Chrysler Sebring convertible upgraded

The 2010 Chrysler Sebring Limited convertible has 13.1 cubic feet of trunk space when the hard top is up, but only 6.6 cubic feet when it is down.

Chrysler's Sebring convertible, with rear seats that can accommodate two adults and a generous trunk, languished in recent years as its manufacturer went bankrupt and was sold.


Sebring is still around, however, with more attractive front styling for 2010 and other minor revisions such as an instrument cluster and anti-whiplash front-seat head restraints.

In fact, the Sebring convertible and sedan posted impressive, triple-digit sales gains in the first four months of this year compared with the 2009 period.

The Sebring was supposed to be phased out this year, but Chrysler -- now owned by the federal government and Italian carmaker Fiat -- is reportedly sprucing up the car for 2011.

The starting price, including destination charge, is $28,590 for a Sebring soft-top model with 173-horsepower, four-cylinder engine and automatic transmission.

The starting price for a convertible with power retractable hard top is $35,445. This includes a 235-horsepower V-6 engine and automatic transmission.

It is unusual for a four-seat convertible to offer a choice of roofs.

The competing, four-seat, 2010 Volkswagen Eos, which comes standard with power retractable hard top, has a starting price of $33,140 with 200-horsepower, turbocharged four-cylinder and manual transmission. An Eos with automatic starts at $34,240.

The 2011 Ford Mustang convertible, an early model introduction, starts at $27,995 with a soft top and a base engine -- a V-6 -- that offers an incredible 305 horsepower.

The Sebring convertible gained fame years ago as America's top-selling open-air car. As money for advertising and new-model development waned in recent years, the car became better known for its popularity in rental car fleets.

Rental customers can carry three passengers in the convertible, and the trunk -- 13.1 cubic feet, when the roof is on the car -- can handle several suitcases or four golf bags. When the top is down, trunk space measures 6.6 cubic feet.

The accommodations are still the best attribute of the convertible in 2010. The back seat has 33.5 inches of legroom, which was enough for me to sit back there without my knees being cramped.

Headroom, of course, is unlimited with the roof down and measures a full 37.2 inches with soft top and 36.6 inches with the hard top.

By comparison, the Eos has 32.5 inches of rear-seat legroom and 35.8 inches of headroom in the back seat under the hard top. Some 20 inches shorter than the Sebring, the Eos has 6.6 cubic feet of trunk space -- maximum. The Sebring offers more room than the Mustang, too.

Unfortunately, the Sebring doesn't rate as highly in other features. The tester had front bucket seats that aggravated one passenger's back condition and had me feeling stiff and tired after a lengthy drive.

The ride was decently quiet, though, with the hard top on. I liked the luminous green glow of the gauges in the instrument cluster at night.

The one-touch, power hard top was a dream to operate. One piece and then another piece of the roof moved and shifted into position, ultimately folding down neatly behind the back seats.

Despite the shortcomings of this car, there's always something seductive about driving an open-air vehicle on warm spring days.

I just wish the Sebring offered a better combination of power and fuel economy. The base engine, a 2.4-liter four-cylinder, has the best Sebring convertible fuel mileage rating of 20 miles per gallon in city driving and 29 mpg on the highway. It's a bit underpowered, though, and isn't available with the hard-top roof.

The midrange engine is a 2.7-liter V-6 with only a slight horsepower boost -- 186 -- and an 18/26-mpg fuel economy rating. It, too, isn't available with the hard top.

The test car, a Limited with hard top, had the top, 3.5-liter, single overhead cam V-6 generating 235 horses and 232 foot-pounds of torque at 4,000 rpm. There were times when even this engine felt sluggish.

Despite a government rating of 16/27 mpg, I managed to get just 20.3 mpg in combined city/highway driving. The Eos' government rating is higher -- 22/29 mpg with automatic transmission.

Many safety features are standard, including front-seat-mounted side air bags that are designed to protect both the thorax and chest in a side crash. Electronic stability control, which is standard on many lower-priced vehicles, is not available on the base Sebring convertible and is optional on the two top trim levels.

In government crash test ratings, the Sebring convertible is rated at five out of five stars, across the board, according to Chrysler.

Some 2010 Sebrings were part of a 20,045-vehicle safety recall in January for a faulty brake booster part. Consumer Reports rates the Sebring convertible as much worse than average in reliability


THE VEHICLE: 2010 Chrysler Sebring convertible, a front-wheel-drive, four-passenger, small, hard-top convertible

BASE PRICE: $27,850 for LX; $29,210 for Touring; $32,710 for Limited (tested)



ENGINE: 3.5-liter, single overhead cam V-6 producing 235 horsepower

EPA MILEAGE: 16 mpg city, 27 mpg highway

TRANSMISSION: Six-speed automatic

LENGTH: 193.8 inches

WHEELBASE: 108.9 inches

CURB WEIGHT: 3,959 pounds

ASSEMBLED IN: Sterling Heights, Mich.

OPTIONS: Power hard top, $1,995; radio package (includes 30-gigabyte hard drive, navigation system, U-Connect communications system, automatic-dimming inside mirror and free, one-year Sirius radio service), $1,200; electronic stability control, $425; Inferno Red exterior paint, $225; engine block heater, $40