- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 7, 2006

LOS ANGELES — As we already realized, the arrival of the Sebring is crucial for Chrysler. The 2007 Sebring came on the market this past fall and earlier we had the chance to drive it. Chrysler also sped up the introduction of the convertible model.

Last week, at the Los Angeles Auto Show the topless Sebring celebrated its world debut in a literally threefold way. The new model will be available with three convertible tops: traditional canvas top, a less expensive vinyl top and — a first for Chrysler — a retractable hard top.

All three can be retracted with a push of a button on the key fob that automatically releases or locks the top latches and also closes the standard hard tonneau cover when the top was lowered. Chrysler offers this choice for a very diverse group of customers who can now choose the top that fits their budget.

Chrysler promises that even when any of the tops are stored, the trunk space is be large enough to carry two golf bags. When the top is raised, the luggage compartment offers 11.0 cubic feet of volume.

Just like its predecessor, the 2008 Sebring Convertible is a true four-passenger convertible. It is based on the sedan and thus built on the D-segment platform, a joint development of DaimlerChrysler and Mitsubishi, that Chrysler also uses for its Caliber.

The convertible has an extremely rigid body structure in order to provide a quiet ride without shakes when the top is down. The body is 2.5 times stiffer in twist and 1.5 times stiffer in bending than its predecessor, resulting in a structure that according to Chrysler is stiffer than other convertibles on the market.

Just like the Sebring sedan, the open versions will be available with the new MyGig navigation/entertainment/infotainment system, a heated/cooled cup holder and the practical Yes Essentials stain-resistant seat fabric.

The convertible will be available with three engines that are also offered for the sedan: a 173-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder with variable valve timing. It has 166 foot-pounds of torque and delivers 23 miles per gallon in the city and 31 mpg on the highway.

The 2.7-liter V-6 is a FFV flex-fuel engine that works both on gasoline and E85. This V-6 has 189 horsepower and 191 foot-pounds of torque and an estimated fuel economy of 20 city 28 highway. Both powerplants are teamed with a four-speed automatic. The top engine is the 3.5-liter V-6 with 235 horsepower and 232 foot-pounds of torque and is mated to the new six-speed automatic transmission. Its fuel economy amounts to 18 city/28 highway. For Europe and other markets outside the U.S., Chrysler will offer a diesel version.

The new Sebring Convertible is longer, wider and taller than its predecessor: the wheelbase grew 2.9 inches, the width 2 inches and the height 3.5 inches. Its overall length is 16 feet 1.8 inches.

The Sebring Convertible also will be available as Touring and Limited. The 2008 model features nearly 30 safety and security features, with standard ABS, front seat-mounted side air bags, multistage front air bags, seat-integrated safety belts, engine immobilizer and a tire pressure monitoring system on all models. ESP with traction control are available.

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