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December 31, 2008 > Auto Review: Chrysler Sebring Convertible

Auto Review: Chrysler Sebring Convertible

We were lucky enough to have a new Sebring Convertible test car during one of those warm fall weeks that allowed us to drive around with the top down and not freeze to death. My wife and I love convertibles, and the Sebring was easy to like.

The Sebring Convertible started out as an all-new model for the 2008 production year, so there have not been major changes for the 2009 model year. It is built from a front-wheel drive platform at the Sterling Heights, MI, assembly plant. Sebring has an automatic vinyl convertible top that lowers or rises at the touch of a button and can also be raised or lowered remotely using the key fob. There is also an optional steel retractable hard top.

In the lowered position, the top stores in the top portion of the trunk which does limit the storage capacity of the trunk, but you can still get two golf bags in with the top down. The trunk lid seems to open higher than trunk lids for other cars and that makes it harder to close if you aren't 6 feet tall.

The Sebring's front seats are very comfortable and hold you well. However, like many of today's cars, there is not a lot of rear seat legroom. The back seats are comfortable but the front seats need to be at least in the middle of their adjustment for back seat passengers to have reasonable legroom.

The base power plant for the Sebring is Chrysler's 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder "World Engine." It develops 173 HP and 166 foot pound of torque and is classed as a "Super Ultra Low Emissions" vehicle by the EPA. Mated to the standard 4-speed automatic transmission, the Sebring produced 20 MPG in its city tests and 29 in the highway tests. A Flex-Fuel 2.7- liter, 186 HP, V-6 is one option. This engine can use E85 fuel. Then a 3.5-liter V-6 and 6-speed automatic is the second powertrain option. This engine is rated at 235 HP and 232 foot pounds and produced EPA numbers of 16 and 27.

Because convertibles do not have a roof to stiffen the structure, body flex has always been an issue. Chrysler engineers focused on this problem and designed good solutions. The new Sebring Convertible's body is 2.5 times stiffer in twist and 1.5 times stiffer in bending than the previous generation. Increased stiffness really helps in the handling department and from a safety standpoint.

There are three Sebring Convertible models. The base model is the LX that comes with the 2.4-liter engine and 4-speed automatic. It has a nice list of features and starts at $28,130. Our test car was a Touring model which comes with the 2.7-liter V-6. It also has traction control, an electronic stability control system, larger wheels and tires, trip computer, and more sporty suspension settings. Touring starts at a base price of $30,610.

The Limited is the top of the line. It gets the big engine and 6-speed. It sports even larger wheels and tires (18 inch) along with a long list of upgrades. Its base price of $35,465 includes just about all options available on the Sebring Convertible. But if you want the steel hard top, it is an additional $1,995. As we all know, there many incentives available to lower the actual price of today's purchases.

All Sebrings come with a basic warranty of 3 years or 36,000 miles on virtually everything. Their powertrain warranty is lifetime for the original owner.

The ride is smooth and all controls are easy to use. Wind noise with the top down is not as bad as many other convertibles. If you are looking for a nice convertible to go cruising through the summers, go for a test drive in one of Chrysler's Sebring Convertibles.

By Dick Ryan
Freelance Automotive Journalist
Member of the Western Automotive Journalists

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