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2008 Chrysler Sebring Limited Convertible – Click above for high-res image gallery

On paper, the Sebring seems to have what it takes, including three engine choices, an optional six-speed automatic, a sedan and convertible, and nifty cup holders that keep your drink hot or cold. We gave a top of the line Limited Sebring Convertible one week in the Autoblog Garage win us over, but things didn't go as planned. Read about what happened after the jump.

All photos Copyright ©2007 Chris Shunk / Weblogs, Inc.

We typically have one week to review a vehicle, but our time with the Sebring Convertible was really a tale of two drop-tops. We originally received the silver Sebring Limited cloth top convertible you see above. We only spent an hour driving it with the top down because some insurmountable mechanical issues occurred that ruined our fun. The first issue came when the top froze only a quarter of the way into its disappearing act. After a quick restart of the car it began to retract again, but after nestling itself in the boot, the trunk lid refused to close. Being no convertible mechanic, we made room for the Sebring Convertible in my own personal Autoblog Garage and parked it.

When we spoke with Chrysler about the situation, we were informed that this was the second time that week a top had frozen while in the hands of a journalist. A mechanic was dispatched to pick up the busted cabrio and when he couldn't fix it, the silver Sebring Convertible was carted off on a flat bed. Not a very good first impression, but we got our hands on a fully functioning replacement a month later.

Our first Sebring was a base Limited that carried what we consider to be an astonishing MSRP of just over $32,000. When we received our replacement, a fully loaded Inferno Red Chrystal Pearl Limited model, its $36,000 price tag set our knees a-warbling. It included the top-end 3.5L V6 mated to a six speed automatic, navigation screen, 20 gigabyte MyGig entertainment system, and a killer Boston Acoustics sound system. The only option not checked on our Limited model was the hard-top roof, which sets you back another $2,000. A $38,000 Sebring? Ouch!

Chrysler turned to its 2003 Airflite concept for inspiration when designing the Sebring, and the difference between the concept and production car is that while the former had smooth, tight packaging with a sexy roof-line that extended all the way to the rear bumper, the Sebring has odd proportions and a bulbous rear end. Chrysler also super-sized the Sebring's head lights, shrunk the grille, lifted the belt-line and made the trunk large enough to accommodate the roof and people's stuff. The sedan is just plain difficult to look at without flinching, though we thought the lines at least look better as a convertible.

On the inside, our loaded Limited was chock-full of cheap materials and sub-standard build quality. For example, the steering wheel had frayed strings of plastic undoubtedly from a bad press cut at the plant. The Sebring's dash material had a rubbery feel to it with Tupperware-grade plastics not befitting a $36,000 vehicle. The other odd omission was the lack of vanity mirror lights. It seems trivial, but on a convertible playing in the $30k segment, it's yet another reminder that the Sebring doesn't belong.

The seats up front were decently bolstered and comfortable, and although the leather surfaces were a little slippery for our tastes, our overall impression was favorable. The back seats, however, afforded only slightly more room than the smallish 2007 Volkswagen EOS we reviewed over the summer.

The news inside the Sebring isn't all bad, however, as some areas received high marks. Chrysler's multimedia interface with the 20-gigabyte MyGig system, large navigation screen and Boston Acoustics sound system was fantastic. The sound quality is as good as any in this price range, and the nav screen was bright and simple to use. The redundant controls for the radio, however, are located behind the steering wheel. It was an ergonomic nightmare that had us changing the radio station when we meant to raise the volume. We loved the heated and cooled cup holders up front, as they kept our Dunkin' Donuts coffee hot and our Dr. Pepper cold. This feature should reside within every Chrysler product, and fast.

When behind the wheel of the 235-hp Sebring Convertible, we received a driving experience that brought us back to a 1995 Buick LeSabre. It's as if Chrysler simply rushed the Sebring to market without hammering out the finer details of its handling. The steering feel was so light that we could have turned the car by sneezing at the dash. When taking corners at any speed above idle, the top-heavy convertible wallowed back and forth with the agility of 1993 GMC Jimmy. Even when changing lanes, it felt as though we were blindly guessing how much effort to apply to the steering wheel. This brought us to the simple conclusion the Sebring Convertible was designed with retirees and rental companies in mind.

While the acceleration of the 3.5L V6 was strong enough (other automakers can get a lot more than 235 hp out of 3.5 liters of displacement), the six-speed automatic would sometimes shift at odd times and jerk in lower gears. It wasn't nearly as smooth as the six-speed transmission shared by Ford and GM. On the fuel front, we averaged around 21 mpg with an even mix of city and highway driving .

With the top down, it's easier to forgive a soft, floating chassis and a cheap interior. The roof opens and closes easily with little more than the press of a button, and the entire car looks more appealing when the top is stowed. Wind noise is within expectations when enjoying open-air motoring in the Sebring Convertible, and the top can stay down when the temperature turns cool if you turn on the mighty heater.

As you can no doubt tell if you've made it this far, we weren't impressed with Chrysler's latest convertible offering. We were flat out unimpressed with its exterior design, interior materials and driving characteristics. The only attractive feature of the Sebring Convertible was its multimedia system, but that's no reason to drop $36k on any car.

Truth be told, however, the Chrysler Sebring Convertible doesn't have much competition. There's just the Pontiac G6 Convertible and Toyota Solara Convertible, as well as perhaps the Ford Mustang Convertible. We bet that none of those convertibles, however, enjoys as many fleet sales as the Chrysler Sebring Convertible. Ask any rental company for a convertible and the person behind the counter will probably ask you what color Sebring you'd like. With its hefty price tag, awkward design and floaty handling, we couldn't recommend this vehicle to a friend unless he were on vacation and planned to give it back in three days.

All photos Copyright ©2007 Chris Shunk / Weblogs, Inc.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      I'm assuming the radio controls on the steering wheel are the same as in my WK Jeep Grand Cherokee. I also had a Dakota R/T that used this arrangement. I MUCH prefer this setup to driver facing buttons you have to hit with your thumbs (like in my wife's Enclave). I always have to look for the button I want and take my hand off of the wheel to press them. On ChryCo's setup, these adjustments are made easily without moving your hands. It shouldn't take more than a day to learn what the left side does vs. the right....you can touch-type can't you?
      • 7 Years Ago
      I think its a good looking car, if only a few weird design cues on the front bumper, I hate the ribbed hood, and the rear lamps are odd.

      They're fixing the materials, but they need to be first class to justify that 36-38k range.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Hmm. I'm not an ancient, and I recently had a rental Sebring and found it quite enjoyable. It's a boulevard cruiser. This obsession of car journalists with sport-oriented handling and perfect interiors that look like they are all from an Audi is bordering on the ridiculous. I'm guessing your roof problem happened because you didn't hold the roof button down throughout the whole procedure, as I also experienced the problem you mention. Holding the button throughout the procedure resolved it after we restarted the car. I actually had people comment on how attractive they found my rental - my sister in law was ready to run out and buy one. I find it preferable to the Solara, and the Mustang is a different class of car altogether. It seems all the convertibles out there are in this price class, so I'm not sure why you are surprised by the cost.
        • 7 Years Ago
        I don't expect Chrysler to surpass Audi where the interior is concerned. But for $36 large (you can get a G35 for that!) I would expect the interior and the powertrain in this thing to be better than a Hyundai Sonata LX that, at most, will run you $23k.

        As for your friend...some people liked the Edsel, too.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I was in Hawaii (Oahu) this summer and while driving north on the H2, I came up behind one of these things with its top half folded into the trunk. I thought it was strange until I saw another Sebring in the same conditioning approaching from the opposite direction. The drivers waved to each other. Misery loves company. I was driving a rental Avenger. The world will be a better place without Chrysler.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Wasn't this original platform called the JA or JH or something?

      It's a shame this is so poorly executed. I had a 97 Stratus, and I thought the original platform of this was pretty darn competitive for the time when it came out. Good handling, good ride, great MPG, huge trunk. Yes the interior bits were not as refined, but it sure wasn't 30+ grand either.
        • 7 Years Ago
        "I had a 97 Stratus, and I thought the original platform of this was pretty darn competitive... "

        It was. I too owned a 1st gen "cloud car" and they were very competive even with the Japanese.

        My wifes grandmother swore by Honda's. She bought a brand new Accord every time they came out with a refresh. At the time she had the I believe the '94 for a couple of years. She had an opportunity to drive my Stratus ES and liked it very much. Thought it drove as well as her Honda - and she despised American cars. I wonder what the Sebring would be like now if Chrysler wasn't taken over and had kept their $10 billion product development fund?
      • 7 Years Ago
      I actually think the convertible looks good but from what you say it sounds like its just a complete piece of junk.

      And asking $36,000-$38,000 dollars for it is just a joke.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Its gonna take way more from chrysler than an interior upgrade to make the sebring convertible wirth its asking price...hell since the 3.5 only gets 21mpg and this same 2.5 makes 250hp in the 300/charger, why not offer the 4.0L 260hp v6...granted the handling would need to be upraged to suit as well...
      • 7 Years Ago
      Shame. I loved the 1st gen Sebring Convertible. Great handling, good power, even the plastics were better!

      Good thing team strike-force project D is on the job.. they just need to pull it off.

      Doesn't have to be a Mustang. But it doesn't have to be a sponge either.
      Tom Lee
      • 7 Years Ago
      Just because some critics say Chrysler is crap doesn't always mean they're right. Be a leader not a follower.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Chrysler is not helping the domestic cause. Seriously. Ford and GM should have bought Chrysler, dismantled it and better manufacture their better selling models.

      I wish they could afford to do it. Chevy Charger FTW.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Good God. There is NO WAY I would pay $36k for this pig. None. 235 hp from 3.5 liters? Honda used to get more from just 3.0!

      I'd rather get a loaded V6 Accord coupe with a sunroof, thanks.

      Chrysler better be praying Honda an Nissan don't make convertible variants of the Accord and Altima coupe. Chrysler is a joke.
      • 7 Years Ago
      This car is part of the emergency Project D to fix many issues. This should be the first noticeable vehicle change made by Cerberus. (Just something to consider.)
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