Full 2009 Chrysler Sebring Review
What's New for 2009
All 2009 Chrysler Sebrings get standard four-wheel antilock disc brakes, while stability control is standard on all but the base LX model. The Touring and Limited trims get additional standard equipment.
The next time you see a 2009 Chrysler Sebring on the road, chances are it'll be a rental car. Unfortunately, being a common rental car isn't exactly a promising sign. While the convertible is the go-to choice for sun-worshipping vacationers in Florida and California, and the lowly sedan fills the lots of Budgets and Alamos all over this great land, that's more due to a lack of alternatives than anything else. The Sebring may be a decent car on vacation, but we'd think twice about taking one home.
Chrysler redesigned the Sebring sedan two years ago and the convertible just last year. While the convertible's performance won't exactly light your hair on fire, it comes with your choice of three tops: a vinyl or cloth soft top or a retractable hardtop. The optional retractable hardtop is of particular interest. When raised, the hardtop hushes wind noise and creates a more all-weather-friendly car. The Sebring convertible also offers more top-down trunk space than other retractable hardtop convertibles -- particularly the Pontiac G6, its closest competitor.
There's less to be said in the 2009 Sebring sedan's favor. It's rather bland and offers nothing special in terms of performance, handling, build quality or overall refinement. The midsize sedan segment is one of the most competitive in the industry, and this Chrysler four-door simply doesn't deliver, ranking far behind class leaders like the Chevrolet Malibu, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima.
In the powertrain department, the base four-cylinder is adequately powerful and fuel-efficient, but its power delivery is coarse and noisy. The two optional V6 engines fall flat on both fronts. The Touring's 2.7-liter V6 is actually less powerful than the Honda Accord EX's four-cylinder, yet somehow less fuel efficient than the Accord's 268-horsepower V6. The Limited's 3.5-liter six-cylinder also comes up short in the power department, and it gets below-average fuel economy.
Of the two Sebring models, the convertible is more appealing, but mostly because there isn't as much competition in the affordable four-seat convertible segment. Compared to models such as the Ford Mustang V6 and Pontiac G6, the Sebring convertible stacks up fairly well thanks to its comfortable ride, spacious interior, plentiful equipment and available retractable hardtop. It's still a yawn to drive, however, and as for the sedan, it doesn't really stack up well against anything. With either model, we suggest taking a long look around before purchasing a 2009 Chrysler Sebring.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Chrysler Sebring is available in sedan and convertible body styles with three trim levels: LX, Touring and Limited. The LX sedan's standard equipment includes 16-inch steel wheels, air-conditioning, cruise control, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, full power accessories, a 60/40-split rear seat and a four-speaker audio system with a six-CD changer, an auxiliary audio jack and satellite radio. The LX convertible adds a power-operated vinyl soft top, six-way power front seats and a six-speaker stereo system (optional on the sedan). Each LX body style can be optioned with upgraded cloth upholstery.
The Touring sedan and convertible add 17-inch wheels and a lengthier options list, while the Touring sedan adds the power driver seat, upgraded cloth upholstery and six speakers. The range-topping Limited sedan adds leather upholstery, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth (known as "uconnect phone"), remote engine start, heated and cooled front cupholders and an upgraded Boston Acoustics sound system. The Limited convertible gets a cloth soft top. All of these items are optional on the Touring.
Touring and Limited options include a rear-seat entertainment system and sunroof on the sedan, while the convertible can be equipped with a retractable hardtop that can be lowered remotely. Optional on both body styles is a touchscreen stereo interface (known as "uconnect tunes") that includes a single-CD/DVD player and a 30GB hard drive for digital music storage. A navigation system can be integrated into this interface, but the storage space for music drops.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2009 Chrysler Sebring sedan is available with either front-wheel or all-wheel drive. Sebring convertibles are front-wheel-drive only. Standard on all trims is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that produces 173 hp and 166 pound-feet of torque. In our performance testing, a sedan with this engine ran from zero to 60 mph in 9.6 seconds. Fuel economy is 21 mpg city/30 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined. Available on the Touring is a 2.7-liter V6 good for 189 hp and 191 lb-ft of torque. This engine produced a 0-60 time of 8.9 seconds, with fuel economy rated at 19/27/22 mpg; the convertible achieves 1 fewer mpg in each category. Both of these engines come standard with a four-speed automatic transmission, while most competing transmissions offer at least five speeds.
Optional on the Sebring Limited is a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 235 hp and 232 lb-ft of torque and is attached to a six-speed automatic. All-wheel drive is available with this engine only. In performance testing, a Sebring Limited convertible with the 3.5-liter V6 went from zero to 60 mph in 8.3 seconds, while the lighter sedan should be about a second quicker. Fuel economy for both front-wheel-drive body styles is 16/27/20, while opting for AWD drops each category by 1 mpg.
Standard on all Sebrings are four-wheel antilock brakes and front-seat side airbags, while the sedan adds side curtain airbags. Stability and traction controls are standard on the Touring and Limited, but not available on the base LX.
In government crash tests, the 2009 Chrysler Sebring sedan scored a perfect five stars for frontal crash protection, five stars for front side protection and four stars for rear side protection. The Sebring convertible scored four stars for frontal crash driver protection and five stars in all other categories. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety frontal-offset and side crash tests, the Sebring sedan and convertible both scored the best rating of "Good."
Interior Design and Special Features
Like the pictures on a McDonald's menu, the Sebring's interior looks far better than it really is. Despite its ergonomic art deco design, which says "Chrysler Building" more than "Chrysler car," materials are below average, with cheap plastics and hard surfaces. Opting for the pricier trim levels and luxury options helps the situation somewhat, but there's no escaping the general cost-cutting feel.
The Sebring convertible generally comes off as more luxurious than its four-door Sebring sibling, as well as more commodious than its competition. It offers more backseat space than the Volkswagen Eos, adding up to decent room for four. The bulky folded steel and glass panels of the optional retractable hardtop take up significant space in the trunk, but the Sebring nonetheless offers one of the most capacious top-down cargo holds, with room for two golf bags. In the Pontiac G6, you'd only have enough space for about two golf balls and a couple of tees.
Although the base four-cylinder delivers the best fuel economy, we think most buyers will be put off by its sluggish response and coarse power delivery compared to competing four-cylinders. The Touring's 2.7-liter V6 offers more power, but it's still pretty slow and gets poor fuel economy to boot. The 3.5-liter V6 is far and away the best power plant in the lineup, but it too gets below-average fuel economy. Ride quality is among the Sebring's strong points, as it's smooth and composed, even at higher speeds. Handling ability is adequate as far as midsize vehicles go, but when the convertible's optional steel hardtop is folded away in the trunk, its tail tends to bob up and down on undulating pavement. No one is likely to describe a 2009 Chrysler Sebring as "fun" or "refined." Additionally, in several braking tests, the Sebring exhibited longer-than-average stopping distances and a mushy brake pedal.