Chrysler Sebring, 2008: Weidel on Wheels

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Convertibles are mostly two-seat, sports cars and are often a luxury purchase. In recent tough economy times, sales have dropped dramatically and owning an extra vehicle purely for enjoyment isn’t prudent.

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Yet some convertibles are more workmanlike, like the Chrysler Sebring. It’s a convertible with practical appeal. The Sebring is priced and performs moderately and looks sharp. And it’s endearing because it satisfies the wont to own a convertible.

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The Sebring experience for many comes while on a summer vacation or a visit to a warm climate. And who hasn’t been tempted to rent a convertible? If Hertz, Budget and the other agencies hadn’t stocked their lots with Sebring convertibles, sales would have been drastically lower.

While the rental-friendly convertible has been a segment sales leader for Chrysler, the Sebring sedan is bland and provides a modest driving experience.

I have no vacation experience with a Sebring sedan, but I did test drive the 2008 Touring convertible recently for a week. It came as advertised. There is no “wow” factor with the Sebring. It’s a practical car for daily use, but with the top down on a sunny day, it adds excitement to driving.

Speaking of tops, the Sebring was redesigned in 2007 and now has its first retractable metal top. The standard soft top is still also available. With either top, a push of a button puts one in convertible mode in around 30 seconds.

The Touring model has a sizable list of standard equipment and offers plenty of available upgrades, including all-wheel drive. The price is $28,615.

While a day with the top down is always pleasant, the Sebring’s performance doesn’t deliver added excitement. It features a modest 2.7-liter, V6 with only 189 horsepower. There’s no instant gratification because the Sebring only goes 0-60 mph in 8.9 seconds. The Sebring base model – a tepid 4-cylinder – has even less zip. Even the Sebring Limited, a 3.5-liter V6 with 191 horsepower, is sluggish.

Ride quality helps alleviate poor performance. The Sebring provides a smooth and composed ride in city situations and also does fine on the freeway. Steering and braking could be more responsive, but neither are glaring weaknesses.

Interior room feels more cramped than most mid-size vehicles, especially in the backseat where the narrow cabin comes into play. It will prohibit three adults from being passengers.

FAST FACTS: 2008 Chrysler Sebring

Power — 2.7-liter, V6, 189 horsepower; Gas mileage estimates — 18 mpg (city), 26 mpg (hwy);     Standard features — antilock 4-wheel disc brakes, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, center console, split folding rear seat, power windows, doors, mirrors, keyless entry, in-dash 6-disc CD/MP3 changer, satellite radio, rear defogger, automatic-off headlights; Warranty — Bumper-to-bumper 3 years/36,000 miles; Corrosion, 5 years/100,000 miles; Free roadside assistance 3 years/36,000 miles.

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