2008 Chrysler Sebring convertible
2008 Chrysler Sebring convertible. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Bob McHugh

First Drive: 2008 Sebring convertible by Laurance Yap

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Photo Gallery: 2008 Chrysler Sebring convertible

A little taller and wider than previous generation convertible, the new Sebring doesn’t pretend to compete with sporty Euro-style roadsters. The Sebring is a true convertible in the ‘grand touring’ style, or as Chrysler marketing aptly puts it, “slow down and enjoy the ride.”

Both soft and hard tops are made by Karmann, in Germany, and they latch and unlatch automatically at the press of a switch on the instrument panel. An optional remote feature puts the top down with the press of the button on the key fob, which is a first for Chrysler. The top-down or up procedure takes less than 30-seconds. The thee-part hard top folding act is the most entertaining, from an audience perspective – and a hard tonneau cover neatly conceals the stowage area when the top is down.

The new Sebring Convertible’s body has one hundred additional structural components, including the front/rear X-bracing. These make its body two-and-a-half times stiffer torsionally (resistance to twisting) and bending stiffness is one-and-a-half times better than the old convertible. They also make it about 150-kg (330-lb) heavier than Sebring sedan.

Designed with four in mind, the new Sebring Convertible has a comfortable and roomy interior. Occupants now also sit 64-millimetres (2 ½- inches) higher than they did in the previous generation car.

Leg and head room in the rear is surprisingly good and 187 litres (6.6 cu. ft.) of cargo space (that’s available with the top down) almost doubles (to 371 litres/13.1 cu ft) with the top up. Unlike other ragtops, the Sebring is a highly functional convertible that can be used year round.

2008 Chrysler Sebring convertible
The 2008 Sebring convertible features front and rear cross-braces that improve structural stiffness by two-and-a-half times. Click image to enlarge

Yes Essentials upholstery is a new option. Less costly than leather yet it has similar stain resistant qualities. Ketchup and mustard stains, even permanent markers, can all be cleaned off this man-made fabric with timely corrective action.

An option that’s well worth having is the windbreaker attachment. When in place it reduces wind noise by 12 decibels and the reduction in wind turbulence also increases the top-down comfort level of passengers.

New safety features include standard side air bags that also offer head protection and front seatbelt retractors mounted in the seatback. Anti-lock braking is also standard and electronic stability system (called ESP) is an option.

The rear seats also have both the lower (UAS) anchors and the upper tether anchors that hold child seats in place. This is good to see as convertibles are exempt from this regulated safety requirement and generally they don’t have them.

2008 Chrysler Sebring convertible
2008 Chrysler Sebring convertible. Click image to enlarge

I test drove two versions of the new Sebring for eight hours on sun-drenched picturesque coastal highways north of LA. Even the setting sun and a cool evening breeze that swept in from the ocean could not discourage our top-down driving enjoyment – somebody has to do it!

I was very impressed by the rigidity of the Sebring’s body structure. It’s devoid of the usual creeks, groans and cowl shake that normally come with a convertible when you hit a rough patch of roadway. This is a luxury class chassis at a bargain-basement price.

The first Sebring I drove came with the E-85 rated 2.7-litre V-6 engine that can operate on any blend of gasoline and ethanol, up to 85%. The environmental benefits are there if you can get it, however there are few E 85 stations in Canada.

2008 Chrysler Sebring convertible
The 2007 Sebring convertible features front and rear cross-braces that improve structural stiffness by two-and-a-half times. Click image to enlarge

This engine is standard in the Touring edition of Sebring Convertible. It’s very quiet and has a smooth idle but I was a little disappointed with its pulling power on steeper hills. Judging by the comments of those who drove the base four-cylinder, these engines are not far apart in terms of in-car performance.

The second part of the drive was in a Limited version. This comes with the high-output 3.5-litre engine and it’s coupled with the new six-speed automatic transaxle, which also has an Auto Stick feature. Big improvement in performance!

This new automatic transmission has a higher ratio on its lowest gear to provide quicker acceleration from a standing start. At the top end it has a higher overall ratio for better fuel economy and in-between, the shifts are smooth as silk.

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