Choices tend to be a good thing, and the return of the Chrysler Sebring convertible gives drop-top shoppers even more to consider with its three available tops — two soft and one retractable hardtop. Regardless of which top it has, the new convertible is made for cruising thanks to its comfort-oriented suspension and a cabin that's quiet with the top up or down.
Pick a Top, Any Top
The Sebring convertible is offered in base, Touring and Limited trim levels. Base and Touring models have a standard black vinyl top, while the Limited gets a cloth top (optional on the Touring). The optional retractable hardtop costs around $2,000 and is available on the Touring and Limited. All the tops have power operation and automatically latch to the top of the windshield frame when raised. The top is operated by a dashboard switch and, on models with remote start, the keyfob. All of the tops fold underneath the trunklid in the same way.
To reduce wind buffeting when the top is down, an optional windscreen can be fitted behind the front seats, though it makes the two-person backseat unusable. It's best to have a co-pilot when installing or removing the contraption; at 50 mph, the cabin turbulence seems to be the same with or without the windscreen in place. Even without the screen, it's easy to have a top-down, windows-up conversation with passengers at this speed. Some wind noise penetrates the cabin when the cloth top is up, but overall the cabin is fairly quiet.
Ride & Handling
The Sebring gained around 400 pounds in its transformation into a convertible. More metal was added to strengthen the chassis, which no longer has the benefit of a fixed roof to stiffen the car.
One of the easiest ways to gauge a convertible's rigidity is to observe its A-pillars while driving to see if they shudder when you hit a pothole or bump in the road. The Sebring convertible is decently stiff in this regard, and feels a little more solid than the Pontiac G6 convertible; it's fine for casual cruising.
Like the Sebring sedan, the convertible's soft suspension yields a smooth, well-damped ride. The convertible manages rather well on curvy roads considering the suspension's tuning, and avoids excessive body roll. Like the suspension, the speed-sensitive power steering system isolates the driver from the road with its lack of feedback.
Going & Stopping
Buyers get a choice of three engines — a four-cylinder and two V-6s — that power the front wheels. The 2.4-liter four-cylinder and 2.7-liter V-6 work with a four-speed automatic transmission, while the 3.5-liter V-6 drives a six-speed automatic transmission that includes AutoStick, Chrysler's clutchless-manual system. A conventional manual transmission isn't offered.
|Chrysler Sebring Convertible Engines|
|2.4-liter 4-cyl.||2.7-liter V-6||3.5-liter V-6|
|173 @ 6,000||189 @ 6,400||235 @ 6,400|
(lbs.-ft. @ rpm)
|166 @ 4,400||191 @ 4,000||232 @ 4,000|
|Required fuel||Regular gas||Regular gas or E85||Regular gas|
|20/29||18/26 (gas) N/A (E85)||16/26|
*Beginning with 2008-model-year vehicles, the EPA is using a new, more representative test to estimate gas mileage. The figures are lower than they would be using the 2007 method.
I wouldn't recommend the four-cylinder, as it has barely enough power in the sedan, and the convertible is significantly heavier. The 2.7-liter V-6 is a smooth engine, but it delivers merely tolerable acceleration and I could hear an occasional clunk from the four-speed automatic when it changed gears — not very reassuring. The best powertrain is the Limited trim level's standard 3.5-liter V-6 and six-speed automatic; it's the only one that provides strong acceleration.
The all-disc brakes are easy to modulate and delivered strong performance on the Southern California canyon roads on which I drove the convertible. Brake pedal feel is a bit spongy, though.
The convertible's interior styling is much the same as the sedan's, with its arcing dashboard and white-faced gauge cluster. Fortunately, the front portion of the convertible's cabin doesn't feel as tight as the sedan's. Base, Touring and Limited versions each have unique interior trim, with the base and Touring adorned with silver accents and the top-of-the-line Limited featuring Chrysler's Tortoise Shell trim, which looks a bit like dark amber.
The bottom cushions of the fabric front seats are pretty narrow, but the soft leather seats are more comfortable and feature a wide backrest with side bolsters stout enough to keep you in place during aggressive cornering. Front-seat headroom with the top up is good, and top-up visibility is adequate. The two rear seats are comfortable, but legroom is in short supply.
Standard equipment includes a rear window defroster, manual air conditioning, power front seats with driver-side lumbar adjustment and a six-CD stereo. Options include remote start and top operation, a heated and cooled cupholder, YES Essentials stain- and odor-resistant seating surfaces, automatic air conditioning, and Chrysler's MyGIG navigation and entertainment system. MyGIG is a touch-screen system with a 20GB hard drive that can hold music, as well as images that can be set as wallpaper for the system's screen. The system can also play DVDs when the car is parked. With Sirius Satellite Radio, the navigation system can direct the driver around traffic problems.
Antilock brakes and side-impact airbags for the front seats are standard. An electronic stability system is optional.
Cargo & Towing
The Sebring's trunk has 13.1 cubic feet of room when the roof is up, but that number drops to 6.6 cubic feet when it's lowered; Chrysler says that's enough for four golf bags with the top up and two with it down. Besides reducing the amount of cargo room, the lowered top also makes the opening to the cargo area smaller. Even so, access with the top down is decent. Chrysler doesn't recommend towing a trailer with four-cylinder convertibles, but V-6 ones can tow up to 1,000 pounds when properly equipped.
Sebring Convertible in the Market
If the retractable-hardtop Sebring had come out a few years earlier, it wouldn't have had many competitors. However, recent growth in this segment in the form of models like the Pontiac G6 convertible and Volkswagen Eos has ratcheted up the stakes. Which one makes the most sense for you really comes down to what you're looking for in a convertible: The G6 and Eos provide a little more sportiness than the Sebring, but neither can match the Sebring's ride comfort.
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