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Review and photos by Russell Purcell
Refinement on a budget
The convertible segment of the automotive market is an interesting one to say the least, as higher costs and low production numbers make for reduced profits. Chrysler however, has embraced the category for a couple of decades, first with the LeBaron and more recently, the Sebring.
Refined, open-air touring
Unlike many of its competitors the current Sebring Convertible is available in several trim levels as well as equipped with either Chrysler’s smooth-shifting 4-speed AutoStick or a slick 5-speed manual gearbox (Sebring GTC).
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My test vehicle was the top-of-the-line Sebring Limited loaded with all the power options you could imagine – power windows, mirrors and locks, Homelink and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror among them – as well as the premium cloth roof and leather-faced bucket seats.
The 6-way power adjustable driver’s seat proved to be very supportive and I was able to find the perfect driving position with ease. Unfortunately, the seatback is only manually adjustable, but reclines fully to allow you to stargaze on those warm summer nights you feel the need to go for a drive. I was also surprised to discover that even when I had the seat set as far back on its track as it would go, my rear passengers still had sufficient leg, knee and foot room. That is a rarity these days.
To totally experience the thrill of open air motoring one must spend time in the rear compartment of a convertible, as the sensory overload that comes with generous air flow and mild wind buffeting makes you feel alive.
Chrysler’s engineers should be commended for the design of the Sebring’s convertible top. The quick release of two windshield latches and the simple touch of a console-mounted button set the process in motion. The windows drop and the top retracts quickly and quietly into its cubby immediately behind the rear seats. If you plan to leave it down for an extended period a colour-matched, bi-fold tonneau cover resides in the trunk, and when fitted, hides the top and its associated hardware. The end result is a sleek and refined looking car.
The driving experience
With the top up, the Sebring Convertible offers a quiet ride – insulation in the form of a full headliner shuts out most wind and road noise. Unfortunately, the wide rear buttresses create large blind spots making shoulder checks a challenge.
With the top down, you will notice some cowl shake, but only when travelling over larger road irregularities such as speed bumps or railway tracks. For the most part, the Sebring drop-top seems sturdier than all but the most exclusive and expensive cabriolets on the market.
My test vehicle had the optional heated seats, which in my mind should be standard on any convertible sold in Canada. Even when we have sunny days, our nights can be downright chilly. I was also somewhat disappointed in the car’s ventilation system as the vents are very small for a car of this size and seem to be overworked. Obviously this is not a problem when the roof is down, but when the top is up and the sun blazing, a stream of cool air is vital to the comfort of occupants.
Unexpected features at this price point are items like the power- operated trunk, power fold away mirrors and an awesome Infinity audio system with steering wheel controls.
Power delivery from Chrysler’s well-proven 2.7-litre DOHC, V6 comes on smooth and strong, especially if you choose your own shift points using the AutoStick feature. The engine generates 200 horsepower although it feels, and sounds, like much more. Surprisingly, the car exhibited very little body roll or lean, even when driven at the limit. The added weight that comes with ensuring a convertible maintains its structural integrity is obviously well placed, helping the car feel confident and planted.
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The Sebring Convertible in all trim levels comes equipped with “next generation” front airbags as well as seat-mounted shoulder restraints. The Limited comes with what Chrysler calls ABS Plus, an advanced anti-lock brake system that acts to modulate the brake forces to each wheel as you turn. Add to this the all-weather confidence of front-wheel drive, and the Sebring Convertible becomes an attractive choice.
Few convertibles offer the size, comfort and luxuries offered by the Sebring, and as it is available in a multitude of trim levels it is easy to find one that suits your budget.
Technical Data: 2004 Chrysler Sebring convertible Limited
|Base price (Limited)||$38,640|
|Price as tested||$40,600|
|Type||2-door, 5 passenger, mid-size convertible|
|Engine||2.7-litre V6, DOHC, 24 valves|
|Horsepower||200 @ 5,800 rpm|
|Torque||190 lb.-ft @ 4,850 rpm|
|Transmission||4-speed AutoStick automatic|
|Curb weight||1584 kg (3491 lb.)|
|Wheelbase||2692 mm (106.0 in.)|
|Length||4921 mm (193.7 in.)|
|Width||1763 mm (69.4 in.)|
|Height||1398mm (55.0 in.)|
|Fuel consumption||City: 11.1 litres/100 km (25 mpg)|
|Hwy:7.7 litres/100 km (37 mpg)|
|Warranty||3 yrs/60,000 km|
|Powertrain warranty||7 yrs/115,000 km|