- The Washington Times - Friday, July 13, 2007

Chrysler’s goal is to literally raise the roof on the subcompact convertible segment with their all-new, completely redesigned Sebring convertible. The 2008 Sebring drop tops come with a multitude of choices.

Let’s start with the top there are three from which to choose. First, there is a cloth ragtop, followed by a vinyl ragtop. Both ragtops feature a three-layer construction, a rear glass window and electric defroster. The ragtops are surpassed by a steel retractable hardtop that allows for stowing two golf bags in the trunk, even when the top is in the lowered position.

All of the tops are fully automatic, lowering and raising at the touch of a dash mounted rocker switch, which also operates the windows, or by pressing a key fob button. Operation in either direction takes roughly 30 seconds.

The new Sebring convertible is larger than its predecessor its wheelbase is 2.9 inches longer, it is 3 inches longer overall, it measures 2 inches more in width and it gains 3.5 inches in height.

In addition to the three top choices, there are three engines to choose from: the base engine is a 2.4-liter DOHC, 16-valve inline four-cylinder with variable valve timing and flex fuel capability, which generates 173 horsepower and 166 pound-feet of torque; next is a 3.5-liter DOHC, 24-valve V-6 that delivers 189 horsepower and 91 pound-feet of torque; and finally there is the 3.5-liter SOHC, 24-valve V-6 that cranks out 235 horses and 232 pound-feet of torque. There are a trio of transmissions as well: a 40TES automatic overdrive transaxle mates with the 2.4-liter four-banger; the 2.7-liter V-6 motor couples to a 41TES automatic overdrive transaxle; the Sebring Limited comes with a 62TE six-speed automatic overdrive transaxle that features as adaptive electronic control or Auto Stick driver-interactive manual control and electronically modulated torque converter clutch.

All Sebring convertibles are front-wheel drive. The fresh-air Sebrings come in three levels of trim, which offer a progressively varying degree of equipment and features designed for contentment. First is the base Sebring, powered by the 2.4-liter four-cylinder, with a starting price of $26,145 (including destination charges); the Touring model Sebring, which draws its power from the 2.7-liter V-6; and lastly, the top-of-the-line Sebring Limited convertible, which comes with the 3.5-liter high output V-6 for its motive force.

In its retractable hardtop form, this latest Sebring comes across as a gorgeous coupe when the top is up, and an elegant convertible when the top is stowed. In terms of its overall visual appeal, the Sebring shares several traits with its sedan sibling from the A-pillar forward. Chrysler’s signature egg-crate grill leads the way with the winged medallion centered at the top, just below the hood’s leading edge. The hood features the Crossfire-inspired, sculpted grooves that look cool but tend to be a pain when polishing or detailing. The hood is elongated, matching the car’s long roof line and high chrome belt line. The C-pillar’s width has been minimized, resulting in a sleek side profile. There are sculpted character lines that run beneath the door handles and across the lower body side, contributing to the car’s bold, athletic stance.

Inside, the winged medallion motif is in evidence in the dash, which features the same curvature and design element with Chrysler’s signature analog clock as the centerpiece.

Achieving the optimum driving position is also aided by the tilt and telescopic steering wheel. Four adults can travel quite comfortably.

I was afforded the opportunity to drive all versions of the Sebring convertible during the national press launch, and my favorite is quite naturally the Limited version with the retractable hardtop, which also comes with the bigger engine and shiftable automatic transmission. My longer-term test Sebring Convertible came with a Pebble Beige cloth ragtop and a base price of $32,280.

It sported a Marathon Blue Pearl Coat exterior and a Medium Beige and Cream interior, accented by tortoise shell trim on the dash, doors and steering wheel.

The only option on the test vehicle was the Customer-preferred Package, which included the 3.5 liter V-6, Auto Stick transmission, dual rear exhaust with bright exhaust tips and the ragtop. There was no price indicated on the Monroney, so the final tab came to about $32,345 after adding the destination charge.

The list of standard features and equipment is really extensive, including nearly everything one might want in a vehicle including the latest in safety features, but there are also a multitude of available options: A factory installed windscreen to reduce wind buffeting when the top is down, UConnect hands-free communication system MyGIG voice-activated Harman/Kardon navigation/audio system with a 20 gigabyte hard drive, Boston acoustics speaker system, Sirius satellite radio, daytime running lights, special paint and interior color schemes.

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