2008 Chrysler Sebring

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Review: 2008 Chrysler Sebring

By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 8

Bottom Line:

One of the best-looking and roomiest convertibles.
Pros:
  • Stylish
  • Available retractable hardtop
  • Roomy
Cons:
  • Lazy with base four-cylinder engine
  • Long doors awkward in tight spots
  • Heavy

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.

Performance Differences
However, the new convertible is quite heavy, weighing from 3,742 to 3,959 pounds. And that means that the base model's 2.4-liter 173-horsepower engine provides lazy acceleration. The top-line 3.5-liter 235 horsepower V6 provides the best performance, and there's a 2.7-liter 189-horsepower V6 in the middle.

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 4-cylinder delivers an estimated 23 mpg in the city and 31 on highways based on 2007 EPA estimated standards, but 20 and 29 with stricter new 2008 EPA standards. Only 87-octane fuel is required.

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.

Competitive Pricing
Prices are competitive. Chrysler says its new baby is priced at $645 below the comparable outgoing model despite $2,965 worth of additional standard equipment.

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
The retractable top adds $1,995 to the Limited's price. It costs $2,170 for the Touring, but that price falls to $1,995 if a $1,495 Touring Group is ordered. That group has items including a cloth-top and leather-heated seats, rear windscreen that effectively cuts top-down wind buffeting and steering-wheel audio controls.

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.

Safety Features
Safety items for all trim levels include front-seat side airbags and anti-lock brakes. Stability and traction control systems are optional.

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.

Racy Appearance
The Sebring convertible looks racy with either the soft or hardtops raised or lowered, although thick windshield posts hinder visibility when taking turns. Some convertibles look awkward with the top up.

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.

Roomy
One strong point of the new Sebring convertible is roominess. There's decent space for four 6-footers, which can't be said for many convertibles because they have tight back seats.

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
Chrysler is especially proud of the fact that the trunk holds four full-size golf bags with the top up and two golf bags when it's lowered.

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.

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BB02 - 9/23/2014 3:40:52 AM