Review: 2008 Chrysler Sebring
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
The 2008 Chrysler Sebring convertible did well during a hard workout on mountain roads and freeways near Los Angeles during a media preview, although it did best by far with the available 3.5-liter V6 engine.
The Sebring has been the best-selling convertible in America for 7 of the past 11 years, with approximately 475,000 sold during the last 10 years. The Ford Mustang has provided the stiffest competition.
The midsize Sebring convertible accompanies the slick same-size Sebring sedan, which arrived as a considerably improved 2007 model.
The new Michigan-built Sebring convertible also is greatly improved over its predecessor, partly because it is far more structurally rigid. That translates to better handling, a superior ride and a more solid general feel.
The 4-cylinder and 2.7 V6 work with a responsive 4-speed automatic transmission, but the 3.5 has a more modern, smooth 6-speed automatic with a manual shift feature.
New Economy Figures
The 2.7 V6 provides an estimated 20 and 28 based on 2007 EPA estimates and 18 and 26 using 2008 standards. It's a flex-fuel engine that can run on any blend of gasoline and fuel-grade ethanol up to E85.
The 3.5 V6 gets 18 and 28 using 2007 EPA estimates and 16 and 26 with the new standards. While 89-octane gas is preferred, it can run on 87-octane fuel.
The new convertible comes as the base $25,470 4-cylinder model with a vinyl top, but no available retractable top. The midrange $28,070 Touring V6 version—expected to be the most popular—has a vinyl top or optional retractable hardtop.
The top-line, equipment-loaded $31,670 Limited has a more powerful V6 and standard cloth top—or the retracting hardtop. Fully loaded, the Limited tops out at $38,675.
Retractable Top Prices
Standard for all trim levels are air conditioning, cruise control, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, front sliding armrest, AM/FM/CD with DVD/MP3 capability, headlight-off time delay and power windows, trunk release and door locks with remote keyless entry.
The Sebring convertible has front-wheel drive, which means it lacks the balance of a rear-wheel-drive convertible. But this is a sporty car, not a sports model, and thus is meant for normal cruising, not tackling twisty roads.
Despite that, the new Chrysler did well on L.A. area mountain roads because steering is quick, handling is sure and braking is reasonably strong, with good pedal feel. An all-independent suspension helps roadability and provides a good ride.
One feature that combines style and functionality is a heavily ribbed (Chrysler says "sculpted") hood that adds to the car's appearance and also stiffens its structure. The hood of the iconic, racer-derived 1950s Mercedes-Benz 300SL sports car also has ribs.
A seat belt system that connects belts to the seats makes it easier for passenger to get in and out of the rear seats, although long doors impede front or rear seat entry or exit in tight spots.
Four Golf Bags
Why all the room? Well, the new Sebring convertible's wheelbase (distance between axles) is 2.9 inches longer, and it's 3.5 inches taller and more than 2 inches wider than the model it replaces. It's even 3 inches longer than the redesigned 2007 Sebring sedan.
The retractable hardtop operates with great efficiency. And standard for all trim levels is an automatic latching top. Optional for the base model and standard for the other two trim levels is a remote engine start and convertible top operation via a key fob.
The two-tone interior has a modern, upscale look. Most controls are easily reached and operated.
The new Sebring convertible's retractable hardtop makes it a safer, more sensible car. But Chrysler says that true convertible lovers will opt only for a soft-top version.