Older dogs can too be taught new tricks if they come with four tires and a convertible roof.
Convertibles like the Chrysler Sebring have been around since the dawn of automotive time. Sebring has been the best-selling ragtop in the U.S. for seven of the last 11 years.
It's still called the Sebring after a Florida race track. Muted in style and flash, it's a far cry from the flamboyant two-seat sportsters that abound.
Yet the favorite of Florida tourists gets a thorough makeover for 2008. It's bigger and comes with three -- count 'em, three -- roof toppings. The hardtop retractable is a first for Sebring, while the soft tops are vinyl and cloth. All can be operated via a remote key fob. The tops latch down automatically. Opening is under half a minute.
Chrysler says there's room for two golfbags in the trunk when the tops are retracted.
Wheelbase, the distance between front and back axles, is up 2.9 inches to 108.9 inches, while length grows to 193.8 inches. That's longer than the Sebring sedan to accommodate the roof storage. A stiffer body adds to handling that allows the Sebring convertible to take curves in a fairly upright but non-sporting manner.
That's a contrast to earlier models that leaned to the ultra comfortable. Sebring is fit for cross-country travels but it's more at home on the local range.
Performance is decent -- 8.2 seconds 0-60 in the tested Sebring Limited cloth top with a 3.5L V-6 of 235 horsepower. Other engines offer less power but higher fuel economy. The 3.5L comes with a six-speed automatic transmission; the others, a 2.4L four and 2.7L V-6, make do with a four-speed. They all drive the front wheels.
|Chrysler Sebring convertible
•Engines: 2.4L I-4; 2.7L V-6; 3.5L V-6
•Dimensions: 108.9" wheelbase; 193.8" length
•Base price: $26,145; As tested $33,590
•Fuel economy: 20/29 mpg; 18/26 mpg; 16/26 mpg
Smaller engines do improve fuel economy, although EPA mileage figures have been readjusted downward for 2008 models. Thus the 2.4L four is 20 city and 29 highway; the 2.7L V-6 is 18/26 and the 3.7L V-6 16/26.
Like its predecessors, the 2008 Sebring's exterior styling won't set blood a racing. There are style ridges along the hood that many won't find offensive.
The interior is two-toned with leather and chrome on upper models. Seats are 2.5 inches higher than earlier models so the view is better. Those buckets are on the firm side with little bolstering of the kind that keeps drivers upright on demanding curves.
Chrysler, long a cupholder leader, takes them to a higher level with a hot/cold cupholder.
The favorite U.S. convertible is a tried and true four place sedan-like vehicle. Performance isn't exciting -- motoring to sunsets on the beach is what a Sebring does best.