These have been days of yin and yang at DaimlerChrysler.

The transition to German ownership - nobody dares even hint anymore that it was a merger - has not been a graceful pas de deux. Lots of toes got stepped on in this dance.

Ah, but glimmering there at the heart of the company was a huge success story: the PT Cruiser. Even as the 300M, a classy, powerful hardtop evocative of the letter series cars of the 1950s, showed us where Chrysler stylists were headed, the Cruiser took America by storm. Chrysler could not build them fast enough.

But quietly, in the shadow of the M and Cruiser, another Chrysler product was writing a success story of its own. That car was the Sebring convertible. Introduced in 1996, it was somewhat underpowered (especially in an anemic four-cylinder version), yet nearly 300,000 Sebrings have been sold since then.

Now comes a more refined, more elegant, far more powerful Sebring, redesigned for 2001. It is a sleek-looking design that, with its egg-crate-and-chrome grille and black-on-white gauges, is as appealing as the 300M. Add to it the creamy leather interior, royal blue top and dash, and wood appointments that come with the (as tested) Limited version, and the Sebring is downright European in its fit and finish.

And with its greater power and incredible spaciousness, it has more right to the tag "Cruiser" than does the PT Cruiser.

Chrysler built the Sebring on a four-door sedan platform and made the passenger cabin very roomy. There is no pretense that this is a five-passenger car. It seats two in the front, two in the rear, thank you.

The front seats are wide and long (almost too large for buckets), and very firm in their leather wrapping. Rear seats, with a hump between, are butt buckets that hold you down and low even as your hair blows in the wind. Because only two sit in the rear of this very large cabin, shoulder space abounds. Go ahead, wave your arms in the wind.

This is a car meant for cruising, and its suspension is tuned that way. Feel a bit boaty? Yes, because it's supposed to. Straight ahead, it offers a quiet, supple ride. It moves nimbly in and out of traffic (the midrange torque finds it at its finest), displays some body twist in tight corners, and shudders just a bit at the cowl on bumps.

But it is not as bad as some big convertibles I have driven, and that may owe to safety-intended measures that Chrysler took in building the Sebring. Side-impact protection beams were beefed up, and a heftier passenger safety cage was added for 2001. It helps make for a reasonably rigid convertible.

At the heart of the new Sebring - and a far better heart it is - is a 2.7-liter, DOHC, 24-valve, V-6 engine. It produces 200 horsepower, and that is 32 more than the old V-6. Remarkably, it is as much as 10 percent more fuel efficient, even with the added power. Again, that power is felt best in the middle of the torque band, and that is as it should be with a cruiser. Nobody's go ing screaming off the line or looking for triple-digit, sustained top end in a car such as the Sebring. What they are looking for is a touch of elegance, a smooth, sure ride, and the great feeling of wind rolling over the passengers.

The Sebring comes with a four-speed automatic transmission that, while not sporty in any sense, is nonintrusive. Set it, forget about it, and go. We're here to cruise, not to fool with a shifter.

The suspension, double wishbone front and rear, with short/long-arm up front and multilink in the rear, gives a spongy, soft ride, tuned for cruising. It is not a car built for hard cornering, and the suspension does allow for a little more nose dive than I would like when the four-wheel disc brakes are applied. I also did not like the fact that ABS is an option you must pay for. It is a remarkable safety feature that should be standard on all cars.

The Sebring, even outfitted as it is with modern technology, is a bit of a throwback car: It takes you k to the days of big American convertibles, and it does so with grace, elegance, and a singular intent: to go cruising.