2008 Chrysler Sebring Expert Review
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.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.
New Car Test Drive
Now available with all-wheel drive.New, with a choice of tops that drop.
The Chrysler Sebring was completely redesigned and introduced as a four-door sedan for the 2007 model year, then a two-door convertible was added in mid-2007 as a 2008 model.
The midsize, front-wheel-drive Chrysler Sebring competes with the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, and Saturn Aura, among others. The availability of a retractable hardtop convertible distinguishes the Sebring lineup from its popular competitors. The Sebring convertible offers a choice of vinyl or cloth soft tops or the retractable hard top.
The 2008 Sebring sedan and convertible are available in three trim levels with a choice of three engines. The base engine is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder, the mid-level engine is a 2.7-liter V6 that can run on E85, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. Both are mated to a four-speed automatic transmission. The top-of-the-line engine is a 3.5-liter V6 paired with a six-speed automatic.
Even the four-cylinder is fairly responsive in the sedan, but the V6 is the best choice for the convertible. And the six-speed automatic is more responsive than the four-speed automatic.
The Sebring sedan offers competitive passenger room, with plenty of room up front and a useful rear seat. The sedan seats five. The trunk is small for the class and has a small opening, however.
The convertible offers good interior space up front. It seats four passengers, but the rear seat lacks the legroom to make it comfortable for adults to sit back there on long trips. More than half of the available space in the convertible's trunk is taken up by the top mechanism when the top is down.
The Sebring cabin is pleasant. The look is sleek, and it is all nicely integrated and finished. Some of the interior surfaces are cold and hard to the touch, however. With an available DVD rear-seat entertainment system, and Chrysler's MyGIG hard-disc audio system, the Sebring's available technology is as good as or better than anything in the class.
Dynamically, the Sebring fits middle of the pack in the midsize class. Ride quality is generally pleasant, soaking up most bumps well. Handling is competent in the sedan. The convertible lacked the driving feel of the sedan, however, and exhibited noticeable cowl shake.
Introduced as a 2007 model, the Sebring sedan gets two changes for 2008, one major and one minor. All-wheel drive is available for 2008 on the Limited model. Sirius Satellite Radio is standard. The convertible was introduced as an early 2008 model, so it gets no changes at the fall model year changeover, though all base models are now called LX. After almost single-handedly resurrecting the U.S. convertible market in the early 1980s, Chrysler has worked hard to retain its foothold in the drop-top niche as competition has expanded and improved. With the 2008 Sebring Convertible, Chrysler raises the ante, offering the first, domestic-brand coupe with a retractable hard top.
Not comfortable letting it all ride on a new roof, the company has improved the Sebring to some degree in virtually every other area. There are now three engine choices, a new, 232-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 and more powerful versions of the inline-4 and 2.7-liter V6. The 2.7-liter flex-fuel engine is capable of burning regular gasoline or E-85, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. The new V6 also has a new, six-speed automatic transmission, a most-welcome step up from the outdated four-speed automatic that carries over with the other two engines.
Interiors get an injection of modern-day style and electronics tempered with classic touches. Black-on-white gauges echo the watch-like, analog clock centered high on the dash. The optional audio/navigation system stores map data and personalized entertainment files on a 20GB hard disk drive accessed via a Universal Serial Bus port. Quality plastic moldings and sleek metallic trim with muted color combinations present a quiet visual landscape.
Seats, though, are borderline with barely sufficient thigh support. Unique to the class is the fitment of a standard, six-way power adjustment to the front passenger seat, which, however, is sorely lacking in lumbar support. Rear seat legroom suffers from the space taken up by the complicated and complex hardware necessary to operate the retractable hard top.
Top operation is a picture of simplicity, managed with the mere press of a button. Latches automatically hook and release. Windows roll down and then back up as appropriate. And with the any of the tops down, there's room in the trunk for the benchmark, two golf bags, which also can be loaded and removed with the tops fixed in the down position. The optional wind blocker significantly minimizes top-down turbulence. When up, the hard top shuts out most wind and road noises, and the soft tops flutter only slightly at freeway speeds.
Overall performance and ride and handling yield mixed results. The Sebring Convertible is 400 pounds heavier than the four-door Sebring Sedan and this translates into lazier acceleration, whether from a stoplight or when merging or passing on a freeway. The added weight means the engine is working harder, and it whines and hums any time the driver asks for more. Also, some of the convertible's added weight is carried relatively high and toward the rear of the car, which does not improve handling.
However, all such thoughts are whisked away when the top is down. A leisurely, weekend drive on a sunny day is the Sebring Convertible's forte.
The 2008 Chrysler Sebring is available as a four-door sedan or two-door convertible in three trim levels with a choice of three engines. The convertible offers a choice of vinyl or cloth soft tops or a retractable hard top.
The Sebring LX sedan ($18,690) comes with a 173-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and four-speed automatic transmission. Standard features include cloth upholstery; air conditioning; six-way adjustable driver's seat plus lumbar; four-way adjustable front passenger seat; cruise control; remote keyless entry; power door locks, windows and heated outside mirrors; AM/FM/MP3 four-speaker stereo with six-disc CD changer and auxiliary audio input; tilt/telescope steering wheel; Sirius satellite radio with one-year subscription; front center console with sliding armrest and bi-level storage; 60/40 split folding rear seatback with drop-down center armrest; P215/65R16 tires on full-covered, steel wheels; and headlight-off delay.
The LX convertible ($25,840) features a power vinyl soft top. The convertible's front passenger seat is upgraded with six-way power adjustments, but the convertible does not have a 60/40-split folding rear seat or power heated side mirrors.
Optional for LX models: premium fabric upholstery ($100); heated front seats ($250); and a sunroof with lighted visor mirrors, LED front-seat map and rear-seat reading lights ($935). A Convenience Group for sedans ($895) adds the premium fabric upholstery, theft alarm, electronic personalization center, trip computer, remote starting, trunk cargo organizer, cabin air filter and one-touch up/down front side windows. For convertibles, the Convenience Group ($345) adds only the upholstery, alarm, and air filter.
The Sebring Touring sedan comes with a four-cylinder engine ($19,865) or a V6 ($20,920). Standard features over and above those of the LX include four-wheel disc brakes (upgraded from the base disc/drum setup), premium upholstery; chrome interior door handles; one-touch up/down front windows; automatic headlights; LED map lights; lighted visor mirrors; and P215/60R17 tires on aluminum wheels. Sedans also get a fold-flat front passenger seatback, while convertibles also have an Electronic Vehicle Information Center, a trip computer, and an upgraded tire-pressure monitor with display.
Options for Touring models: Boston Acoustics 276-watt sound system ($495), UConnect hands-free cell phone link ($360), and MyGIG. The MyGIG Entertainment System has a touch screen and a 20-gigabyte hard drive that hosts a music file data/management system, a voice-memo recorder and a six-gigabyte partition for audio and picture files. The MyGIG Multi-Media Infotainment System ($1895) adds a navigation system, voice-activation, and Chrysler's UConnect hand-free cell phone link. Touring sedans are available with an eight-way power driver's seat ($395); leather-wrapped steering wheel with redundant audio controls ($135); a rear DVD entertainment system with floor console-mounted LCD, remote control, wireless headsets and auxiliary audio and video/game inputs ($1,195); and P255/55R18 tires on aluminum wheels ($250). An Electronic Convenience Group for Touring sedans includes automatic climate control, heated front seats, remote starting, cabin air filter, theft alarm, universal garage door opener, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, heated and cooled cup holder, and the personalization center with trip computer and upgraded tire-pressure monitor ($915).
The Touring convertible ($28,440) is similarly equipped. Also offered for convertibles is a power retractable hardtop ($1995), and a Special Touring Group, which has a cloth top, wind blocker, leather interior trim, heated front seats, fog lamps, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, and 18-inch wheels and tires ($1495). For convertibles, the Electronic Convenience Group includes automatic climate control, cabin air filter, automatic headlamps, remote start, security alarm, universal. The Chrysler Sebring Convertible returns for 2008 after skipping the 2007 model year. It's still a two-door, four-passenger convertible, only this time there's a choice of three tops. Base is a vinyl top, one step up is a fabric top and the top top is a retractable hardtop.
The Sebring Convertible ($25,470) comes with a 2.4-liter inline-four and a four-speed automatic transmission. Standard features include air conditioning; cruise control; tilt and telescoping steering wheel; power windows and central locking; six-way, power-adjustable driver and front passenger seat with manual driver lumbar; AM/FM/CD/DVD/MP3 stereo with six speakers; center console with sliding armrest; front and rear carpeted floor mats; vinyl top; and P215/65R16, all-season tires on hub-capped, steel wheels. Chrysler offers two, extra-cost paint colors: Inferno Red Crystal Pearl ($225) and Linen Gold Metallic Pearl ($150). Other options include a Travel Convenience Group, with cabin air filtration, upgraded (stain and odor resistant) cloth upholstery and security alarm ($345); Sirius satellite radio ($195, including one-year trial subscription); UConnect hands-free communication system ($360); remote start with fob-controlled automatic top and windows down ($240); body-color molding ($75); daytime running lights ($40); engine block heater ($40); smoker's group ($30); and P215/60R17 all-season tires on cast aluminum wheels ($595).
The Touring ($28,070) has a 2.7-liter, flex-fuel V6 with a four-speed automatic. Standard features in addition to those on the base convertible include power, heated outside mirrors; the upgraded fabric upholstery; remote keyless fob with auto-top and windows-down control; electronic vehicle information center with trip computer; and P215/60R17, all-season tires on cast aluminum wheels. Two option packages are offered: the Electronic Convenience Group, with automatic climate control and cabin air filtration, automatic headlamps, remote start, security alarm, heated (to 140-degrees Fahrenheit) or cooled (to 35-degrees Fahrenheit) cup holder and auto-dim rearview mirror ($820); and the Special Touring Group, with cloth top, top-down wind blocker, leather interior trim, heated front seats, fog lamps and steering wheel-mounted audio controls ($1495). Individual options besides those offered on the base start with an electronic stability program ($425) and continue with MyGig, a navigation and multi-media, personalized entertainment system based on a 20GB hard disk drive ($1895), and Boston Acoustic six-speaker array ($495). Finally, two hardtop setups are available, one stand-alone ($2170), the other when the Special Touring Group is also purchased ($1995).
The Limited ($31,670) occupies the top of the Sebring drop-top line and is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 with a six-speed automatic. The list of standard features grows to embrace a cloth top, leather interior trim, cabin air filtration, Boston Acoustic speakers, fog lamps, auto-dim outside mirror and P255/55R18 all-season tires on aluminum wheels. Besides the hardtop option ($1995), there are but two options exclusive to the Limited: an Electronic Convenience Group, populated with automatic headlamps, remote start, automatic climate control and heated/cooled cup holder ($505), and a Luxury Group, comprising heated front seats, top-down wind blocker and chrome-clad 18-inch wheels ($1095).
Safety features begin with the required front airbags, three-point belts at all seating positions and rear seat child safety seat anchors (LATCH). Tire pressure monitors are standard, with the base convertible getting a simple, low-pressure warning system, the Touring and Limited a digital pressure telltale incorporated into the Electronic Vehicle Information Center. ABS is standard. Brake assist and traction control are part of the optional electronic stability program, which is offered only on the Touring and Limited models.
At first glance, the 2008 Chrysler Sebring sedan and convertible are stylistic twins. Closer inspection reveals the convertible has only two doors versus the sedan's four. It also has a shortened coupe-like greenhouse, and is 3.2 inches longer overall. Both ride on the same 108.9-inch wheelbase and share the same 61.8-inch front and rear track. Tires and wheels are interchangeable.
Viewed head on, both body styles feature the current rendition of the idiomatic Chrysler grille: eggcrate with bright horizontal strips and topped by the brand's winged crest. A substantial, but otherwise unremarkable bumper tops a slim lower air intake bracketed by two, smaller, grille-like openings at the outer ends of which pods provide housings for fog lamps. Molded-in strakes, patterned after those on the Crossfire, Chrysler's underappreciated sporty coupe, dress up the hood.
There are also differences in balance and proportion between the sedan and convertible. Were the convertible designed as a traditional soft top, we daresay it'd look better. But the retractable hardtop required added length that unsettles the design.
The sedan is decorated with creased character lines on its sides. Flowing rearward from the front quarter panels, these creases spread, expanding the distance between them and emphasizing the car's sharply outlined wedge shape. Mild fender blisters circle the wheel openings. Body-color, anti-ding door moldings are optional on all trim levels. Side windows are framed in flat black. Door handles are body color on the base and Touring, chrome-finished on the Limited. Mirror housings are body color across the line.
The convertible uses the same basic design as the sedan, but the wheelbase looks too long and there's too much of the hindquarters for a two-door. If the expanse of metal between the trailing edge of the door and the rear wheelwell were halved, then it'd fit. But there has to be some place to store large segments of an articulated, metal roof, along with the motors, pumps, and other hardware necessary to lower and raise it. On the Sebring convertible, this results in a bulbous back end, with a top surface area nearly the equal to that of the hood. Also, to allow the retracted roof to fit inside the rear quarters, the rearmost edges of the rear pillars must be drawn inward. This awkwardly positions the retractable hardtop roof more on top of the rear fenders than allowing it to smoothly flow down into the side of the car. The look is better on soft top convertibles because the top looks more like a separate piece than an integrated whole.
At the rear of both body styles, large, multi-element taillights wrap around the rear fenders, crossing over into the trunk lid, which has a modest, molded-in lip at its trailing edge. The sedan's trunk lid is shorter than the convertible's trunk lid. The sedan also has a visually jarring inset rear window, which seems to be an effort, however futile, to enlarge the trunk opening while maintaining the desired top-to-bottom proportions.
The sedan's trunk has 13.6 cubic feet of cargo room, but the opening is quite small, so it won't accept larger boxes. The convertible's trunk opens like a normal trunk with any of the tops up or down and has 13.1 cubic feet of cargo room. Cargo room shrinks to 6.6 cubic feet with the top down, so you won't want to leave packages in the trunk when putting the top down. Chrysler says the trunk can hold two full-size golf bags with the top down. That's true, but access with the top retracted is very restricted. The 2008 Chrysler Sebring Convertible at first looks to be a twin of the '07 Sebring sedan, but with only two doors and a shortened, coupe-like greenhouse. And dimensionally, save for the convertible adding precisely 3.2 inches in overall length (front bumper to rear bumper), they are. Both ride on the same, 108.9-inch wheelbase (distance between the tires front to rear) and share the same, 61.8-inch front and rear track (distance between the tires side to side). Suspension design is also the same, four-wheel independent with struts in front and multi-link in back. Tires and wheels are interchangeable, too.
Thus, the differences are in balance, in proportion. And were this convertible the traditional type, just a soft top with, say, choice of fabric or color, we daresay it'd look better, more like its predecessor, the '06 Sebring Convertible. But it's that added length, and the reasons therefore that unsettle the '08 model.
Viewed head on, it's the '07 sedan, with that car's current rendition of the idiomatic Chrysler grille: egg crate with bright horizontal strips and topped by the brand's winged crest. Headlights fill the upper contours of the front fenders. A substantial, but otherwise unremarkable bumper tops a slim lower air intake bracketed by two, smaller, grille-like openings at the outer ends of which pods provide housings for fog lamps. Molded-in strakes patterned after those on the Crossfire, Chrysler's unappreciated sporty coupe, dress up the hood while adding structural rigidity.
From the side, everything looks quite proper and mostly pleasant back to and across the door. Maybe a little busy, or overwrought, just as with the '07 sedan, with the relatively high, angled beltline and deep undercut running across the upper door panel, but still of a piece. But it's the back half where the proportions come adrift. Simply put, the wheelbase is too long and there's too much of the hindquarters for a two-door. If the expanse of metal between the trailing edge of the door and the rear wheel well were halved, while leaving the door the same size, of course, then it'd fit.
But the problem is, there has to be some place to store large segments of an articulated, metal roof, along with the motors, pumps and sundry other hardware necessary to lower and raise it. And in the case of the new Sebring Convertible, this results in a bulbous back end, with a top surface area nearly the equal of the hood. Also, to allow the retracted roof to fit inside the rear quarters, the rearmost edges of the C-pillars (the part of the roof between the side glass and the rear window) must be drawn inward, awkwardly positioning the roof more on top of the rear fenders than smoothly flowing down into the side of the car.
The rear fascia, like the front, copies the '07 sedan. Large, multi-element taillights wrap around the rear fenders, crossing over into the trunk lid. A modest, molded-in lip outlines the upper trailing edge of the trunk lid. Which, by the way, opens like a normal trunk with any of the tops up or down. Only when a top is in motion does it hinge from the rear, opening like a clamshell to swallow or disgorge the top. License plate recess is centered in the bumper.
Inside, the sedan and convertible are virtually identical. However, the convertible has a narrower rear seat that allows for seating of just two passengers in back, while the sedan can take three.
The dashboard styling carries the motif of the Chrysler winged crest, or at least that's what the designers say. It's a stretch, but if you look at it kind of sideways, it works. Picture the winged crest from the grille magnified, say, 100 times, then with the wings severely cropped. Drape this image over the dash, so about half lies on top and the other half hangs down the front, add a couple cut lines, mold in a bead for some character and a hood to shade the black-on-white gauges, and there you have it. Speakers sit on top of the dash, with the vent registers outboard in a contrasting surround.
The speedometer, tachometer and fuel level and engine coolant gauges are clustered in three pods. The center stack houses the audio and climate controls, which are easy to use, a classic analog clock and, when ordered, the MyGIG screen with navigation system display.
The center stack is laid out to be inclusive of the front seat passenger, subtly reinforcing the family car personality. The center dash flows smoothly down into the center console, a single piece of nicely textured, hard plastic running all the way back to the raised storage bin that doubles as an armrest for front seat occupants. Just aft of the shift gate are two cup holders. As an option, the rearmost of the two can heat (to 140-degrees Fahrenheit) or cool (to 35-degrees Fahrenheit) a beverage.
In our test drives, the stereo's well-mixed, crisp audio did a decent job of masking the ventilation fan. When ordered with MyGIG, a USB port is provided to download music and picture files. Chrysler says the hard drive can hold up to 1600 songs.
In-cabin storage compares favorably with the class. Besides the two cup holders in the front center console, a bottle holder is molded into each of the sedan's rear door map pockets. Front door map pockets are a bit shallow for anything besides, well, maps. The glove box door is damped, so it doesn't bruise an unwary passenger's shins. The bi-level bin in the front center console provides a power point, supplementing another in a covered compartment forward of the shift gate where the optional ashtray and lighter fit when ordered. A thoughtful feature: One power point is wired to the battery and on all the time, which is good for charging cell phones and such. The front center armrest adjusts fore and aft over a range of about three inches, which is helpful for drivers of short stature, but a height adjustment would be helpful, too.
The quality of the materials is consistent with the car's price range: good, not great, and it looks better than it feels. Fit and finish is a grade above, with consistent and close tolerances between panels. The Touring model's trim finish of satin silver and chrome had the most eye appeal for us. The Limited model's combination of tortoise shell and chrome did not look real.
The Sebring is not the roomiest car in its class. The sedan offers almost as much headroom front and rear as the class-topping Accord, but the Sebring's front- and rear-seat hip room and rear-seat legroom trail all but the Saturn Aura. Front seats are adequate, if a bit short on thigh support. Side and bottom bolsters are proportioned for folk of substantial girth. Of note, too, is that only drivers enjoy a manual lumbar adjustment. Less than two hours in the front passenger seat left us painfully craving even the slightest lumbar support. The convertible has the same front-seat room, but it's rear legroom drops almost four inches from the sedan's, leaving enough space for an average-height adult only when someone short is sitting in front.
The Sebring's thick A-pillars can block sight of cross traffic at intersections and when exiting a driveway or parking lot. The. Inside, the Sebring Convertible is indistinguishable from the Sebring sedan. Other than, of course, seating four instead of the sedan's five.
The dashboard styling carries into the car the general motif of the Chrysler winged crest, or at least that's what the designers say. It's a stretch, but if you look at it kind of sideways, it works. Picture the winged crest from the grille magnified, say, 100 times, then with the wings severely cropped. Drape this image over the dash, so about half lies on top and the other half hangs down the front, add a couple cut lines, mold in a bead for some character and a hood to shade the black-on-white gauges, and there you have it. Speakers sit on top of the dash, vent registers outboard in a contrasting surround, while the clock, stereo/nav screen and climate control knobs take their usual places.
Front seats are adequate, if a bit short on thigh support. Side and bottom bolsters are proportioned for folk of substantial girth. Of note, too, is that only drivers enjoy a manual lumbar adjustment. Less than two hours in the front passenger seat left us painfully craving even the slightest lumbar support.
Rear-seat legroom drops almost four inches from the sibling sedan's, leaving enough space for an average-height adult only when a front seat is set for somebody no more than five feet six inches tall.
Quality of materials is consistent with the car's price range: good, not great, and looking better than it feels. Fit and finish is a grade above, with consistent and close tolerances between panels. The Touring model's trim finish of satin silver and chrome had the most eye appeal for us. The Limited model's combo of tortoise shell and chrome did not look real. The front center armrest adjusts fore and aft over a range of about three inches, which is helpful for drivers of short stature, but a height adjustment would be helpful, too, for taller drivers. Of concern also is the possible impression that the rear seat head restraints function as roll bars to protect rear seat passengers in a rollover, which they do in some convertibles. In the Sebring, they don't, their function confined to reducing risk of whiplash in rear-end collisions.
There's sufficient storage of the proper variety, with a cup holder for every seating position, map pockets in the lower front door panels and a flexible pouch on the backside of the passenger seat. The damped glove-box door locks, which is a welcome change from the '07 sedan. Chrysler says the trunk loses only half a cubic foot from the sedan and even when the top is down can hold two, full-size golf bags. True, but access with the top retracted is restricted to an opening about the size of the outline of one of those bags. Thus, when you want to put a box more than about a foot square or a piece of luggage any larger than a roller bag back there, the top will have to be up, at least when you start.
Compared with the Toyota Solara, the VW Eos, and the Volvo C70, the Sebring Convertible does reasonably well in terms of interior spaciousness. The Solara has a roomier back seat but a marginally less roomy front seat, and the Eos is a snugger fit all 'round, as is the C70. The latter two also give up almost half their maximum trunk space when their tops retract.
There's more pleasure to be found from behind the wheel of the 2008 Chrysler Sebring than first impressions might suggest. Yes, it's primarily a mainstream, middle-of-the-road commuter, but even in their most basic forms both the sedan and convertible are enjoyable to drive.
The Sebring convertible is nice for a leisurely drive on a sunny day and pulls duty as a regular commuter with a fun side, but it's less sporty than the sedan. It's fully 400 pounds heavier, and that weight affects handling and engine performance. While we found the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine reasonably responsive in the sedan, even the 2.7-liter V6 seemed to struggle in the convertible, sounding very busy while not getting much done. The weight of the convertible also drops fuel economy by one or two miles per gallon.
An antiquated four-speed automatic transmission hurts the performance of the base and Touring models (which come with the 2.4-liter and 2.7-liter engines). The four-speed automatic is more responsive in the sedan, but in terms of quality and sophistication, let alone absolute performance, it falls woefully short of what we expect in a 2008 model. Shifting lacks smoothness and precision. The transmission hunts endlessly for the proper gear on mild grades, whether up or down, often shifting up at exactly the wrong moment.
The larger, 3.5-liter V6 comes with a modern six-speed automatic that delivers the level of performance many expect in a car with the Sebring convertible's aspirations. In the sedan, the 3.5-liter V6 provides fine power, though it is outperformed by the V6s offered by Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Saturn, and Pontiac.
All-wheel-drive sedans come standard with the 3.5-liter V6. While all-wheel drive prevents wheel spin on hard starts, the extra weight of the all-wheel drive system saps some of the midrange passing response.
Inside the sedan, road, tire and wind noise are noticeable, but they don't interrupt conversation. The Toyota Camry and Hyundai Sonata are quieter.
The Sebring convertible isn't as quiet as the sedan, of course, but it isn't noisy underway. Among the convertibles, road noise is best suppressed by the retractable hardtop. At freeway speeds with the top down, voices needn't be raised for conversation between front seat passengers. The optional wind blocker helps keep hair and dangly earrings from being mussed too much. The soft tops flutter lightly at freeway speeds. Integrating the front seatbelt's shoulder strap into the seatback keeps it from flapping in the wind when the window is down, a nice feature.
For commuting, every Sebring rides smoothly, with good balance between the front and rear suspensions over uneven pavement. Rough pavement produces some cowl shake in the convertible, less with the top up; the hardtop quells the shudders best.
Steering feel is confident, both on and off center. Cornering is surprisingly well mannered in the sedan, allowing minimal body roll. Compared to the sedan, the convertible is more prone to understeer, a tendency to plow straight ahead instead of biting in sharp, fast turns. Directional stability is good in both body styles, though the convertible feels unbalanced in quick left-right-left transitions; our guess is this may result from much of the weight from the convertible top's hardware and some of the added bracing being positioned relatively high behind the rear seat. At elevated speeds, there's a touch of wallow before the suspension takes a set, but then the car is stable. When cornering loads have compressed the suspension, it tracks cleanly through fast corners. There's also some float at speed on an interstate, but not to an unsettling extent. While not quite as at home in non-commute environs, the Sebring is not all that flustered by a twisty, two-lane country road. The sizeable footprint of the available low-profile tires delivers precise turn-in and above-average grip through tight t. The new Chrysler Sebring Convertible is nice for a leisurely drive on a sunny day and pulls duty as a regular commuter with a fun side.
It isn't a sports car, however. It's fully 400 pounds heavier than the comparable Sebring sedan. That's a lot of weight. While we found the sedan with the inline-4 reasonably responsive, even the convertible's smaller V6 seemed to struggle, sounding very busy while not getting much done. That added weight exacts a small price in fuel economy, dropping the inline-4's EPA estimates by only one mile per gallon in both city and highway ratings and the smaller V6's only two mpg. (Note that the convertible's mpg ratings reflect the EPA's revised calculations for the 2008 model year; generally, this reduces current ratings by at most two mpg.)
Much the same holds for the antiquated, four-speed automatic in the base and Touring models. Again, while the same gearbox held its own in the sedan, in terms of quality and sophistication, let alone absolute performance, it falls woefully short of what buyers by right ought to expect in a 2008 automobile. Shifts lack smoothness and precision. The transmission hunts endlessly for the proper gear on mild grades, whether up or down, often shifting up at exactly the wrong moment.
Only the larger V6 with that powertrain's reasonably state-of-the-art, six-speed automatic delivers the level of performance many will expect today in a car with the Sebring Convertible's aspirations.
But at a lower level of expectations the Sebring Convertible can be enjoyable. The tops raise and lower smoothly; the process with the hard top is entertaining, watching the clam shell open, the roof separate into three segments and fold, then collapse into the trunk and the clam shell close. Realizing all those pumps, struts and braces have to work together, it's quite impressive. At freeway speeds with the top down, voices needn't be raised for conversation between front seat passengers. The optional wind blocker doesn't make it a closed coupe, but hair and dangly earrings aren't mussed with much. The soft tops flutter lightly at freeway speeds. Integrating the front seatbelt's shoulder strap into the seatback keeps it from flapping annoyingly in the wind when the window is down.
Rough pavement produces some cowl shake, less with the top up; the hard top quells the shudders best. Understeer, where the car wants to go straight instead of turn, is the default mode when corners are entered too fast; the electronic stability program is worth the added cost. Hard acceleration generates mild torque steer (where the car pulls to the right). The brake pedal returns a firm feel. Directional stability is good, although the car feels unbalanced in quick left-right-left transitions; our guess is this may result from much of the weight from the convertible top's hardware and some of the added bracing being positioned relatively high behind the rear seat.
The high cowl leaves a lot of the hood in sight through the windshield. Thick A-pillars that strengthen the windshield for improved occupant protection in the event of a rollover can block sight of cross traffic at intersections and when exiting a driveway or parking lot. The tapering of the roof's rear portions so it can tuck away inside the trunk doesn't leave much room for the rear window and makes for exceptionally deep C-pillars, both of which compromise rear quarter vision. When we rolled down the windows after encountering some rain during our time in the test car, water dripped from the roof onto the armrest and the power window controls, which strikes us as a potentially serious problem.
Against the Solara, Eos and C70, the latter two are tighter and sportier, but also seriously pricier, by as much as $10,000. The Solara, though, easily matches the performance and mechanical sophistication of the Sebring and is competitive on price. Despite the less.
The 2008 Chrysler Sebring comes in four-door sedan and two-door convertible versions with a four-cylinder and two V6s. The soft tops are nice, and the available retractable hardtop is intriguing. Styling, fit and finish and ride quality make a strong statement about Chrysler's commitment to character and quality. The Sebring measures up well in terms of materials quality, available technology, and interior room and comfort. Handling, power, and fuel economy are not its strongest assets.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Tom Lankard reported from Palm Springs and Santa Monica, California, with correspondent Kirk Bell reporting from Chicago. The new 2008 Chrysler Sebring Convertible improves in every way on the 2006 model it replaces. In looks, performance, features and most significantly, in offering a retractable hard top, it challenges the competition for most interesting in class, if nothing else. A sports car it is not. Nor is it truly a family car, if that family includes children. But for fun in the sun without unduly compromising creature comforts, accommodations or the bank account, it's hard to beat.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Tom Lankard filed this report from Santa Monica, California.
Chrysler Sebring LX sedan ($18,690); LX convertible ($25,840); Touring sedan ($19,865); Touring V6 sedan ($20,920); Touring convertible ($28,440); Limited sedan ($23,515); Limited V6 sedan ($25,320); Limited AWD sedan ($27,515); Limited convertible ($32,055). Chrysler Sebring Convertible ($25,470); Touring ($28,070); Limited ($31,670).
Sterling Heights, Michigan. Sterling Heights, Michigan.
Options As Tested
four-wheel disc ABS ($450); power sunroof ($775); Smoker's Group ($30). Special Touring Group ($1495).
Chrysler Sebring Touring V6 sedan ($20,920). Chrysler Sebring Convertible Touring ($28,070).
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