- The Washington Times - Friday, July 27, 2001

It was Chrysler that seriously reintroduced the convertible into this market more than a decade ago, and it remains the genre's most successful marketer initially with a soft-top Le Baron and currently with the Sebring.
The popularity of both vehicles at least partially rests on their utility and relatively affordable price. In the Sebring drop-top, however, the convertible has come of age. Designed from the ground up as a convertible, it seats four adults quite comfortably and still has the trunk space to transport some luggage. It offers a 200-horsepower V-6 and four-speed automatic transmission as standard equipment.
Only Toyota's Solara SLE comes close to the passenger space and amenities of the base Sebring LX convertible, and it is priced several thousand dollars higher.
The entire Sebring lineup is redesigned for 2001. Sebring comes in the form of a sedan (formally the Cirrus) and coupe, as well as the convertible. Although Dodge doesn't market a convertible, it does offer its version of the Sebring sedan and coupe as the Stratus. Very little about the redesigned Sebring's dimensions has changed, but the sheet metal and V-6 power plants are new. In addition to the LX, the Sebring drop-top is offered in the higher-end LXi edition.
For the $2,500 or so extra, the LXi adds leather seating, leather-wrapped steering wheel, an upgraded audio system with CD player, auto day/night rearview mirror, theft-deterrent system, and 16-inch alloy wheels and rubber in place of the standard 15-inch. My test convertible was the LXi.
Using the smaller of the two Sebring V-6s, the convertible is pleasingly peppy. The Chrysler-built 2.7-liter V-6 delivers the same amount of horsepower as the larger Mitsubishi-built 3-liter V-6, but produces 13 fewer foot-pounds of peak torque. Acceleration is brisk, if not neck-snapping. Where other V-6-equipped Sebrings use Chrysler's four-speed AutoStick automatic transmission with manual shift to transfer engine output to the front wheels, the soft-top uses a traditional four-speed automatic.
Engine and transmission labor in tandem to deliver a 0-60 mph time of about 10 seconds. Fuel economy is about average for a V-6-powered midsize car. The Environmental Protection Agency rates its mpg at 20 around town and 28 on the highway.
Ride quality is impressive. While the drop-top is a bit noisier and more prone to lose its poise over bumpy pavement than the hardtop, it is a real improvement over its predecessor. The steering is responsive, providing adequate feedback. Soaking up most surface inconsistencies, the four-wheel independent suspension provides a stable platform for cornering. Body roll is minimal, but some flex is evident.
Four-wheel disc brakes are standard on all Sebrings. My test convertible also had the $565 anti-lock brake option.
For a convertible, Sebring is quite roomy. The rear seat will actually accommodate two adults comfortably. The front buckets are supportive and won't wear out their occupants on longer trips. Mounted to the seats, the front seat belts don't restrict entry to the rear seat. The large gauges are clear and easily readable.
All of the systems controls are simple to use. The power top fits snugly when closed, credibly defending against weather and noise. Smooth operation with very little input required by the driver are benefits of the well-engineered power top. When raised, the top somewhat hampers rearward visibility.
If you want a four-passenger drop-top at a price that won't make a Palm Beacher blanch, the Sebring is probably your best bet. Nicely appointed, well-crafted and offering a fairly spacious cabin, the redesigned Sebring Convertible remains a value in the ragtop segment.
The Sebring LX convertible has a base sticker of $24,370. Its standard features include six-way power driver's seat, air conditioning, tilt steering wheel, dual heatable power outboard mirrors, dual front air bags, power windows and door locks, remote keyless entry, AM-FM stereo cassette and auto-off headlamps. The LXi package has a base price of $26,830. My test LXi had the ABS option, and that plus the $575 delivery charge brought the price as tested to $27,990.

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