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A fun and highly rated ragtop from the start, the Chrysler Sebring became progressively refined in each new generation. In the current generation, engine and road noise are minimal even with the top down; and the optional hardtop, coming in at under $2,000, impresses spectators while making the Sebring a quiet coupe. The hardtop is also easier to use than past soft tops, requiring only a brief press of a switch to fold down completely, and a 34-second push a switch to raise. No manual latching is required. The total time to raise or lower the roof is around 34 seconds. That includes the trunk opening (from the front end, rather than the usual back end); the top cover sliding out; the roof folding and going into the trunk; and the trunk re-locking. You can also impress people by using the remote control to lower the roof.
Another new feature is the windbreak, which fastens between the front and back seats; it's just a little awkward, but it really cuts back on the old "cold air on the back of the neck" that's had me wearing scarves in sixty-degree weather. The screen is easy to see through and takes little space in the trunk when folded.
After frequently putting the top down and bringing it back up, we also wished for a single "window up" control for all four windows. Only the driver has control over the back side windows, and all four are automatically lowered when the top goes down.
The ride has become smoother with each passing generation, though the current version errs on the side of comfort. Taking turns with any degree of spirited driving can yield squeals from the tires, despite their width and low profile (225/50); replacement tires might solve that. Full acceleration comes with a decent amount of torque steer, as well.
On the lighter side, the Sebring Limited soaks up bumps easily and is a great car for cruising the highways and city streets; the 3.5 liter engine and ultrasmooth Chrysler six-speed automatic provide the right kind of gentle power to go along with the smooth ride. There's always power on tap, but it doesn't get in the way; you don't have to pretend there's an egg under the pedal, and when you want to accelerate, you don't have to floor it, either. The engine is always ready but not intruding when you just want to gently ride through traffic.
Our test car used the optional 3.5 liter engine. This engine has been greatly quieted down over the years, and though power has also declined to 232 horsepower (from around 250 in 1999), it is well-behaved and quiet, but it drinks gasoline thirstily in city driving, with roughly 16 mpg in the city (and a surprising, and hard to obtain, EPA-rated 26 mpg on the highway. We'd expect more like 22-23 mpg).
The 3.5 is only available on the Limited as an option; other models make due with a 2.4 liter four-cylinder and a 2.7 liter V6, both of which have four speed automatics. That's a shame, because the six speed has one feature that would be great with the others - a very low first gear that allows instant acceleration and, in the Sebring, instant tire squeal. At the top end, the six-speed automatic is geared fairly high, allowing for easy coasting that will let more thrifty drivers get away with better mileage.
Visibility is good with the top down; the hardtop has relatively small blind spots. Headlights seem brighter than in past generations.
Controls are generally well-designed. The locking center console is gone but the glove compartment still has a lock; the trunk release however now works when the key is not in the ignition, which may encourage thieves to tear the roof open to get easy pickings within. The new Toyota-style ministalk is used for the cruise control, rather than the Mercedes-style phantom turn signal. Climate controls are the new Chrysler corporate knobs with integral pushbuttons, easy to use, nice to feel, and fairly attractive day or night with their bright rings.
The optional MyGIG hard-drive-based music system worked very well, though the sound is hurt by an overly enthusiastic subwoofer. The system is easy to use, and lets you plug in a computer via USB to transfer music or audiobooks to the car's own hard drive; you can also play CDs or DVDs (the slot is hidden but the display can tilt out of the way to show it), or connect an iPod or similar device through an auxiliary jack. The navigation system now uses a touch-screen, with an optional 3D view, and is easier to use than in the past, though a bit slow with manual destination entry. (For full features, see our main Sebring Convertible page.) UConnect - the cellphone integration system - is also built into the unit's controls. Overall it worked very well, but we were glad to have the steering wheel controls for easier access to key functions like changing stations; and getting to the audio controls to change bass or treble was far harder and more attention-demanding than it had to be. Those who demand a navigation system, iPod-like device, and satellite radio may be happy to see them all in one tidy package.
Interior space is not bad for a compact convertible, if not quite as good as the prior generation. Four passengers can fit in the car. The trunk is huge when the top is up and the convertible-top barrier is folded down. Normally, though, the barrier is in place to prevent the convertible top from hitting any obstacles; if it's not in place, the top won't fold down. That limits the usable trunk space, but you can still fit a shopping-cart of groceries in there (more if you fold down the barrier).
Rear seats have little legroom, and any tall people in one row have to be balanced by short and thin people in the other. The bulky dashboard on the passenger side makes it harder for tall passengers to get their knees underneath, cutting into legroom and comfort; that adds to the 1.7-inch loss of legroom in the rear seats to make the current Sebring convertible much smaller in practice than the 2006 models. The seats aren't designed for comfort anyway; they maintain the new Chrysler hallmark of being both unsupportive and hard as rocks. The Sebring was knocked out of our list of potential cars to buy based largely on the seats.
The last generation had many places to store small objects, like EZ-Pass devices; the current version has fewer places to put things, but still probably enough, with door map pockets, the two-level central bin, and the vestigial ashtray-like area.
In terms of looks, the exterior is quite swoopy and stylish, using the usual Crossfire cues and straked hood; however, the rear clip is a bit odd-looking. As with many cars, the Sebring has tail-lights split between the opening part of the trunk and the rear fender; however, unlike most, it has different patterns on the two segments, resulting in the “got the wrong trunk-lid from the junkyard” look which probably is not what they were striving for. The interior is more presentable than most recent Chryslers, and the rear seating area is quite nice; but it's still a step down from some past Chrysler interiors (notably the LHS/300M but also the prior-generation Sebring).
Customers can also set some preferences, such as automatic locking and whether the horn chirps when the remote is used, according to instructions in the owner's manual; no visit to the dealer is required. The trip computer provides temperature, gas mileage, and compass readings, and makes setting preferences far easier: it's a matter of going through menus with three buttons rather than turning the key a certain number of times before pressing a switch. The trip computer also lets you see each individual tire's pressure, and when the compass/temperature is on, shows the radio station or CD track.
Thankfully, the computer code check still survives, found by turning the ignition key on-off-on-off-on-off-on; any errors recorded by the computer are then displayed in the odometer. It seems to be less finicky than in some past years, and shows "done" if there are no codes (or after displaying any existing codes.)
The center console has two levels; the deep bottom level has a power outlet and a coin holder which holds three sizes of coins. Cupholders are basic but have rubber supports for undersized cups.
The instrument panel is standard for new Chryslers. Gone are the elegant chrome rings around circular dials or tasteful woodgrain. Now the gauges - somewhat elegant with their black-on-white lettering, bluntly pointed indicators, and indigo backlighting - are surrounded by a cheap-looking dull silver plastic piece, itself surrounded in our test car by a brownish plastic piece. Tortoise-shell is used throughout where woodgrain would normally be, not a bad effect and presumably cheaper. The surfaces are all textured now in an effort to reduce the cheap look of vast expanses of plastic, and shifter, brake release button, clock trim, and door-handles are all bright silver. For the money, they probably got the best look they could get. Gauges are all readable, but the LED indicators and stereo/nav system were all drowned out by the sunlight with the top down.
For a convertible, the Sebring is not too pricey, with the Limited running around $32,000. The hard top costs almost exactly $2,000, but it increases theft resistance quite a bit, has a lot of “wow” factor, and lets you drive a refined coupe when you don't want a convertible. The MyGIG system, which includes the navigation system, a year of satellite radio, UConnect cellphone connection, autodim rear-view mirror, DVD player, and hard drive for music, photos, and such, adds another $1,900. Our test car also had electronic stability control, a bargain at $425, and the luxury group, consisting of the windscreen, heated front seats, and chrome-clad 18” aluminum wheels, inexplicably balancing the scales at $1,100. The total, with destination, ended up at $37,755, a nice chunk of change; but give up features and you get a much more reasonable price, with the same nice convertible top and smooth ride. (The 3.5 liter V6 appeared to be a no-cost option.) 75% of the Sebring is made in the United States, with final assembly in Michigan and American engines and transmissions.
The Limited itself includes front and side airbags, four-wheel antilock disc brakes, a rear window defroster, alarm, touring suspension, theft deterrent, air filter, power windows and locks, keyless entry, cruise, six-way power driver's seat, air, Boston Acoustics six-speaker CD stereo, trip computer, tachometer, tire pressure monitor, tilt-telescope steering column, wheel-mounted audio controls, hard tonneau cover, and floor mats. Cheaper Sebring convertible can be had as well, without all the features, and without the 3.5 engine. The base price is $26,145, including four-wheel ABS, front and side airbags, tilt-telescope steering column, and numerous other features; that includes the 2.4 liter engine, which is buzzy and a bit sluggish with the weight, but it provides an estimated 20 mpg city, 29 highway. The 2.7 liter engine is probably the sweet spot; it's quieter than the four-cylinder and provides better torque, but is more reasonable with gas, with ratings nearly identical to the four-cylinder. Alas, the 2.7 isn't available with the six-speed automatic!
By comparison, the Camry Solara includes a 3.3 liter V6 coupled to a five-speed automatic. If we compare the Camry Solara SE convertible to the Sebring Touring with 2.7 liter engine, we find the Sebring costs $1,000 more; typically has lower resale value; has a shorter warranty; and produces about 20 less horsepower and 30 lb-ft less torque; does not have standard air filtration (that's on the Limited); weighs 2,000 pounds more; and has 1.5 inches less rear legroom. The two vehicles get about the same gas mileage. On the Sebring's side, it has more features than the Toyota, is quieter inside, has a more solid feel, and has that awesome solid roof option which is hard to match in this price class.
The Chrysler Sebring convertible has generally been rated as the best in its class, largely because it remains one of the few actually designed to be a convertible, not just a couple or sedan sent to a customizer. If they could only replace those seats, we might say the same about this generation - assuming you want to cruise, and not spin around sharp corners (or past gas stations) at high speeds.
Click here for Allpar's Chrysler Sebring Convertible page.
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