Chrysler's Classy Convertible Gets a Makeover
With a cleanly styled exterior and a spacious and classy-looking
interior, the Sebring offered top-down fun without looking like you
just pulled out of a high school parking lot. Its soft suspension
and docile V6 engine hardly set hearts afire, but as a roomy and
comfortable boulevard cruiser, it was hard to beat.
When it came time for a revamp, Chrysler knew better than to
mess with a good thing. Its design philosophy this time around was
to improve upon the Sebring's already elegant design while adding
an elevated degree of athleticism. At first glance, you'll hardly
notice the revised egg-crate grille and additional chrome molding.
But look closer and you'll detect a slightly more dramatic profile
thanks to a reshaped hood and raised rear decklid.
To achieve the goal of a more athletic Sebring, Chrysler's
engineers gave this year's model a major boost in power in the form
of an all-new 2.7-liter V6 engine. This powerplant produces a
healthy 200 horsepower (up 32 from last year) in addition to being
8-10 percent more fuel-efficient that its predecessor. Advanced
features like dual overhead cams and an adjustable intake manifold
help give the engine more useable power and better mid-range
All three Sebring convertible models LX, LXi and
Limited get the new, more powerful powerplant along with
a standard four-speed automatic transmission (a smaller, more
efficient four-cylinder will be available on base models in 2002).
Other across-the-board improvements include a retuned steering
system, revised front suspension and larger front brakes. Safety
has also been enhanced with multi-stage airbags, brighter
headlights, seatbelt pre-tensioners and repositioned head
The Sebring continues to offer a substantial list of standard
features on all models. Even the base LX gives you four-wheel disc
brakes with ABS, a power driver seat, cruise control, a premium
sound system and remote keyless entry. Stepping up to the LXi adds
larger 16-inch tires and aluminum wheels; leather trim on the
seats, steering wheel and shift knob; a 150-watt Infinity CD
stereo; and an upgraded security system.
Our test car was a top-of-the-line Limited that featured an
exclusive new Dark Royal Blue exterior color and Cream-colored
leather interior. Other Limited-only features include an enhanced
braking system known as "ABS Plus," the Autostick automanual
transmission, chromed wheels, an in-dash CD changer and an
electroluminescent gauge cluster.
We considered the original Sebring a sharp-looking two-door, and
the revised version is every bit as handsome. The new Royal Blue
and Cream color combo adds an elegant look, but even the Sebring's
less vibrant colors exude an upscale appearance.
The interior is a pleasing mix of cushy leather seats, cleanly
styled instruments and minimal dashboard clutter. The three-dial
climate control system may not look high-tech, but it works with
such ease and efficiency that you'll rarely wish for a more complex
dual-zone system. The fake wood isn't exactly top-notch stuff, and
there's a healthy dose of cheap plastic pieces littered about, but
the overall design is attractive.
Although the steering and suspension underwent substantial
changes for a more "athletic" feel, the Sebring is still far from
nimble. It feels heavy through the turns, and the steering is
utterly lifeless. We were able to push the car with confidence
during well-controlled track maneuvers, but any kind of spirited
driving on public roads is ill-advised. The upgraded brakes turned
in a very respectable 128-foot 60-to-0 distance, so you can feel
assured of confident stops.
The all-new V6 is a noticeable improvement over the previous
Mitsubishi-sourced engine, but there's still no excitement from
under the hood. Our fastest acceleration run yielded a 9.4-second
0-to-60 time a few ticks slower than the last Honda
Odyssey minivan we tested. To its credit, the engine's power
delivery is silky smooth and even at full throttle, it's
unobtrusive. Considering that the chassis and drivetrain are not
designed for supercar performance, the Autostick transmission that
comes standard on Limited models is rarely of any use.
Despite its less-than-stellar handling ability, the Sebring
still makes a great drop-top cruiser. The suspension may not track
tightly around corners, but it filters out potholes and other road
hazards with admirable grace. The transmission shifts quickly and
smoothly, and even the lackluster steering is light to the
Like the suspension, the seats are designed for lounging.
There's little in the way of side bolsters or thigh support, but
they felt plenty comfortable gliding down Pacific Coast Highway one
afternoon. Climate and radio controls are well within reach, but
the CD changer's position just ahead of the shifter makes loading
discs awkward when parked.
Unlike other upscale convertibles, the Sebring soft top offers
two sizable rear seats, adding a measure of practicality that
should offset any feelings of overindulgence. The rear quarters
aren't exactly road trip-worthy, but adults will find enough room
for short trips, and kids will love sitting in back with the wind
in their faces. Generous trunk space (11.3 cubic feet) further
contributes to the Sebring's usefulness.
If that's not enough to sway you, consider that the Sebring is
also priced thousands lower than its only real competitor
the Toyota Camry Solara. Our top-of-the-line tester came
in at just $29,590 with an extra $50 worth of options. A comparably
equipped Solara would run about $32,400. With a similar propensity
toward leisurely driving, the Solara offers much the same in terms
of performance and luxury, but by virtue of its Camry roots, it
wears featureless styling that doesn't quite measure up to the
Sebring's more distinctive lines.
Chrysler was smart not to get too cute with one of its
best-selling vehicles. The Sebring built its reputation on stylish
looks, a tasteful interior and a reasonable sticker price. This
latest version maintains the sharp exterior, adds an even more
refined interior and still manages to undercut the competition at
the bottom line. Throw in the extra horsepower, improved safety and
still reasonable practicality, and the Sebring looks as though it
will continue its reign as the convertible of choice in the midsize
System Score: 6.5
Components:It's not hard to spot the speakers
mounted on the dash, but good luck finding the CD changer. The
familiar four-disc Chrysler unit is mounted deeeeeeeeep in the
front console where it lives in a shadowy cavern behind the shifter
(this just isn't safe). The head unit with tape player and changer
controls is also mounted low, but at least it has a three-band
equalizer that allows you to customize the amount of bass, treble
and mid-range sounds. The mid-tweeter speakers up top are
complemented by large drivers in the doors devoted to low range
tones. Similar speakers above the rear armrests work to provide a
full range of sound.
Performance:Poor Infinity. The company makes great
speakers, only to have Chrysler throw them behind interior panels
that rattle and groan whenever the bass is thumping. This is
unfortunate, because the woofers have no trouble pumping out gobs
of the low stuff. The subs in the front doors have a cleaner output
than those in back because the crossovers keep high notes going
toward the dash. The speakers up there do a good job of producing
highs such as trumpets and cymbals, but while vocals sound good,
they could be stronger.
Best Feature:Equalizer to suit your needs.
Worst Feature:CD changer mounted below the Earth's
Conclusion:The speakers are good, but the rattles
are annoying and loading the changer while driving is
Road Test Editor John DiPietro says:
When we are testing a car or truck, it is of utmost
importance to remember who the intended market is for a given
vehicle, and to keep that in mind when we are judging the car. I
say this because it would be so easy for me to rank on the Sebring
for its lack of handling prowess or gut-wrenching acceleration. But
that's not what this car is about.
Leisurely, comfortable no fuss open-top motoring is this car's
mission, and taken at that, it succeeds. Dropping the
power-operated, well-insulated top is no sweat, and the occupants
of the LXi or Limited models will probably be more than happy
ensconced in their roomy, leather-trimmed cocoons.
Although the Sebring's lazy handling won't inspire one to strafe
apexes, performance isn't completely missing from this car
the V6's 200 horses are nothing to sneeze at and move
the car out briskly from rest and when passing. But will anyone
bother manually shifting the Autostick automanual gearbox that's
standard in the Limited version? It just doesn't suit this car's
cruising-oriented personality I imagine that those who
buy this car won't be interested in banging up or down through the
Perhaps the best way I can sum up the Sebring is to say it's a
nice car for non-enthusiast-types looking for an affordable,
attractive and comfortable four-place ragtop.
Road Test Editor Liz Kim says:
Approach the Chrysler Sebring Convertible like you would a
Cameron Diaz movie. You don't expect Oscar-caliber performances,
powerful acting or heart-rending emotions, but you'll have a
sun-filled good time.
No, this isn't a serious driver and doesn't inspire you to take
that twisty canyon road, nor does it tempt you to test its limits
on a racetrack. A squishy pedal for both the accelerator and
brakes, a vibrating steering column and the copious amount of cowl
shake remind you that this isn't a performance car, with its
chassis flexing and stretching when asked to take tight curves.
Get it out onto the open highway, though, preferably with a vast
body of water on either side of you, and you appreciate its
demeanor. The engine makes a fine bellow and allows for
high-spirited sprints. Its suspension and tires are biased toward a
comfortable ride, and its high cowling protects you from untoward
amounts of wind in your hair. Plus, there's room enough in the back
for full-size adults. And I dug the stylistic flourishes on the
interior such as the font on the gauges, its fake-but-non-offensive
wood accents, navy blue dashboard and creamy leather. The Sebring
is a pleasant place to be, as long as you don't have any ambitions
but to loiter around the beach on a Sunday afternoon. And isn't
that what a convertible is all about?
Senior Editor Chris Wardlaw says:
Back when I was still wearing diapers, my father owned a
dark-green-over-white 1968 Pontiac Catalina convertible in which I
loved to ride. It was big and powerful and the top went down; kids
relish turbulence in the back seat. But I'm guessing that it was a
sloppy handler, and that giant chrome beak in the middle of the
grille created an ungainly look.
Our dark-blue-over-cream leather sample of the redesigned 2001
Chrysler Sebring Limited Convertible reminds me of that American
classic, updated for the 21st Century. It's big, able to seat four
adults without problem. It's powerful when compared to the anemic
V6 model that preceded it, which made all of 165 horsepower and
plenty of noise, vibration and harshness. And hey, lookee here, the
top easily powers down with the flick of two handles and the push
of a button, exposing lightly colored leather that will become
grimy in no time, just like the white vinyl in the Catalina.
Also like Dad's old Poncho, the Sebring is a sloppy handler. The
ride-biased tires fold over at the merest hint of a corner, causing
the Chrysler to plow and squeal like Farmer Ted and a pen full of
pigs. The car looks ungainly, too, as this new design isn't nearly
as fluid or cohesive as the beautifully executed previous
generation. And there's plenty of chrome, right there on the
multi-spoked alloy wheels.
Despite the fact that it's not as attractive, what's underneath
the sheetmetal is certainly improved. The car is quicker, more
refined, more comfortable and structurally stronger than before.
Just don't expect much in terms of outright performance, and you
likely won't find much to dislike about the new Sebring
But would Dad buy one? Nah, he's into Mercedes-Benzes these
days. Sedans. Gotta stay out of the sun, don't you know.
"I love driving this car. It just turned 500 miles today. If
I have any complaint about my Sebring, it's that it just doesn't
have that 0-60 pep that I would have hoped for
. Other than
that, having driven top-down for most of the last week and a half,
the skin on my receding forehead is starting to peel from a mild
theweissman, "Sebring Convertibles," #910 of 1236,
May 8, 2001
"Awesome weather in San Diego lately.
Going on month number four with our 2001 Limited. My first
initial impression, how could anybody go back to a 'regular' car
after a convertible?It's hard to describe. So far no
problems to speak of. Mileage is approaching 2,000.
Heater does need a little more oomph below 50 degrees.
However, with the top down, windows up and the vents aimed right at
you it feels like a nice, warm little cocoon with a view.
Only thing I can see upgrading on the car in the future is
the sound system. The Infinity is
thebest 'stock' system I have heard (in a car below
$40,000). I figure even a simple speaker upgrade and possibly a
subwoofer would work. All in all, the whole family and I
lovethe car! We have gotten numerous positive comments.
She seems to be holding together just fine. Miles per gallon are a
combined city/highway of 21. I am sure it will improve a little as
the engine breaks in.
Acceleration is great, no Mustang, but it's not being
touted as one, either."
bbunch, "Sebring Convertibles," #930 of 1236, May
"I hope to be a happy owner of my 2001 Gold/tan in the long
run.... I am a frequent renter of the previous body-style Sebring
convertibles and feel I know the old cars very well. They lacked
only power, nothing else I could ever complain about.
I am a 6'1" driver. I find the space to be adequate and
comfortable. However, the shifter throw to Park, is
wayup there. I keep ending up in R and trying to pull the
key out. Got the upgraded CD player (not real thrilled with the
control layout) and no power antenna! I HATE the foglight control.
It and the cruise control are the most cumbersome controls I have
ever encountered. Just not par for a 2001-engineered vehicle. My
Suburban has speed-sensitive radio volume. In a convertible, that
should be standard! The door locks, airbag, seatbelt pre-tensioners
are all keyed to the speed input, why not the radio, too?
There are no interior lights under the dash. Try to find
something down there at night, like your keys.
Majorthings: The hood seems like (convertible only) it is
not aligned properly. There is a large gap, on mine (more than
other convertibles I looked at) I can put half my hand up through
that opening, and the dealer claimed to adjust it with no impact.
Is that improved aerodynamics? I think not. The top in this model
(despite what they say) seems not as quiet as the previous model.
The handling is definitely spongier than the previous model,
despite claims of added rigidity.... The pickup from a stop doesn't
feel as brisk, although we have the bigger tires and
stroke now, which might affect the 'feel.' Things I like the most:
The improved power definitely shows itself in the 30-50 mph
passing range. Thrilling! I like the standard LXi 'rough man'
leather at no noticeable extra cost. Overall, comfort seems
wonderful(no long trips yet, though). The in-dash CD
changer is the best idea so far this millennium!"
krylos, "Sebring Convertibles," #1117 of 1236, July