Chrysler Sebring Convertible, 1996-2000
2000 Chrysler Sebring Convertible
The company that tried to confuse you by giving the same name to three different cars in the same year has done it again. The Chrysler Sebring Convertible is actually not a convertible version of the Chrysler Sebring Coupe, which is, by the way, a modified Mitsubishi Eclipse, built by Mitsubishi. No, it is a convertible version of the Chrysler Cirrus/Dodge Stratus! Or, after 2001, the Chrysler Sebring Sedan...which of course is a totally different car from the Chrysler Sebring Coupe...on which you might expect a two door convertible to be based.
The export version of the convertible, by the way, is the Chrysler Stratus Convertible. Go figure.
An unusual convertible
Few convertibles were designed to be convertibles from the start. There is a thriving aftermarket industry which creates convertibles from sedans so that automakers can have a convertible model - but not have to design it.
The Sebring convertible is unusual, then, because it really was designed to be what it is. That's one reason it has more space, fewer rattles, and better handling than other ragtops in its price class. That's not to say it is immune from standard convertible problems of less space and more weight (because the roof is actually a lightweight way to hold the car together). It isn't, but it does handle remarkably well and has a good-sized interior. The trunk is a little on the small side, but if you've seen the back seat of a Mustang or Camaro convertible, you'll know how large the Sebring is.
The only engine is a 2.5 liter Mitsubishi V6 which provides adequate acceleration and poor gas mileage. Our model had an AutoStick transmission, an easy way to get the most out of the engine. The AutoStick is no substitute for a manual transmission, but it is better than a straight automatic. On the lighter side, since it is adaptive, eventually the regular automatic learns your driving style and downshifts more readily if that's what you want.
The ride and handling is better than the (cheaper) Chevrolet Cavalier Convertible. The Sebring feels more refined, with a suspension that soaks up bumps and pavement irregularities for a smooth, cushioned ride, without giving up road feel, even on rough cement.
A button opens the convenient center console. The center console can be locked, and the trunk release is inside the console, which provides security from apathetic thieves. There are map pockets on the doors.
The controls are logical and feel well-made; we appreciated the sensible wheel-mounted cruise control, which has a cancel button. The horn requires too much firmness.
The driver and front passenger are relatively well insulated from wind when the windows are up, but this requires a steeply raked windshield which takes some getting used to.
To release the top, two clamps must be released; this is not hard to do. The mechanism takes about ten seconds.
There are some awkward features. Moving the top lowers the windows a little, but they do not get back up - an issue aggravated by the fact that the key must be in RUN to move the top or the power windows (no "persistence"). The switch for the rear windows is in one place only - the driver's door. As is common on two-door cars, the front seat folding mechanism never returns the seat to its original position.
Base models have white on black instruments, and the Limited Edition has Art Deco black on white gauges. A small trip computer is conveniently placed.
The optional Infinity stereo provides strong bass even at loud volumes, with four independently powered speakers. Air conditioning is strong and quiet. Wind noise easily drowns out the acceleration except at low speeds, when the engine has a pleasant, V-8 style rumble which does not match its actual performance.
If you go nuts on options, you can get a list price of nearly $30,000, which means spending about $25,000. But convertibles cost money, in both purchase price and gasoline. The least expensive Sebring Convertible costs more and is slower than the large Dodge Intrepid — you pay for the option of losing the roof.