2007 Chrysler Sebring. Click image to enlarge
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By Chris Chase
The name Sebring calls to mind things that an auto enthusiast might get excited about: there’s Sebring International Raceway, near the city of the same name in Florida, and the lovely Maserati Sebring coupe and convertible built from 1962 to 1969.
Perhaps it was either, or both, of those things that Chrysler hoped to evoke with its Sebring moniker, first introduced in 1995 on a coupe, and then in 2001 when the Cirrus sedan was redesigned and renamed. Unfortunately, the Sebring wasn’t much to get excited about, although it has proven popular as an upscale family sedan and convertible over the last decade.
In 2007, the Sebring was redesigned again, into its second generation as a sedan. Despite the popularity of the convertible version of the outgoing car, the droptop wouldn’t arrive until 2008. When it arrived, it was offered with both hard and soft folding tops, giving Chrysler an “in” to the burgeoning hardtop convertible market, and giving Sebring buyers more choice.
2007 Chrysler Sebring. Click image to enlarge
As with the previous generation, the 2007 Sebring could be had with four-cylinder or V6 power, but again, the key word was choice. The base engine was a 2.4-litre four-cylinder (173 hp/166 lb.-ft.), and two V6s – a 2.7-litre (189 hp/191 lb.-ft.) and a 3.5-litre (235 hp/232 lb.-ft.) – were the upgrades. A four-speed automatic was the transmission you got with the four-cylinder and the 2.7-litre V6, and the 3.5-litre got a six-speed auto.
Natural Resources Canada’s fuel consumption ratings were 9.7/6.6 L/100 km (city/highway) for the four-cylinder, 10.8/7.2 L/100 km for the 2.7-litre and 12.9/7.7 for the 3.5-litre engine. In 2008, along with the convertible, an all-wheel drive option was added to the top-trim Limited sedan; its added grip added to fuel consumption, to the tune of 13.8/8.4 L/100 km.
In terms of reliability, Consumer Reports gave the latest generation Sebring a “much worse than average” used vehicle rating.
CR notes power steering trouble; I found some evidence online of high pressure power steering hoses that burst, which, unsurprisingly, would cause a power steering failure.
2007 Chrysler Sebring (top); 2008 Chrysler Sebring (bottom, photo by Norm Mort). Click image to enlarge
There’s a “clock spring” in the steering column that delivers power to the wheel-mounted cruise control buttons. This is prone to breaking, and when it does, you lose your cruise and the horn.
A flickering oil pressure light is common in cars with the 2.7-litre engine. Apparently, the problem isn’t with the engine itself, but is commonly caused by an overheated oil pressure sensor. Read here and here for details.
An engine coolant leak problem noted by Consumer Reports is probably linked to common water pump failures in the 2.7-litre engine, according to this thread at SebringClub.net.
A “minor” transmission problem (CR’s word in quotes) is probably linked to a transmission shift cable that slips out of the clip designed to hold it in place and is then allowed to touch the transmission case. Heat melts the plastic coating on the cable, and when the car cools, the cable is then firmly stuck to the transmission and won’t move, causing the car to be stuck in whatever gear position it was last in (usually “Park,” due to the circumstances).
Poor quality brake components lead to frequent complaints of noisy brakes whose rotors warp easily and cause a pulsating pedal.
2008 Chrysler Sebring convertible; photos by Greg Wilson. Click image to enlarge
Sebring convertibles have a warning sticker on the trunk indicating how and where luggage can be stowed so that it won’t interfere with the top’s operation when it’s lowered. Ignore this and you’re asking for a broken roof mechanism. Needless to say, any convertible top is a complicated piece of machinery and problems are therefore inevitable at some point in the car’s life. Consumer Reports notes that the Sebring’s convertible tops don’t apparently hold up very well, so shop carefully if you’re in the market for a droptop.
In crash testing, the Sebring sedan earned five stars for driver and passenger protection in National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) frontal crash tests and five and three stars respectively for front and rear occupant protection in side impacts. In 2008, the rear seat side impact rating improved to four stars. The 2008 Sebring hardtop convertible earned a full five-star rating.
From the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), both the Sebring sedan and convertible got a “good” overall rating, with the only negative being a “marginal” rating for rear seat passenger head protection in side impact tests, thanks to a piece of plastic trim that hit the dummy’s head.
At this writing, used Sebring values, per Canadian Black Book, start at $9,675 for a 2007 base sedan, to $18,700 for a 2010 Limited convertible, or $21,100 for the same car with folding hardtop and navigation. In the case of the 2010, that’s a stunning rate of depreciation for a car that retailed (before incentives, of course) for $44,000. A 2008 convertible, in basic LX form, is worth $12,900. In contrast, a 2008 Toyota Camry Solara (which, like the Sebring, is about as exciting as plain pasta) retails for nearly $23,000.
Unfortunately for Chrysler, the Sebring is notable for little other than being cheap to buy. It’s cheap in other, less complimentary ways, too. While this car’s reliability troubles aren’t as serious as they could be, the total package here is less than compelling. If you want a domestic sedan, try a Ford Fusion. It’s more expensive to buy, but is one of the most reliable used family cars you’ll find, period. For convertible buyers, the Sebring is one of the least expensive you’ll find with a metal roof. If that’s enough reason to make you want one, then go for it, but if you shop for cars first and folding roof types second, there are better choices out there than this.
Black Book Pricing (avg. retail) January, 2011:
2007:On certain vehicles, the hood latch striker may break and allow the hood to open while driving. This could cause a crash without prior warning. Correction: Dealers will replace the hood latch striker.
Transport Canada Recall Number: 2006373; Units affected: 5,886 (includes other models)
2007: On certain vehicles, the Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) control module software may cause the rear brakes to lock-up during certain braking conditions. This could result in a loss of vehicle control and cause a crash without warning. Correction: Dealers will reprogram the ABS electronic control unit.
Transport Canada Recall Number: 2006374; Units affected: 1,418
2007: On certain vehicles, the software program in the Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) module may cause the windshield defrosting and defogging functions to become inoperative. This can decrease the driver’s visibility under certain driving conditions and could cause a crash without warning. Correction: Dealers will reprogram the HVAC module.
Transport Canada Recall Number: 2007183; Units affected: 43 (includes other models)
2007-2008: On certain vehicles, the front seat track position sensors utilized for the airbag system may not function properly. Sensor information is used to lessen inflation pressure for smaller statured occupants who may be seated in close proximity to the airbag. Failure of the seat track position sensors causes the airbag deployment to default to full inflation pressure regardless of the seat position. Full deployment could increase the risk of injury for smaller statured seat occupants in a frontal crash. Correction: Dealers will inspect the front seat track position sensors and replace them if necessary.
Transport Canada Recall Number: 2007319; Units affected: 3,698 (includes other models)
2007-2008: On certain vehicles equipped with a 2.4L engine, the coolant overflow from the recovery bottle may be drawn into the left radiator cooling fan motor connector. This can cause an electrical short circuit and could result in an engine compartment fire. Correction: Dealers will inspect the connector for contamination or damage, install a wiring harness overlay and, if necessary, replace the fan motor.
Transport Canada Recall Number: 2008117; Units affected: 14,699 (includes other models)
2007-2008: On certain vehicles equipped with a standard Tire-Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), unused electrical connectors for a second type of TPMS may become corroded and could short circuit. This could cause a variety of conditions including engine no-start, dead battery, an inoperative cruise control or remote start system, and/or engine stalling. Engine stalling, in conjunction with traffic and road conditions, and the driver’s reactions, could increase the risk of a crash, causing personal injury or death. Correction: Dealers will remove unused TPMS connectors, and protect their circuits.
Transport Canada Recall Number: 2008371; Units affected: 132 (includes other models)
2009: On certain vehicles, a broken solder joint on the printed circuit board of the Power Control Module (PCM) can affect the fuel pump relay performance and potentially result in an engine stall while driving and/or a no start of the engine. Engine stalling would result in lost propulsion which, in conjunction with traffic and road conditions, and the driver’s reactions, could increase the risk of a crash. Correction: Dealers will replace the PCM.
Transport Canada Recall Number: 2010009; Units affected: 3,514 (includes other models)
2010: On certain vehicles, the brake booster input rod may have been installed without the retaining clip, or in some cases, with an improperly formed retaining clip. Should the input rod separate from the assembly it could lead to a loss of brakes, which could result in a vehicle crash causing property damage, personal injury or death. Correction: Dealers will install or replace the retaining clips.
Transport Canada Recall Number: 5,860; Units affected: 5,860 (includes other models)
2010: Certain vehicles may experience a separation at the crimped end of the power steering pressure hose assembly resulting in power steering fluid leak which could result in a fire. Correction: Dealers will inspect and replace as necessary the power steering pressure hoses on all affected vehicles.
Crash test results
Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.
For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.
For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.