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May 5, 2010

News & Features

Auto Review: Chrysler's 2010 Sebring convertible seats 4, with plenty of legroom

The Associated Press

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2010 Chrysler Sebring Convertible Limited (AP Photo/Chrysler, Jim Frenak)

Chrysler's Sebring convertible, with rear seats that can accommodate two adults and a generous trunk, languished in recent years as its manufacturer went bankrupt and was sold.

But the Sebring is still around, with nicer front styling for 2010 and other minor revisions such as a new instrument cluster and anti-whiplash front-seat head restraints.

In fact, the Sebring convertible and Sebring sedan posted impressive, triple-digit sales gains in the first four months of this year compared with the 2009 period.

The Sebring was supposed to be phased out this year. But Chrysler -- now owned by the federal government and Italian carmaker Fiat -- is reportedly sprucing up the car for 2011.

Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, is $28,590 for a 2010 Sebring soft-top model with 173horsepower, four-cylinder engine and automatic transmission.

2010 Chrysler Sebring Convertible Limited

  • BASE PRICE: $27,850 for LX; $29,210 for Touring; $32,710 for Limited.
  • AS TESTED: $37,335.
  • TYPE: Front-engine, front-wheel drive, four-passenger, small, hard-top convertible.
  • ENGINE: 3.5-liter, single overhead cam V-6.
  • MILEAGE: 16 mpg (city), 27 mpg (highway).
  • TOP SPEED: NA.
  • LENGTH: 193.8 inches.
  • WHEELBASE: 108.9 inches.
  • CURB WEIGHT: 3,959 pounds.
  • BUILT AT: Sterling Heights, Mich.
  • OPTIONS: Power retractable hard top $1,995; upgraded radio package (includes 30-gigabyte hard drive, navigation system, U-Connect communications system, automatic-dimming inside mirror and free, one-year Sirius radio service) $1,200; electronic stability control $425; Inferno Red exterior paint $225; engine block heater $40.
  • DESTINATION CHARGE: $740.

The starting retail price for a 2010 Sebring convertible with power retractable hard top is $35,445. This includes 235-horsepower V-6 and automatic transmission.

Note that it is unusual for a four-seat convertible to offer a choice of roofs.

The competing, four-seat, 2010 Volkswagen Eos, which comes standard with power retractable hard top, has a starting retail price of $33,140 with 200-horsepower, turbocharged four cylinder and manual transmission.

A 2010 Eos with automatic has a starting retail price of $34,240.

The 2011 Ford Mustang convertible, an early model introduction, starts at $27,995 with a soft top and a base engine -- a V-6 -- that offers 305 horsepower.

The Sebring convertible gained fame years ago as America's top-selling, open-air car. But as money for advertising and new-model development waned in recent years, the car became better known for its popularity in rental car fleets.

Rental customers can carry three passengers in the Sebring convertible, and the trunk -- 13.1 cubic feet, when the roof is on the car -- can handle several suitcases, or four golf bags. When the top is down, trunk space measures 6.6 cubic feet.

The accommodations are still the best attribute of the Sebring convertible in 2010. The back seat has 33.5 inches of legroom, which was enough for me to sit back there without my knees being cramped.

Headroom, of course is unlimited with the roof down and measures a full 37.2 inches with soft top and 36.6 inches with the hard top.

By comparison, the VW Eos has 32.5 inches of rear-seat legroom and 35.8 inches of headroom in the back seat under the hard top. Some 20 inches shorter than the Sebring convertible, the Eos' trunk space is 6.6 cubic feet, maximum. The Sebring offers more room than the Mustang, as well.

Unfortunately, the Sebring doesn't rate as highly in other features.

The test Sebring had front bucket seats that aggravated one passenger's back condition and had me feeling stiff and tired after a lengthy drive.

The nearly 4,000-pound vehicle can feel ungainly. The suspension tried to manage the bumps and keep passengers above the fray, but it wasn't a refined ride and at times, the car felt unsettled.

The ride was decently quiet, though, with the hard top on. I liked the luminous green glow of the gauges in the instrument cluster at night.

The one-touch, power hard top was a dream to operate. One piece and then another piece of the roof moved and shifted into position, ultimately folding down neatly behind the back seats.

And despite the shortcomings of this car, there's always something seductive about driving an open-air vehicle on warm, spring days.

I just wish the Sebring offered a better combination of power and fuel economy.

The base engine, a 2.4-liter four cylinder, has the best Sebring convertible government fuel mileage rating of 20 miles per gallon in city driving and 29 mpg on the highway. But it's widely considered to be a bit underpowered and isn't available with the heavy hard-top roof.

The mid-range engine is a 2.7-liter V-6 with only a slight horsepower boost -- to 186 -- and an 18/26-mpg fuel economy rating. It, too, isn't available with the heavy hard top.

The test car, a Limited with hard top, had the top, 3.5-liter, single overhead cam V-6 generating 235 horses and 232 foot-pounds of torque at 4,000 rpm.

There were times when even this engine felt sluggish when I wanted quick acceleration.

And despite a government rating of 16/27 mpg, I managed to get just 20.3 mpg in combined city/highway driving. The Eos' government rating is higher -- 22/29 mpg with automatic transmission.

Many safety features are standard, including front-seat-mounted side air bags that are designed to protect both the thorax and chest in a side crash. But electronic stability control, which is standard on many lower-priced vehicles, is not available on the base Sebring convertible and is optional on the two top trim levels.

In government crash test ratings, the 2010 Sebring convertible is rated at five out of five stars, across the board, according to Chrysler.

Some 2010 Sebrings were part of a 20,045-vehicle safety recall in January for a faulty brake booster part.

Consumer Reports rates the Sebring convertible as much worse than average in reliability.


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