room and hip room. Powering the new Solara convertible is an all-aluminum, 3.3-liter, DOHC, VVT-i V6 engine that produces 225 hp at 5,600 rpm and 240lb.ft. of torque at 3,600 rpm. The V6 engine is mated to a five-speed sequential automatic transmission that uses electronic controls to ensure ultra-smooth shift quality. You control the five-speed sequential automatic with a gated shifter that allows manual shifting for a more exciting driving experience. The independent front and rear suspension is mounted to anti-vibration sub-frames, giving a smooth, quiet ride that favorably compares to luxury vehicles. The suspension and power-assisted rack & pinion steering systems have been specially tuned for precise handling response. The independent front suspension consists of MacPherson struts with gas-filled shocks, stabilizer bar and a suspension upper tower brace. The rear independent suspension consists of dual-link struts, gas-filled shocks and a stabilizer bar. An optional Stability Control System helps keep the Solara from losing traction during severe maneuvers.

Quickly stopping the new Solara convertible are power-assisted steel disc brakes, 11.65-inch vented discs up front, and 10.59-inch solid discs in the rear. An advanced ABS system helps you maintain control during hard braking on wet or slick surfaces. The new Solara convertible rides on large, 215/55R17 all-season radial performance tires that wrap around 17X7 five-spoke, aluminum alloy wheels. Even though the Solara convertible's suspension is sport tuned, the shocks are just soft enough to enjoy the ride and spirit in this 3,549 pound mid-size, two-door car when traveling over poorly paved sections of the road. Complementing the elegant and contemporary exterior, the Solara's interior evokes a sporty and modern image. A sweeping T-shaped dashboard, a unique instrument cluster, and deeply contoured front bucket/rear bench seats, emphasize the intimate feel that only a two-door can make. The instrument cluster uses three big gauges highlighted by 3-D black trim rings, with soft lighting and fully illuminated needle pointers at night. All buttons, dials and levers are within easy reach. A center mounted three-pod multi-function display integrates a five-feature trip computer in the left pod, with functions that include fuel consumption, average speed, miles-to-go, and elapsed time. The middle pod houses a digital clock and the right pod houses an outside temperature gauge plus passenger seatbelt and airbag indicator lights.

The beefy, tilting/telescoping steering wheel felt great in my hands, and the wheel also has buttons to control the audio system. Standard features in the Solara convertible include the tilt/telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, power windows/door locks with driver's-side express down, remote keyless entry, engine immobilizer, an AM-FM/CD stereo radio and dual 12-volt power outlets. My SLE model came with these standard items-leather trimmed interior/steering wheel, heated front seats, automatic climate control, a power adjustable driver's seat with power lumbar, heated and power assisted side mirrors, auto-dimming inside and driver's-side mirrors, a JBL premium 3-in-1 audio system with 6-disc in-dash CD changer/eight speakers in six locations, and a HomeLink transceiver/garage door opener. Options include XM Satellite radio capability and the latest generation in Toyota's DVD-based navigation system. My SLE model came with all the goodies that help make driving the new Solara such a fun and exiting driving experience. You and your passengers are kept safe in the event of a collision with front and rear crush zones, side-impact protection with steel beams in each door, front/side airbags, three-point safety belts with the front belts standard with pretensioners and load-limiters. The all-new 2004/2005 Toyota Solara convertible is at the head of it's class with unique contemporary styling, a powerful V6 engine, a sporty independent suspension, a roomy, comfortable interior for four adults with the latest in creature comforts and safety systems to help insure an enjoyable, safe and secure ride.

© All text and photos by Harvey Schwartz

For more information on Toyota products, go to www.toyota.com. More photos from Harvey Schwartz can be found at www.autofotos.com

SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: Toyota Solara SLE convertible Price of vehicle: $29,650.00/$32,349.00 as tested with navigation and vehicle stability control Engine type: 3.3-liter, all-aluminum, DOHC, VVT-i, V6 Horsepower: 225 at 5,600 rpm Torque: 240 lb.ft. of torque at 3,600 rpm Drive configuration: Front engine/front-wheel-drive Transmission type: five-speed sequential automatic shifting with gated shifter Front suspension: Independent MacPherson struts, gas-filled shocks, stabilizer bar Rear suspension: Independent dual-link struts, gas-filled shocks, stabilizer bar Wheels/tires: 17X7 aluminum alloy 5-spoke wheels/P215/55R17 all-season radial performance tires Brakes: Front-11.65-in. power-assisted vented discs Rear-10.59-in. power-assisted solid discs ABS at all four wheels Overall length: 192.5-in. Overall width: 71.5-in. Overall height: 56.5-in. Curb weight: 3,549 lbs. EPA mileage: 20 mpg/city, 29 mpg/highway 0-60 mph: 7.1 sec.

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