New styling, more power for Chrysler’s classy convertible
Introduced mid-way through the 2001 model year, the restyled 2001 Chrysler Sebring Convertible has a new, bigger V6 engine with 32 more horsepower, better brakes, a revised suspension, brighter headlamps and more safety features.
Its new styling now resembles the other members of the Sebring family: the recently-redesigned Sebring sedan (formerly Cirrus) and the Sebring coupe. The Sebring family ties are more superficial than they might seem though: the Sebring sedan and convertible are based on a completely different platform to the Mitsubishi-built Sebring coupe.
The 2001 Sebring Convertible is about the same size as the previous model and continues to be the roomiest convertible car in the mid-sized luxury class. It seats four adults comfortably with the top up, and has a comparatively roomy 11.3 cu. ft. trunk.
The 2001 base price has risen by just over a thousand dollars, from $32,585 to $33,595 (LX models), while mid-level JXi models (now LXi) have gone from $35,230 to $35,750, and top-of-the-line Limited models have gone up slightly from $37,555 to $37,665. The price increases are minimal considering the extensive changes and improvements.
New features for 2001
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New for 2001 is a more powerful 200 horsepower 2.7 litre V6 engine which replaces the 168 horsepower 2.5 litre V6 engine. The 2.7 litre V6 is the same all-aluminum DOHC 24 valve engine that’s used in the Chrysler Intrepid and Concorde. It features a new active intake manifold-tuning valve that provides more usable torque for increased mid-range performance – the 2.7 litre engine has 13% more torque than the 2.5 litre V6.
Despite its substantial horsepower increase, the new 2.7 litre engine offers slightly better fuel consumption: equipped with the 4-speed automatic AutoStick transmission, the 2000 Sebring uses 13.1 l/100 km (22 mpg) in the city and 8.4 l/100 km (34 mpg) on the highway – the 2001 model offers 12.3 l/100 km (23 mpg) in the city and 8.1 l/100 km (35 mpg) on the highway.
As before, Sebring Convertibles come with a standard four-speed automatic transmission, and Limited models have a standard AutoStick 4-speed automatic transaxle that offers the choice of manual shifting without a clutch.
There are many technical improvements to the new Sebring Convertible. A new larger four-wheel disc brake system is standard on all models, while “ABS Plus”, a new, more sophisticated anti-lock brake system is optional on LX and LXi models and standard on Limited models. Also new is electronic brake distribution, larger front rotors, thicker brake linings and corrosion-resistant rotors and brake lines.
In addition, the new Sebring Convertible has a stiffer body structure, a revised steering system, a new stiffer front suspension crossmember, new rebound springs added to the shock absorbers for improved control, and revised sway bar isolators. As before the Sebring’s fully independent suspension includes a short/long-arm front suspension system and a rear multi-link suspension.
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2001 models have new, larger tires and wheels. Standard are P205/65R-15 inch tires on the LX model. P205/60R-16 inch tires are optional on LX and standard on LXi and Limited models. A full-size spare tire is available for the first time.
In addition to the completely redesigned interior, the 2001 Sebring Convertible features a new four-window-down system that operates in conjunction with the convertible top – the driver needs only to hold one button for the top and all four windows to go down at the same time. As well, the convertible top features a new insulated, full cloth headliner.
Also new this year: headlamps that are 25 percent brighter, and a two-tone Deep Royal Blue paint and Cream-coloured leather interior available Limited models.
Safety has been improved too. The 2001 model has improved side impact protection with additional front door beams, an improved safety cage, new multi-stage front air bags, repositioned higher head restraints, seat belt pretensioners and an internal emergency trunk release.
Attractive, well-made convertible top
My top-of-the-line Sebring Convertible test car had a white exterior colour, chromed alloy wheels, and a navy blue fabric convertible top. All Sebring Convertibles include a power-operated convertible top that’s lined with a thick inner fabric lining and includes a rear glass window with electric defroster.
To lower the top, the driver releases two latches on the top of the windshield and pushes a button on the centre console – all four side windows lower a couple of inches, and the top descends in just eight seconds. It’s a good idea to fold in the latches before lowering the top so they don’t stick up unnecessarily and damage the soft vinyl boot cover which goes over top of the retracted top.
The boot cover, which normally stores in the trunk, offers an improved appearance and keeps out dust and dirt that might get in to the top. The boot cover is easy to attach – it slides under a ledge at the front edge of the trunk and attaches with two button clips and two velcro patches.
Putting up the top requires doing the reverse of the above, but there’s one glitch: the windows don’t automatically raise when the top is raised, so the driver has to raise all four windows after the top is latched.
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With the top down, the Sebring is very comfortable to drive at freeway speeds. With all four side windows up, there’s very little wind buffeting in the front seats. With the top up, the Sebring Convertible is relatively quiet, however there is an air leak between the front and rear side windows which creates some wind noise at freeway speeds. The rear seats are not as comfortable as the front seats because the backrest is more upright, but there’s adequate headroom and legroom for two adults. With the top down, there is considerably more wind buffeting in the rear seats.
I found the 2001 Sebring to be quieter and more refined than the previous model. The powertrain is smoother and quieter, and the suspension and body seem tighter and better-built. With the top down, the windshield frame doesn’t shake too much when traversing bumps, but I did notice that with the top up, the side windows bang against the convertible top when the car hits sudden bumps such as manholes.
The automatic transmission shifts with an easy smoothness, and the AutoStick transmission on my Limited model allowed manual, clutchless shifting if desired. I doubt that many people will make use of it though – the Sebring Convertible is not meant to be a performance car.
The driving position is comfortable, and visibility is good except for the thick rear C-pillar of the convertible top which blocks some right rear vision (with top up). The seats are wide and comfortable with good support and are height adjustable. One small complaint: the hand-grip depression in the armrest is located where the elbow rests, and I found it uncomfortable.
The Sebring is an easy car to drive with a nice, compliant ride, easy effort steering, and responsive brakes. A turning circle of 11.0 metres (36.2 ft.) is tight for a mid-sized car. There’s not much engine noise while cruising – at a steady 100 km/h, the 2.7 litre engine does only 2100 rpm and at 120 km/h it does just 2600 rpm.
With its quieter and more powerful engine, minimal wind noise and wind buffeting with the top down, the Sebring Convertible is a very pleasant, refined automobile that looks and drives like a more expensive import luxury convertible.
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My top-of-the-line Limited model included cr�me-coloured leather upholstery with attractive pleated seat inserts and door inserts. The upper dash and upper door surfaces were in black to prevent glare while the centre dash and doors included generous wood trim and chrome trim. Four round white gauges with old-style script and chrome rings completed the interior’s classy look.
The Sebring’s front seats have built-in shoulder and lap belts which allow them to move with the seat when it is adjusted. It also allows rear passengers to get in without getting caught up in the shoulder belt. A lever on the side of the front passenger seat allows the seat to fold and slide forwards to allow rear passengers easier entry and exit.
The centre control panel includes a green LCD display for outside temperature and direction (compass) and three large round dials for the heating/air conditioning system. Chrysler’s HVAC controls are a little different to other cars but are still user-friendly: air conditioning is activated by turning the dial to the ‘blue’ ventilation symbols while heater ventilation controls are activated by turning the dial to a duplicate set of ‘white’ symbols.
Below the heater/A/C system is an AM/FM/cassette player with digital clock. The stereo has sliding buttons for bass, mid-range and treble as well as press-and-turn toggles for balance and fade. The in-dash 4-disc CD changer is located separately below the AM/FM/cassette player, but it’s harder to reach because it’s so far forwards and behind the shift lever. There’s also a 12 volt power point, and two cupholders.
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The centre console includes a leather-covered shift lever and leather-covered handbrake lever and just behind is the button for the power top. A centre armrest with a storage bin has enough room for CD’s, cassettes, and coins, and there’s another power point inside for charging a cellphone.
The two rear seats have adequate, though not generous legroom and headroom for adults – still, this is more than in most other convertibles. I found the rear backrest to be a bit upright and there are no rear head restraints, but there are three-point rear safety belts. Also, there are two cupholders at the back of the centre console and seat pockets on the back of the front seats.
With 11.3 cu. ft of trunk space, the Sebring’s trunk is fairly big for a convertible and about two-thirds the size of a mid-size sedan trunk. However, the odd shape of the trunk caused by the protruding cavity where the lowered top sits takes up a lot of the trunk space. Also, the boot cover must be stored in the trunk when the top is up, and its bulky.
Price and features
For a base MSRP of $33,595, the Sebring Convertible LX features a standard 2.7 litre V6 engine with four-speed automatic transmission, independent double-wishbone front and rear suspension, cruise control, and 15 inch wheels and tires with four-wheel disc brakes. Also standard on the LX are air conditioning, power driver’s seat, power windows with driver auto down, power top with four-window down, folding heated mirrors, power decklid release, remote keyless illuminated entry with panic, speed control, tilt steering wheel, variable intermittent wipers, electric rear window defrost, AM/FM cassette, locking glove box and console and front and rear floor mats.
For $35,750, the Sebring Convertible LXi includes all the above features, plus 16-inch aluminum wheels and tires, fog lamps, cloth top, leather-trimmed seats, steering wheel and shift knob; as well as CD player with 150 watt Infinity sound system, compass, theft-deterrent system and Homelink garage door opener.
For $37,665, the top-of-the-line Sebring Convertible Limited model features all the above as well as standard two-tone Dark Royal Blue and Cream leather trim interior, “ABS Plus,” AutoStick transmission, electroluminescent instrument cluster and AM/FM cassette with four in-dash CD changer and 16-inch chrome aluminum wheels.
The first-generation Chrysler Sebring Convertible was built in Toluca, Mexico but the 2001 Chrysler Sebring Convertible is being manufactured at the Sterling Heights, Michigan assembly plant which also produces the 2001 Chrysler Sebring sedan.
Like all new Chryslers, the Sebring Convertible comes with a new 5 yr/100,000 km powertrain warranty in addition to the standard 3 yr/60,000 km warranty.
|2001 Chrysler Sebring Convertible Limited|
|Price as tested||$37,665|
|Type||2-door, 4-passenger mid-size convertible|
|Layout||transverse front engine/front-wheel-drive|
|Engine||2.7 litre V6, DOHC, 24 valve|
|Horsepower||200 @ 5900 rpm|
|Torque||192 lb-ft @ 4300 rpm|
|Transmission||4-speed automatic w/Autostick|
|Tires||Michelin MX4 P205/60R-16|
|Curb weight||1603 kg (3533 lb.)|
|Wheelbase||2692 mm (106.0 in.)|
|Length||4920 mm (193.7 in.)|
|Width||1763 mm (69.4 in.)|
|Height||1397 mm (55.0 in.)|
|Trunk space||320 litres (11.3 cu. ft.)|
|Fuel consumption||City: 12.3 l/100 km (23 mpg)|
|Hwy: 8.1 l/100 km (35 mpg)|
|Warranty||3 yrs/60,000 km|
|Powertrain warranty||5 yrs/100,000 km|