The seaside city of Santa Monica, Calif., served as the backdrop for the national automotive media's introduction to the completely redesigned 2008 Chrysler Sebring convertible. With the top up or down, the two-door, four-passenger car turned out to be a hoot to drive on the hilly terrain of Southern California, including the breathtaking Pacific Coast Highway.
Available in three trims, the front-wheel-drive convertible is all-new, inside and out. It's 2.9 inches longer and 3.5 inches taller than its predecessor.
The sleek looker is offered as a 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine (173 hp at 6000 rpm and 166 pounds-feet of torque at 4400 rpm). The 2.7-liter V-6 flex-fuel engine pumps out 189 hp at 6400 rpm and 191 pounds-feet of torque at 4000 rpm. Both are mated to a 4-speed automatic transmission. The up-level 3.5-liter V-6 engine, which packs 235 hp at 6400 rpm and 232 pounds-feet of torque at 4000 rpm, is equipped with a 6-speed automatic transmission. An independent MacPherson strut in the front and a multilink rear absorb bumps and other road irregularities exceptionally well.
Fear not for your safety in the Sebring convertible, which is packed with such standard features as dual front and side airbags, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability program with brake assist and tire pressure monitoring system.
Based on a steel unibody construction, the convertible flaunts a graceful exterior, starting with the egg-crate grille, sculptured hood, large quad halogen headlights and chrome-tipped exhaust pipes.
We tested the three top options of this convertible on Southern California roads and came away quite impressed. A vinyl, cloth or hardtop can be retracted with the push of a button on the key fob, or via a switch behind the steering wheel. Of course, there also is the standard power hardtop tonneau cover. The hardtop opens or closes in 30 seconds while the soft top does the job in 27 seconds. With the top up, wind and road noise were minimal. Top down, the rear windscreen contributes to the negligible road and powertrain sound.
The two-tone color trim in the cabin exhibits a handsome and fresh look. The Chrysler signature analog clock atop the dashboard and the rings around the electroluminescent instrument panel gauges decked tastefully in satin silver will grab your attention. The shifter knob is a blend of leather and chrome-accent bezel. Part of a package, the heated/cooled cup holders keep your beverage warm or cold.
Base-priced at $26,145, Chrysler hopes to attract a large number of successful baby boomers to the redesigned Sebring. The sporty convertible has retained its four-passenger roominess while offering good looks and ample engine choices. It's a win-win situation for the car maker as well as lovers of open-air motoring.
SEBRING CONVERTIBLE LIMITED INFOBOX
Engine: 3.5-liter V-6
Wheelbase: 108.9 inches
Length: 193.8 inches
Width: 71.5 inches
Height: 58.5 inches
Curb weight: 3,959 pounds
Tires: P215/RR18 all-season
Fuel capacity: 16.9 gallons
EPA: city 16 mpg, highway 26 mpg ('08 EPA figures)
Base price: $32,345
Web site: www.chrysler.com/sebring
Nitish S. Rele is an advertising staff writer for The Tampa Tribune.