- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 14, 2005

Nine years ago when the first Sebring convertible rolled on to the scene, it had rather large shoes to fill. It replaced the LeBaron convertible, which was the best-selling drop top in the country. There was no cause for concern by Chrysler; the Sebring convertible remained the top seller through 2004.

For 2005, the Sebring convertible is offered in four trim levels. Chrysler has done away with the LX and LXi nomenclature. It still offers the same number of trim levels as before; however, last year’s LX has become simply the Sebring (base) and the LXi is now called Touring. GTC is carried over and slots between the base and Touring versions, while the Limited remains the high-end Sebring.

What Sebring does exceptionally well is deliver a four-passenger convertible for an extremely competitive price. It’s not particularly sporty or overly luxurious, but it does offer a fair amount of value. It’s roomy enough to put two adults in the back seat and it’s capable of toting a decent amount of luggage.

In addition to offering a surprising amount of space, the interior is comfortable and user friendly. While not highly stylized, the dashboard avoids the confusing mishmash of buttons and controls found in so many midsize cars today. Having said that, the one caveat is the heating/air-conditioning system that employs one knob and a series of buttons to do what others accomplish with three less-complicated knobs. Operating any of the systems, however, doesn’t require flipping through the owner’s manual. All controls are well marked and simple to use.

Large and clear, the four-gauge pod is very readable, even at night. Touring and Limited versions get a leather-wrapped steering wheel with a row of buttons down one side controlling the cruise control and a row of redundant audio buttons arranged down the opposite side.

The top operates with a minimum of driver participation. Two levers must be unlatched to separate the top from the windshield header. One button then drops the top and lowers all four windows.Raising or lowering the top requires 30 seconds.

Anyone hankering for a sporty performer will be a little disappointed in the Sebring convertible. Both its engines and suspension are better suited for transporting families than fulfilling the aspirations of young racers. Two engines are available and neither will rock your world. A 150-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder is the only powerplant available in the base model. GTC, Touring and Limited versions get the 200-horsepower 2.7-liter V-6. All four trim levels use a four-speed automatic transmission to pass engine output to the front wheels. However, the Limited can be equipped with an AutoStick driver-shiftable version of the automatic. Included as part of the Electronics Package, AutoStick will add $875 to the bottom line; but heated front seats, and a full-size spare tire and wheel are included as well. Fuel economy of V-6-powered Sebrings falls into the middle of the midsize segment. The Environmental Protection Agency rates it at 21 miles per gallon in the city and 28 on the highway. A tad mushy, the suspension is tuned for passenger comfort rather than attacking the twisties.

Pricing begins at $26,855 with delivery charges for the base model. Included in this price are air conditioning, power trunk release, stereo audio system with CD player, and power windows and door locks. At the top end of the Sebring lineup is the Limited. It retails at $31,645 and includes some Limited-only equipment such as faux wood interior trim, auto-dimming rearview mirror, upgraded audio system with Infinity speakers and a cloth convertible top rather than the vinyl found on other versions.

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