2008 Sebring New Car Test Drive
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.