Weidel on Wheels: Sebring offers top-down fun

Chrysler's convertible offers decent performance
By: Jeffrey Weidel
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A rather familiar vehicle was dropped off at the house last week. It must have given the neighbors a little pause for contemplation: Two Chrysler Sebring convertibles parked in the driveway? So what’s the deal? The explanation begins with my wife and me shopping for a “deal” last year when our surprising pick for a second car turned out to be the Sebring. An attractive, affordable convertible isn’t a bad way to go for a second car -- at least that was the thinking at the time. The second Sebring in question was a test model, a very appealing red 2010 model that had a hardtop convertible -- our Sebring has a more conventional soft top. Not sure at $34,705 that this Sebring was such a deal, but nevertheless it had a definite upside. Sebrings are actually one of the more popular-selling convertibles. A convertible designed for the middle class, one sees most of them on rental car lots. It’s that allure of wind in your hair on a sunny vacation that makes the Sebring a popular choice at many rental agencies throughout the country. Overall, the Sebring takes some hard knocks from auto insiders. And admittedly, many of the criticisms are valid. This mid-size vehicle, which is offered as a sedan or coupe, lacks overall powertrain refinement and doesn’t provide adequate interior room. The Sebring can also be noisy as well, especially the four-cylinder model. And the gas mileage has a wide range that tends to be more at the lower end than the high of 16 to 27 miles per gallon. The 2010 Sebring driven here featured a convenient retractable roof and when lifted muted the wind fairly well. Another positive is a large trunk that even with the roof folded inside could somehow squeeze in a pair of golf bags. The backseat is roomy as well, offering the largest overall space in its class. However, the front seat offers only moderate comfort and the interior has a lot of hard plastic. On a more positive note, the Sebring front panel layout was easy to master. This model featured a 3.5-liter, V-6 engine with 235 horsepower that provides good, but not great, performance, going 0-60 mph in 8.3 seconds. The standard convertible has a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine with 173 horsepower. The Sebring’s ride quality is pretty mediocre. The handling won’t remind anyone of sports-car like, so don’t be heading around sharp corners on twisty roads at high speeds or trying to make quick turns that require a strong grip of the road surface. __________ 2010 Chrysler Sebring Limited Price: $34,705 Power: 3.5-liter, V-6 engine with 235 horsepower Mileage estimate: 16 mpg city; 27 mpg highway Standard features include: Six-speaker, Boston Acoustics stereo, six-CD/DVD changer, satellite radio, auxiliary input jack; center console; six-way power driver, passenger seat; heated front seats; automatic headlights; leather upholstery; automatic climate control; anti-lock brakes; keyless entry