The midsize Sebring sedan and its convertible sibling will get only minor changes for the 2003 model year. Chrysler promises improved occupant protection in the convertible, courtesy of additional front door beams and a modified safety cage.
A GTC convertible joined the Sebring lineup in mid-2002; it is offered along with LX, LXi and Limited editions. The soft-top GTC comes with a sport suspension, a 2.7-liter V-6 engine and either a four-speed automatic or a five-speed-manual transmission.
The Sebring was redesigned for 2001 and comes in three body styles: as a coupe, a sedan and a convertible. The Sebring coupe, which cars.com classifies as a compact car, is actually built by Mitsubishi at a plant in Illinois. Sebring sedans and convertibles share a different design and are produced in Michigan. Dodge offers a similar Stratus coupe and sedan but no convertible. Sebring sedans come in LX and LXi trim levels.
Similar styling is evident on all three Sebring body styles; each are led by the same oval eggcrate grille that is used on all Chrysler-brand vehicles. The Sebring convertible and sedan may look the same at a glance, but they actually have different front fascias, taillights and side body panels.
Their dimensions also differ. The convertible rides a 106-inch wheelbase and measures 193.7 inches long overall, while the sedan has a 108-inch wheelbase and is 3 inches shorter from bumper to bumper. The convertible has a standard power top and a glass rear window with an electric defogger.
Both body styles contain front bucket seats. The sedan has a three-place rear bench, and the convertible contains a two-place rear seat for a four-passenger capacity. The sedans 60/40-split rear seatback folds to expand cargo capacity beyond the 16-cubic-foot trunk. The convertible has a fixed rear seatback and only 11.3 cubic feet of trunk space. White-faced gauges and two-tone seats go into the GTC convertible.
Under the Hood
A 150-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is standard in the LX sedan; it teams with a four-speed-automatic transmission. All convertibles and the LXi sedan use a 2.7-liter V-6 that produces 200 hp. The V-6 engine mates with a four-speed-automatic transmission, which can be equipped with an AutoStick feature that permits manually selected gear changes. A five-speed-manual gearbox became available during 2002.
Front airbags deploy at one of three levels, based on impact and crash severity. Curtain-type airbags are optional on the sedan. All models have antilock brakes.
The Sebring convertible is easy to drive and nicely stable on the highway, and it has considerably more legroom in the backseat than most rivals. Strong performance is likely to slow only if the terrain becomes mountainous. Not only is the convertibles ride nearly glass-smooth, but it also remains commendably civilized even when the road surface turns harsh. It maneuvers with an appealing degree of precision, and the soft-top model responds crisply to driver actions with just a bit of understeer noted at times.
A Sebring sedan with the V-6 engine and automatic transmission also produces a refined experience and an excellent ride. A roomy interior and generous standard-equipment list help make the sedan a worthy, attractively priced alternative to such midsize-class leaders as the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.