2008 Chrysler Sebring Limited Convertible

The Sebring convertible has long been one of the most affordable and popular drop-tops on the market – the latest edition continues the trend. Today, however, it is differentiated by the fact it is offered in both soft-top and hardtop derivatives. Mind you, the collapsible hardtop ($2,300) is worth every cent – it not only makes the car look more complete (the soft-top is not as integrated as the hardtop), it delivers two cars for the price of one – the warmth and security of a coupe and the open-air freedom of a convertible.

Cutting the second strongest panel (the roof) off the car usually means one of two things. If the roof removal is done properly the car is as sound structurally as its fixed-roofed sibling; minus the appropriate stiffeners the car shakes and shimmies down a rough road like some deranged go-go dancer. The Sebring is right on the money, as cowl shake is conspicuous by its absence (the fact the body is 2.5 times stiffer in twisting and 1.5 times better in bending than the previous car does not go unnoticed!).

2008 Chrysler Sebring Limited Convertible

2008 Chrysler Sebring Limited Convertible

As well as doing away with the shake and shimmy the strong chassis allows the suspension to do its thing without having to compensate for body flex. In the Sebring’s case, the suspension walks a fine line. When out on a twilight cruise the set-up is compliant and comfortable; drop the hammer and the lot hunkers down to minimize body motion and understeer. The use of sensibly sized P215/55R18 tires helps the latter enormously while bringing a crisp feel to the steering. Dynamically, the Sebring is a pleasant surprise – the previous car tended to resemble said go-go dancer.

The only noticeable driving difference between the sedan and convertible is the drop-top’s extra 182-kilograms of mass – it is like having a couple of passengers along for the ride all the time.

There is also a good electronic stability program, although making it a $525 option smacks of profiteering and four-wheel discs with anti-lock – the stops are fade-free and measure just 42.6 metres.

Power comes from a high output 3.5L V6 that’s married to a six-speed manumatic. The 235 horsepower and 232 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm bring a quick launch off the line thanks to the transmission’s abnormally low first gear. This speedy work ethic is then maintained through the mid-range and on up to speed without getting noisy (a thrashy engine when the top is down spoils the drive). The numbers reinforce the sensation of speed – the 0-100-km/h run is accomplished in 8.5 seconds and the Sebring Limited turns the 80-120-km/h trick in 7.2 seconds.

The manual mode helps when driving quickly – it downshifts rapidly without being abrupt and so the driver can take advantage of engine braking when setting the car up for a fast on-ramp. It also made the track experience far more palatable – leaving the box to do its own thing sometimes found it in the wrong gear for the corner because it wants to upshift too early to shave fuel consumption.

2008 Sebring Interior

2008 Chrysler Sebring Limited Convertible Interior Dash

The hardtop is fully automatic and so there are no latches to fiddle with – simply hold one button for about 25 seconds and the car is transformed from coupe to convertible. As is true of most hardtop convertibles the roof panel consumes trunk space (it drops from 13.1 cubic feet to 6.6 cu. ft. when folded).

The rest of the car is just as well thought through – the longish 2,765-millimetre wheelbase means the back seat is comfortably usable as long as the driver’s seat is not all the way rearward – a long-legged driver makes the knee-room all-but disappear. There’s also less of the usual windy backwash, which makes riding back there an enjoyable experience (I would not want to sit there for an extended drive, but for a balmy evening cruise it’s just fine).

The cabin’s two-tone finish is attractive, logical and loaded. The tester featured power everything, comfortable seats, a heated/cooled cup holder and a decent audio system that’s strong enough to fill the cabin with the top down. The one option missing was MyGig – it is a hard drive-based system that incorporates all the nav info as well as preserving 18-gig for songs and\or photos. The fact it is easy to use (either through the touch-sensitive screen or via voice command) means it’s more intuitive than most.

The latest Sebring Limited convertible comes as a very pleasant surprise (the previous car was, to be polite, not the best around). There is very little cowl shake, the comfort and convenience of a one-touch hard top and it has a usable back seat. Perhaps more importantly, it enjoys a considerable price advantage over its most obvious competition, and that’s what’s going to spur sales.

Type of vehicle:

  • Front-wheel drive convertible
  • Engine: 3.5L, SOHC, V6
  • Power: 235 @ 6,400 rpm; 232 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm
  • Transmission: Six-speed manumatic
  • Brakes: Four-wheel disc with ABS
  • Tires: P215/55R18
  • Base price/as tested: $38,995/$44,170
  • Destination charge: $1,300
  • Fuel economy L/100 km 12.9 city, 7.7 hwy.

Standard features: Automatic climate control, power locks, windows, mirrors (also heated) and convertible top, cruise control, analog clock, leather-trimmed seats and shift knob, 6-way driver/passenger seats, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, trip computer with compass and outside temperature,

Luxury Group:

  • ($800 – heated/cooled cupholders, remote start system, auto dim rear view mirror, UConnect hands-free phone, rear mesh wind screen),
  • AM/FM/CD/MP3-capable audio system with six Boston Acoustics speakers and 276-watt digital amplifier ($650),
  • Sirius satellite radio ($250)
  • Body colour moldings ($75)
  • Hardtop ($2,300 – soft-top is a no-cost option),
  • 18-inch chrome-clad aluminum wheels ($575),
  • Electronic stability program ($525)