1997 Chrysler Sebring

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1997 Chrysler Sebring

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Available in 4 styles:  Sebring 2dr Convertible JX shown
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Asking Price Range
$694–$5,986

Estimated MPG

20–22.1 city / 26.9–31 hwy


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Expert Reviews

    Expert Reviews 2 of 5

By 

KansasCity.com

If you want to get the most out of driving down the Avenue of the Giants, do it in a convertible. Staring up at these 300-foot redwood trees is doubly awesome when you don't have a top to obstruct your view. You feel truly insignificant, like a mouse looking at an elephant.

Avenue of the Giants meanders through the Humboldt Redwoods State Park alongside Highway 101 in northern California. These centuries-old trees are so large there are three big enough to drive through.

It was into this area that my wife and I drove a Chrysler Sebring convertible on a recent vacation. This stylish, four-passenger ragtop was an ideal mate for our weeklong amble through the countryside north of San Francisco because it has decent luggage space, a top that drops in seconds and comfortable seats. And, besides, convertibles and California go together like bagels and mineral water. Plus, they magnify the panoramic vistas of Highway 1 like nothing else with four wheels can.

The convertible is mechanically similar to the Sebring coupe but it has a unique body. It is built on the same front-wheel-drive, 106-inch wheelbase platform shared with the Dodge Stratus/Chrysler Cirrus.

Our trip took us as far north as Eureka, and we spent most of our time in the Victorian village of Ferndale and quaint Mendocino. The Sebring was well suited for the winding roads in the north because it noses into corners without much body roll yet has a ride that is as compliant as a family sedan. It is good balance of sportiness and comfort.

Our test car, painted Deep Amethyst Pearl, a really nice dark metallic purple, was the upscale JXi with the 2.5-liter, V-6 engine and four-speed automatic transmission with AutoStick. AutoStick allows the driver to shift the transmission manually, which was perfect for the twists and turns of the coast highway because it was easy to hold the car in lower gears to slow for turns. In AutoStick mode the gear lever was a bit sloppy, and it took a hefty nudge to execute shifts. I have driven numerous AutoStick models in the past and none were like this, so our car's linkage must have been an aberration.

The Mitsubishi-built V6 engine has 168 horsepower, enough to give snappy acceleration and relaxed cruising. Even though we encountered grades up to 15 percent on the rough and torturous Fish Rock Road, south of Mendocino, it still had power in reserve.

As you can imagine, we spent much of the time with the top down. Lowering it took almost no effort and very little time, which made it ideal. When it was cold, we left the side windows up and turned on the heater to keep warm. Wind blast was minimal, and with the side windows down it was even quieter. The rear-mounted radio antenna whistled like crazy at 60 mph, but we couldn't hear it with the top up. We usually turned the radio off when the top was down so as not to be bothered by the whistle.

The top is lined to absorb sound and has a glass rear window, but when it was up there was still a fair amount of wind noise at highway speeds. That's nearly always the case for convertibles.

Even though the body structure has been reinforced to compensate for the lack of a top, there was some minor shaking over bumpy roads.

The cab-forward architecture means the cockpit is big enough for four real people. Luggage space is decent, although one of our bags had to ride in the back seat because it was too tall to fit underneath the space that holds the top when it is down.

The steeply sloping windshield keeps the passengers out of the wind, but in some situations light reflects from the deep dashboard up onto the glass.

At night, the headlights were just barely acceptable on low beams.

Instrumentation is simple and easy to read, and the radio and heating controls are tucked together in a center pod. Of course, cupholders are generous and within easy reach.

The front seats are wide and accommodating, yet have adequate lateral and lumbar support that kes them comfortable for long hours behind the wheel. The seatbelts are built into the seats, which is excellent because they always fit right no matter how the seat is adjusted. They also free up access to the back seat.

During our week in northern California, Sebring convertibles were as plentiful as sunshine, which is a testament to the car's popularity. It is sporty, styling, reasonably priced, gets decent gas mileage and has room for four. That makes it practical as well as fun, and you can't ask convertibles to do much more than that.

Price
Our test car's base price was $24,760. Standard equipment included air conditioning, power windows, remote keyless entry, power mirrors, power driver's seat, AM//FM stereo cassette, 16-inch alloy wheels, rear window defroster, tilt steering wheel, cruise control and anti-lock brakes.

Options included the V6 engine, AutoStick transmission and California emissions controls.

The sticker price was $26,460.

Warranty: The basic warranty is for three years or 36,000 miles.

Point: The Sebring is spacious, good looking and pleasant with the top down. The V6 is the engine of choice, and our test car's dark purple paint was most handsome.

Counterpoint: The headlights need to be brighter and a revised radio antenna would reduce whistling.

SPECIFICATIONS:
ENGINE: 2.5-liter, V6
TRANSMISSION: AutoStick
WHEELBASE: 106 inches
CURB WEIGHT: 3,396 lbs.
BASE PRICE: $24,760
PRICE AS DRIVEN: $26,460
MPG RATING: 18 city, 28 hwy.



    Expert Reviews 2 of 5

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