By on September 8, 2012

So you want your next car to be a cheap drop top that seats four? If you live in America, your options are strangely limited. By my count, only five convertibles are available on our shores that seat four and cost under $30,000. If you cross the “convertible hatchbacks” (Cooper and 500c) off the list you’re left with three options. The Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder, Ford Mustang and the former king of the convertible sales chart: the Chrysler Sebring 200. Does this re-skinned front driver have what it takes to win back the “best-selling convertible in America” crown?

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Exterior

Convertible sales have been on a downward spiral since 1950. At the rate we’re going, only 1.1 percent of new cars sold in America in 2012 will be drop-tops. What’s to blame? Well, the old Sebring certainly didn’t help.

Since a euthanization just wasn’t in the cards, Chrysler opted for a re-skin. Much like a freakish face transplant from your favorite B-grade movie, the Sebring was nip/tucked everywhere except the doors and the roof. I can almost see the mask being peeled off by Sean Connery. Trouble is, as Mythbusters demonstrated, a new face can’t hide what’s underneath. The awkward hood strakes are gone, replaced by smooth sheetmetal and a new nose sporting Chrysler’s wavy corporate grille. Unfortunately nothing could be done to make the enormous trunk lid disappear, so the 200 still has more booty than a Sir Mix-A-Lot music video. Frankenstein touched off the transformation with new wheels, LED running lamps and bling-tastic 17 and 18 inch wheels. The result is a design that is strangely more cohesive than the original, more of a statement of how wrong the original vehicle was than anything else.

As with the Sebring, shoppers can choose between a traditional canvas top or a trendy three-piece folding hard top for an extra $1,995. Top operation is restricted to speeds under 1MPH and takes 27 seconds to complete with the cloth top and 30 with the hard top, essentially precluding stop light top drops.

Interior

Inside our 200 S, the Sebring origins are obvious despite the redesign. How so? It’s all in the shapes. The parts are at least as snazzy as anyone’s, but because Chrysler couldn’t afford to change the car’s hard points, the Sebring’s silhouette is unmistakeable in the strange door handle position and the incredibly tall dashboard. Shapes aside, nobody can fault the materials and workmanship. Gone are the made-like-Rubbermaid plastics, gone are the faux-tortoise-shell accents. Thankfully the “fin” that dominated the dashboard like a veruca has been sliced off. Replacing the strangely shaped (and strangely appointed) rubbery steering wheel is Chrysler’s new corporate tiller from the 300. The same soft leather, chunky rim and audio controls hidden on the back of the wheel are also along for the ride.

Seat comfort is something of a mixed bag. The rear seats are unusual for a convertible: they are sized for normal adults and shaped the way you’d expect a seat to be shaped. Why does that sound amazing? Most “four seat” convertibles have rear seat backs that are either strangely upright or angled forward to get them to fit in the vehicle. Meanwhile the 200 has rear thrones suitable for a 2 hour wine tasting excursion. Sadly the front seats aren’t as comfortable suffering from a firm and “over stuffed” bottom cushion that made me feel like I was perched on a large gumdrop. Or a tuffet. This is a seating position only Ms Muffet would appreciate.

Carrying four people with relative ease is something of a marvel, but asking any convertible to carry four people’s luggage is just a pipe dream. At 13.3 cubes, the 200′s bootilicious rump can easily swallow four roller bags and some hand luggage. Drop the top and the space shrinks to 6.6 cubes, good for a garment bag, one roller bag and a purse. A small purse. Don’t think buying the soft top will improve things, Chrysler designed the roof sections in such a way that the hard and soft tops share some common design elements and occupy the same space in the trunk.

Infotainment

The one interior item not touched in the Sebring-to-200 transformation was the infotainment system. We get the same six-speaker base unit in the 200 Touring with the same CD player and Sirius Radio. If you want to pair your Bluetooth phone, that will set you back $360. The limited model comes with a 6.5-inch head unit that adds standard Bluetooth, USB and iDevice love and a 40GB hard drive based music library. A $475 Boston Acoustics speaker package is available on the 200 Limited and standard on the 200 S. Chrysler’s last-generation nav system is also available for an extra $695 in the upper trims of the 200, but honestly you’d be better off going aftermarket.

Drivetrain

Perhaps the biggest change during the 200′s metamorphosis is under the hood. The weaksauce 2.7L and aging 3.5L V6s have been replaced with Chrysler’s new 283HP 3.6L V6 mated to their in-house built 6-speed auto. As a mid-year change, the unloved 2.4L four cylinder also gets some 6-speed love. The extra two cogs on the four-banger mean it is finally the economy choice delivering 20/31 MPG vs 19/29 for the V6. Before you discount the V6 in favor of economy, our real-world figures put them on equal footing and with over 4,000lbs to motivate there is a serious penalty for not checking that $1,795 option box.

Drive

The Sebring was horrible on the road. The chassis felt like a wet noodle, the cowl shake was so bad you could have churned butter and the whole car was so unresponsive that steering and throttle input were more suggestions than commands. Despite shedding none of the nearly 4,100lb curb weight, the 200 does offer some rather unexpected improvement. While there is no hiding the fact that the 200 is a heavy front-driver, the 200 proved enough fun on the winding Northern California back roads that I found myself wishing for upgraded brakes. Seriously. Who would have thought?

The 200′s suspension tweaks have finally put the kibosh on wheel hop. When equipped with the V6, front-wheel-peel is easy to achieve and fairly amusing. Drive the 200 back to back with a Mustang however and you’ll forget all about the comfier back seats. You’ll also be painfully aware how overweight the 200 has become. There is no question that however improved the 200′s handling is, it will always play second fiddle to Ford’s topless pony.

How it stacks up

If the Sebring and 200 existed in a vacuum, we would laud the 200 for being a substantial change and the best convertible ever. The problem of course is that shoppers have options and pricing is the ever-present bugbear. In my mind, anything can be forgiven for the right price. Is the Nissan Versa cheap and “plasticky”? Damn right. But it’s the cheapest car in America, so who cares? The Chrysler 200? It has a $26,995 problem. Yes it is cheaper than the Mustang, Camaro, Eclipse, and EOS. But is it cheap enough? Let’s do the math.

First off, nobody should be subjected to the four-cylinder 200, so $27,600 becomes the real base price. The Mustang convertible starts at $27,200, toss in the automatic transmission and you’re at $28,395. For the extra $795, the Ford delivers vastly improved handling, more power, less weight and improved fuel economy. Win: Ford

The Camaro convertible is $32,745 (base with the automatic) and delivers at least $3,500 of standard equipment when compared to the 200 making the true cost of 326HP and a better RWD chassis $1,645. Win: Chevy

The 200 gets some relief when pitted against the ancient and expensive Eclipse Spyder with its old 4-speed automatic and haphazard interior. Mitsubishi wants $27,999 for admission to the four-cylinder, four-speed party and a ticket to the 265HP V6 show will run you an eye-popping $32,828. Win: Chrysler

The 200 delivers a bigger trunk than many mid-size sedans, more rear legroom than Mustang, better visibility than Camaro and better “everythings” than an Eclipse. The 200 is certainly not the best convertible in the segment, but at least Chrysler’s changes mean you don’t have to pretend you’re just renting a summer car anymore. Don’t believe me? Rent one yourself and see. TTAC’s last word? If you want a front-driver, save $1,000 and buy the MINI Cooper convertible.

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Chrysler provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested:

0-30: 2.7 Seconds

0-60: 7.1 Seconds

1/4 Mile:  15.3 Seconds @ 94 MPH

Average fuel economy: 21 over 645 miles

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86 Comments on “Review: 2012 Chrysler 200 S Convertible...”


  • avatar

    Do they even make the Eclipse anymore? What about the forthcoming Beetle convertible?

    • 0 avatar
      Thinkin...

      My question exactly… I wish there was more info out there on the forthcoming VW Beetle Convertible… I think it’ll all depend on price. Everything I’ve read has said the new droptop bug will run 7-10% more than the hardtop. That means that a stripper model could come out under $22k, which would be incredible – there simply aren’t ANY new convertibles near that price.

      Unfortunately, VW will likely price the Beetle convertible much higher: My guess is that it’ll start around $25k, with the Turbo & TDi models running $28+. I do hope that I’m wrong.

      • 0 avatar
        ranwhenparked

        I thought the Eclipse was dead and buried too, and a little research shows, that, yes, yes it is. The very last Eclipse was built in August of last year, following a very brief run-out of 2012 model-year cars, so the newest ones are 13 calendar months old and a full model year behind. In other words, most would no longer be new cars, though I expect there are still a fair few unsold ’12s still sitting on Mitsu dealer lots.

  • avatar
    Eric the Red

    Comparable cars miss the point of this car. Noone cross shops this car with Mustang, Camaro, or Eclipse. These are cruiser cars for people that have left the sport car convertibles behind. I have rented aa Sebring convertible on vacation and they are fun to put the top down and drive a fairly soft suspensioned car with room for more than two people.
    They are the only car that hits this mark in America.

    • 0 avatar
      FuzzyPlushroom

      My grandfather recently decided that, hell, he was nearing retirement age and ought to finally get the convertible he’d been thinking about for years. As a used car, mind – he’s comfortably middle-class, but economy-minded.

      The Mustang? Too firm and sporting, a ‘young man’s car’. The Camaro? Still too costly and silly-looking. The Eclipse? Meh. The Eos? Far, far too German – not just because he’s Jewish, but also because of Volkswagen’s reputation in recent years. The Sebring? Well… I actually drove that one and swore it had a 2.7 until I opened the hood on the 3.5. The interior, as mentioned, was appalling.

      The Mini Cooper and Miata were too small, so what to do? He ended up with a stunningly well-kept 2004 Sebring in the end, a better car by far than its successor, and saved a fair bit in the process.

      Now, if he ends up buying a newer convertible years from now, this 200 may well be a contender. The interior and gutlessness were his biggest complaints, after all, the unavoidable high beltline being third.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      Having spent over a week with a Mustang convertible as a rental (which I liked), I think you are spot on. The Mustang’s back seats are fit only for a large dog or small children. Friends don’t put their adult friends in the back seats of Mustang convertibles for more than a ride around the block.

    • 0 avatar
      mjz

      Totally agree with you Eric, I don’t think people are cross-shopping this car with a Mustang or a Camaro. Now a Challenger convertible (if they made one) would make good cross shopping material for the Mustang and Camaro. The 200 is a front-wheel-drive boulevard cruiser that gives you the option to drop the top when you want the wind in your hair and bugs in your teeth. It is not designed to compete against rear-wheel-drive performance cars. I think the author of the article is missing the point.

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    The 200 seems very handsome, so I bet it sells well in the sunbelt. I remember the last time I was in Florida, Sebrings were everywhere – but that was quite a few years back. With the Eclipse, I never understood why they never put the Ralliart platform under that. I miss the 3000/Stealth too.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    These are great fun to rent. The ability to drop the top almost makes you forget the other problems with the car. Not so much to make you buy one, but enough that it’s fun for a week.

    The styling is much better now, makes you wonder if the Sebring had been introduced looking like this (inside and out) and with these powertrains, if it would have done better.I have always liked the audio controls on the back of the steering wheel that Chrysler does. It’s a bit odd, but once you are used to it, it’s not a bad idea.

  • avatar
    2012JKU

    I would personally much rather have a Mustang convertible than the 200 but agree they cater to different markets. The 200 is more of a cruiser than a sports car. Although in a totally different category, I prefer my Wrangler Unlimited. It is the ONLY 4 door convertible on the market, plus has 4WD. Course handling is nothing like a car based convertible.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      +1 This car is a cruiser. A speed machine or a canyon carver? No. Looks good, room for four, a good engine, and you can drop the top going to the grocery store. Sometimes that’s all people want.

    • 0 avatar
      ranwhenparked

      The 200 wins out over the Mustang for the cruiser crowd due to the more usable back seats, softer suspension, and the fact that, even in the sunbelt, a lot of people still have an irrational fear of RWD.

      If Ford really wanted to cut Chrysler’s knees out, they could always do another Mustang Ghia option pack with softer springs, plusher seats, and more sound deadening, which would close the gap between the two cars for even the most beige-minded customers. It was originally designed as a luxury sedan platform, after all.

  • avatar

    Keep in mind, there are people who buy cars and have:
    #1 never driven a car before
    #2 never driven a true “sports” car before.
    #3 don’t bother to actually go out and test drive more than one car before buying.
    #4 Have maximum fuel economy – not performance – on their mind and will take an inexpensive 4 cylinder over the V6 and the other more expensive variants.

    Personally I don’t like convertibles at all (not even the Veyron Grand Sport, but some people love em. In fact, many people I’ve met who have Sebrings say THEY LOVE THEM. I see a lot of these 200S and the only thing I hate about it is the lack of UCONNECT TOUCH 8.4n. I’m trying to understand why the Hell you’d bother to put in the new steering wheel controls but not have the UconnectTouch8.4n?

    I met a guy a few weeks ago who thought there was something wrong with his Chrysler 200 because it “pulled to the right”. Then I find out he has the Pentastar V6. Almost 300HP in a damned Front Wheel Drive car (I only buy RWD). I explained it to him and suggested he trade it back in for the 300. He said he loved it and didn’t want to trade in. Before the 200, he actually had a Charger and a 300, but because those cars were RWD, he’d never experienced torque steer.

    I’d rather take the DART over the 200. I hope they’ll axe the 200 and build the 200c concept (RWD/AWD) or just make a bigger dart and drop in the Pentastar.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      Chrysler looked at the Sebring and said we need a new suit. Times were tough and money was tight. Chrysler said that old suit rocks with a new shirt and flashy tie and we’ll call it the 200.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      Meh, I’d rather save a couple hundred bucks and have a K1600GT.

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      I had a Sebring convertible rental maybe 3-4 years back, a “free upgrade” from the rental car company. Drove like a wet noodle, interior from a 1960s B-movie — and neither side window seated properly against the convertible top. This on a car with fewer than 1000 miles on the clock. Atrocious.

      I subsequently refused several Sebring Convertible “upgrades”. Fortunately the rental car company we’re using now has a good selection of Ford and GM vehicles.

      • 0 avatar
        billfrombuckhead

        Chrysler is a very different car company with much higher quality since vulture capitalist Cerebus and Art Nardelli were run off.

      • 0 avatar
        ranwhenparked

        @billfrombuckhead

        Keep in mind though, that for all their faults, the Sebring-to-200 refresh was actually approved and initiated during the Cerberus era. Fiat had the good fortune to inherit some decent new or at least newish products.

      • 0 avatar
        geo

        Cerberus is responsible for these quality improvements. Nobody else.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “Cerberus is responsible for these quality improvements. Nobody else.”

        No, these changes are due to Marchionne’s leadership.

        _________________

        Mr. Marchionne immediately put his stamp on new models. At the Orlando meeting, he reviewed plans for a revamped Sebring. “I’m not going to allow you to sell this,” he bluntly told the dealers, according to Mr. Kelleher. The Jeep Grand Cherokee “was on the drawing board, but Marchionne changed the car dramatically. He knew it was a good product, but it wasn’t up to his standards,” especially the plastic-laden interior, Mr. Kelleher said. At its debut last fall, the revamped model drew strong reviews and was an immediate hit. New quality controls cut customer complaints in half from the previous model. “We started to take off right then,” Mr. Kelleher said.

        After the meeting, the Sebring got a new engine, a new suspension, a new transmission and a new interior. About the only thing that survived was the chassis. It also got a new name, the Chrysler 200, and Mr. Marchionne made the bold but controversial decision, criticized by some Republicans in Congress, to spend $2 million for a commercial in January’s Super Bowl.

        http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/30/business/forced-marriage-of-fiat-and-chrysler-yields-success.html?pagewanted=all

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        I don’t know about the underlying story, but Marchionne telling dealers he’s not going to let them sell an existing product is BS grandstanding of Obama levels. You’d think the dealers were making the crummy cars and ruining his reputation. If he was quoted as saying it to the product team that produced the car, that might be meaningful.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “You’d think the dealers were making the crummy cars and ruining his reputation”

        You really need to work on your reading comprehension skills.

        He wasn’t condemning the dealers, he was attacking the product that was produced by Cerberus. On the contrary, he was assuring the dealers that with Marchionne at the helm, they were going to get improved product to sell.

        Marchionne seems to be delivering on that promise, at least to the extent that has been possible within his budgetary and time constraints. I wouldn’t buy one of these myself, but the effort to improve the perceived quality of the car (and perhaps the actual assembly quality) in a relatively short period of time is noteworthy. It may be lipstick on a pig, but it’s pretty decent lipstick.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        I understand exactly what he said and to who. You’re the one that thinks it was meaningful, suggesting a lack of comprehension. The point was that he made his statement to people who have no influence on product.

      • 0 avatar
        ranwhenparked

        @Pch101

        I like Marchionne, don’t get be wrong, he’s one of the most brilliant CEOs of any industry working today, but as much as I’m sure he’d like everyone to believe that story, the timeline just doesn’t jive.

        Fiat took over the new Chrysler in June of 2009, and the 200 entered full-scale production at Sterling Heights in March of 2010. When you look at the lead times for ordering things like stamping dies and injection molds, working with dozens of suppliers to perform quality assurance on their components and get their factories retooled, etc. I have to think that things were pretty well fixed about 10-12 months out.

        Not to mention the environmental testing that has to be done on new plastics and paints, emissions certification of the new drivetrains, and the new round of destructive crash testing required, and I really don’t think there would be enough time to for any major changes OK’d by him to make it to the production stage by early 2010.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “the 200 entered full-scale production at Sterling Heights in March of 2010.”

        I can’t find the exact start date, but reports from the time talked about production being started in November 2010.

        I do know that there was a press event at the plant in December 2010 which served as a sort of official launch, and that the cars went to market soon thereafter. That’s 18 months after Fiat acquired Chrysler.

        The timeframe for development of the 200 was 54 weeks, according to the Society of Plastics Engineers that gave Chrysler an award for the 200.

        It looks as if Fiat hustled and got it done.

  • avatar
    TomHend

    I just want to pass this article along from Zero Hedge.

    It is about the US being a sub prime auto nation.

    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/subprime-auto-nation

  • avatar
    1998redwagon

    upfront the author dismisses every convertible over 30K then sneaks in the 32K camaro at the end for comparison. that being the case throw in a sentence or two for the vw eos at ~34K and see what truecar says about comparably equipped cars (both have retractable hardtops).

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Had one of these for a rental in Dallas last month. Surprisingly decent. I was especially impressed that the A/C is good enough to allow after-dark cruising in 105F temps with the top down and windows up. GREAT engine and transmission, handling was pretty much non-existent but that is not the point of this sort of thing. The chassis may be better than the Sebring, but it still has more cowl shake than my Alfa Spider!

    I completely agree that this car will NEVER be cross-shopped against the Mustang, Camaro, or especially the Eclipse Spyder. This car WILL be cross-shopped against the EOS and the Volvo C70, even though they are respectively a little and a LOT more expensive. Really, the 200 is a cut-price C70 more than anything. Same idea, much cheaper execution. Probably drives about the same too, unless the current C70 is leagues better than the original.

    I would like to know what four people can fit in an Eclipse Spyder by the way. Had one of those as a rental too – that “back seat” is a nicely upholstered briefcase shelf. Maybe a legless 2yo could fit back there, but only if they are small for their age.

    • 0 avatar
      Thinkin...

      FWIW – Yes, the new C70 is absolutely leagues ahead of the original one. Not a single part is shared – they’re based on different platforms entirely, and the new one actually hits the mark quite well. Up until 2010 it was even available with a proper 6-speed manual. (An actual manual transmission. With a clutch pedal and a mechanical stick you have to push around…) Sadly the take rate was as low as you’d expect, so you don’t see many show up used.

      These would also be cross-shopped against the Saab 9-3, back when Saab existed.

  • avatar
    peteinsonj

    I make enough trips to the sunbelt, that I’ve rented Sebring & Mustang convertibles often.

    The old Mustang (pre 3.7 V-6) was an awful car to drive. The 4.0 is a miserable engine, and driving a Mustang convertible is like sitting in a bath tub. Car looks great, sure, but an unremarkable driving experience. That said, with the new V-6, its a much much nicer car to drive, assuming you don’t mind the below ground seating position.

    The Sebring’s engines were no better than the 4.0 Mustang’s 6, less power, but at least they didn’t sound like a tractor. But the fit & finish of the Sebring, very Walmart. But from a seating perspective, at least you were reasonably high up and not staring up at the road.

    If we were buying one of these new — I’m sure my GF would take the Sebring/200, while I wouldn’t be caught dead owning one — I’d choose the Mustang.

    But being a practical, frugal guy, I didn’t buy either, but a CPO BMW that cost less than either of these new.

    • 0 avatar
      snakebit

      I’m currently a BMW 3-Series owner, so be forewarned.

      Anytime one of my friends asks me about suggesting a new car, and it turns out to cost a little bit over their true budget, I suggest looking into a CPO(certified pre-owned), so, thank you ‘peteinsonj’ for bringing that up.

      I’ll never warm up the the current 200 droptop, but I might recommend it to someone in the east coast who has to have a four-seater, a retractible hardtop, and front wheel drive. The fact that the TTAC reviewer wrote that the back seat space is OK, and the fronts are iffy for him, maybe another driver might be able to get used to them.

      Personally, the Mustang is the first one a buyer should check out. I learned that starting with the ’94 and ending with the ’04, engineering began with sorting out the convertible version before working on the coupe, and that to a slightly lessor extent, Ford kept to that sequence in the later version, unlike the hatchet job that the Mitsu and Solara sub contractors built.

      If you keep in mind CPO cars, you’re more likely to find a Volvo C70 or VW EOS affordable. The yet-to-be available Beetle V2.0 is another candidate that someone else suggested. I remember some of the V1.0 convertibles had a problem with the covers that hide the hinges, but the tops themselves seemed to be troublefree. And, if you can really get by with just two seats, there’s always the Miata, a gem of a convertible, but again, only a two-seater.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    Michael Scott, your car is ready.

  • avatar
    Pan

    First, “Down with the Dart!”
    Now, “Down with the Chrysler 200 convertible!”
    What’s next? The Ram truck??
    Walter P. says, “Get a life!”.

  • avatar
    LeeK

    My goodness, Alex. Your reviews are getting better and better. I have absolutely no interest in this car, but your video review makes for an informative and entertaining investment of time. Keep up the excellent work!

  • avatar
    mr_muttonchops

    This car is a pretty good idea on paper, but still has enough of that Sebring in it to just not quite cut it in my book. I’d like to see what the next mid-sizer from Chrysler will be like, as I do sorta like the looks and V6 this car offers. No one else really offers a convertible that’s as practical in this price range, and Chrysler really needs to work in improving that niche.

  • avatar
    Buckshot

    Chrysler don´t sell this car in Europe, and that´s a very smart move.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    If you want a cruiser convertible, wouldn’t $26-30,000 get you a used SC430 in very good condition? No, it’s not a sports-car (I said cruiser), but you get a 300HP V8, RWD, much nicer interior, slower depreciation and actual prestige among your non-car-person friends and acquaintances.

  • avatar
    billfrombuckhead

    “If you want a front-driver, save $1,000 and buy the MINI Cooper convertible.” A Mini and a 200 are hardly competitive cars. There is no actual competitive car to the 200. Comparing it to sports cars like the Mustang and Camaro doesn’t make sense either. Wonder they did compare it to a Wrangler or even a motorcycle? Sometimes it seems like the media stands on it’s head to hurt Chrysler.

  • avatar
    nickoo

    I would prefer a cabriolet top like on the modern fiat 500 to a convertible. Convertibles don’t sell like they used to after people started getting into accidents with them and the obvious results of what can happen compared to a hard top happened. A hard top, power retractable cabriolet with re-enforced roll-over protection would be a fun car and 95% of the convertible when you rolled the windows down.

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      A few points:

      Cabriolet = convertible. The terms mean one and the same thing, and “cabriolet” is actually the French translation (along with “decapotable”).

      Secondly, can you point to a source that cites decreased convertible sales due to safety concerns, or an alarming number of convertible injuries and/or fatalities? It’s never something I’ve seen a report on nor discussed, and logically rollovers are so rare in the type of low cars that typically have convertible roofs, that even if the A pillars were made of delicious but soft waffles, I don’t see it being an issue statistically. Furthermore, the A-pillars are, in fact, reinforced so that they do, in most cases, offer respectable protection, especially on many 2 seat convertibles which come equipped with some kind of integrated roll bar behind the seats. If you’re going to the race track in an older drop-top, yeah, maybe an aftermarket roll bar is a good idea. I, however, track my ’99 Miata without one and still sleep well at night.

      Thirdly: have you driven a full convertible compared to a targa-style one? Not to say that targas don’t have their place, but the open-air feeling is not the same.

      Drive a bank vault to get milk from the store all you want, but please try not to infect the rest of the world with your phobia.

      • 0 avatar
        Thinkin...

        Correctamundo on the “Cabriolet” thing. FWIW the Fiat 500C doesn’t even come close to being a convertible in my book. Curiously large sunroof? Yes. Convertible? Heck no. If the “top” is open and you can’t tell it’s a convertible from the side… it ain’t a convertible.

        As for convertible safety – even a cursory glance at data from the last 5 years clearly shows that many convertibles, (especially those from Volvo, Saab, Mercedes, and BMW) are every bit as safe, or safer than their coupe counterparts. Even though rollovers are statistically insignificant, the convertibles with rollover protection systems do surprisingly well, even in roof-crush strength tests.

    • 0 avatar
      ranwhenparked

      I’d say the 500 is more of a convertible landau or cabrio coach than a true convertible.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    I’d have to ask myself which 10 year old car I’d still be somewhat proud to own and be caught in.

    http://images.canadianlisted.com/nlarge/2002-chrysler-sebring-limited-convertible-149-000kms-5-999_4628948.jpg

    http://images.gtcarlot.com/gtgallery/25928305-640.jpg-000kms-5-999_4628948.jpg

    There’s my answer.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Not to take anything away from the Mustang, but I think that generation Sebring was actually a nice looking car and is infinitely better looking than any 200. If they put their latest drivetrain in the 2002 and added some starch to the platform, it would be a much more desirable car than Chrysler offers now. Unfortunately, the engines they did offer in it were liabilities for buyers. Only time will tell about the new ones, although I’ve already heard rumbling.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        It’s easy to get caught up in the new car smell and not figure how one would feel about owning it years down the road.

        I know you won’t and I may not want to own any 10 year old car either, but one never knows. All I can do is look clean 10 year old cars and see how I would feel about having to own/drive the thing.

        Mustang drivetrains have improved too and many would rather have one a 2002. That’s not what we have before us.

      • 0 avatar
        ranwhenparked

        That’s quite true. Chrysler actually seemed to be on something of an upward trajectory in the early 2000s, their cars still had a lot that needed improvement, but they seemed to be generally going in the right direction. Then, Daimler started their aggressive cost-cutting and everything just ran off the rails.

      • 0 avatar
        Marko

        @ ranwhenparked

        The infamous 2.7L V6 that plagued Sebrings (among other Chrysler products) was introduced before the Daimler merger, in the 1998 “second-generation” LH cars. I agree, however, that Chrysler was doing quite well styling-wise during this era.

      • 0 avatar
        th009

        Shocking … I actually agree with CJ about something. Yes, the original Sebring at least had some style. The redesign (originated during the DaimlerChrysler era) was a huge step backwards.

      • 0 avatar
        Wheeljack

        The 2.7L engines used in the FWD Sebring/Stratus cars were fine if they were maintained properly, just like any other engine. It was the early LH cars that had issues due to an inadequate PCV system.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    If someone actually wants a 4-seat convertible, there is this and there is…Rolls Royce? Maybe a Mercedes? Pony cars, BMWs, Minis, and VWs are 2+2s. You can carry an extra drunk home from a bar, but you can’t expect someone to sit back there for a road trip. As someone who once rode 150 miles in the back seat of a Celica and still smiles when I think of the woman sitting in front of me going to prison, I value real back seats if sitting in them is involved. This car kills all of its competitors in being an affordable 4-seat convertible.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Sitting in the back of a 2+2 isn’t bad if the front passengers slide their seat up and share some of the misery. It’s only fair. I’ve done it that way for years with 2+2 convertibles, but it’s understood that it’s for short trips.

    Now long trips with the top down or any open vehicle are a misery in and of themselves. And where are you going to put all the luggage?

  • avatar
    mbaruth

    The only reason Chrysler sells any 200s is that Ally will approve anybody with a pulse to buy one.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    This car sucks. It may not be horrific, but it has no place in the market. I cannot think of a single reason to buy one. A VW Eos or Volvo Convertible is much better in nearly every way and similarly priced.

    • 0 avatar
      mr_muttonchops

      They did point out the key advantage it has over most convertibles: usable back seats and trunk. It’s a good idea, really, but it just needs to be shed of it’s genetic mediocrity of being a fixed up Sebring.

    • 0 avatar
      billfrombuckhead

      The Eos has a tiny back seat and most people in the car business would take a chance on Chrysler quality vs VW and Volvo.

    • 0 avatar
      PintoFan

      The Eos has many disadvantages compared to this car, chief among which is being a VAG product.

      The C70 starts at around $42k. Disingenuous or uneducated, take your pick.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    [Derek, please try to mix up your phrases a little, rather than using the word \"strange\" six times in the same story. But \"the 200 still has more booty than a Sir Mix-A-Lot music video\" is genius.]

    I happen to like the looks of the 200, but not the convertible. The only company’s convertibles that look good to me are Volkswagen’s.

    However, I suspect the 200 Convertible’s buyers will mostly be Chrysler fanboys (which I am sometimes) who want to support the company for a decent re-do of a tired product.

  • avatar
    86SN2001

    This review lost a lot of credibility when it referred to the 200 as a “re-skin”.

    Since when does a “re-skin” consist of:
    -New body
    -Completely new interior
    -Completely new electrics
    -Completely new powertrains
    -Completely revised suspensions

    Sure the 200 didn’t receive as comprehensive an update as some of the other new Chryslers, but to call this a reskin is just irresponsible.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      Disagreed. Chrysler is still stuck with the basic geometry of the chassis, which constrains a lot:

      Torsional rigidity
      Visibility
      Safety
      Passenger volume
      Suspension hardpoints
      Drivetrain limitations (AWD)

      Everything you mentioned is true, but those items are still hung on the same chassis with all its limitations. Other reviewers generally agree that this is a very good re-skin, but a re-skin nevertheless.

      • 0 avatar
        th009

        Exactly. And the Charger, 300, Journey, Caravan/T&C etc are facelifts of existing models as well.

        The Grand Cherokee, on the other hand, is indeed a full redesign, and the Dart is obviously all new as well.

    • 0 avatar
      ranwhenparked

      It’s not a new body though; the pressings for the doors, rear quarters, and trunk lid were all carried over. The only new sheetmetal pieces are the hood and front fenders.

      On the sedan, the carry-over body is even more obvious, as they didn’t even have the budget to eliminate the indentation in the C-pillar for the black plastic triangle, so they opted to keep the triangle but try to disguise it a bit by sticking a chrome “200″ emblem on top of it.

      All the other exterior changes were strictly molded plastic parts, externally, this was the equivalent of MG Rover’s low budget facelifts in 2004.

      On the interior, just about every surface is new, but the underlying structure of the dash, cluster, console, door panels, etc. is the same, just recovered in better materials. You can see that the vent and controls placements are all identical.

      The sedan and convertible both got new front seat frames, the sedan kept the old rear seat, but I believe the convertible might have new rears as well.

  • avatar
    Geeky1

    Sounds like Chrysler did what they could given the budget they probably had to work with.

    …Not that it matters; I had a late-model, just-before-the-”redesign” Sebring 4d as a rental when my STI was in the shop last year. It was absolutely the worst car I have ever driven. Bar none. And that’s inclusive of the 300,000+ mile, beat-to-hell BMWs and Mercedes I saw when I was a service writer, inclusive of the ’73 Buick restoration project that had 5lbs of compression in cylinders 3 and 5 and a suspension that retired sometime in the Carter administration, and inclusive of trucks, golf carts, bicycles, etc.

    The Sebring is a serious contender for the title of “Absolute worst vehicle I have ever operated”.

    The (utter lack of) high-speed stability was downright dangerous, the handling was disgusting, the GEMA 4 banger sounded like a dying animal and vibrated enough that it put all those battery-powered “adult novelty items” (and hell, the AC powered ones, too!) to shame. Which I could almost overlook, if it could legitimately claim to make more power than my neighbor’s riding mower. But no. I’m pretty sure that there are R/C cars with better dyno sheets. Battery powered ones.

    God help you if you find yourself next to your neighbor’s bratty 5 year old and his Big Wheel at a stoplight. If he’s had any sugar at all, you’re toast. Nobody has ever managed to actually do a timed standing 1/4 mile on a 4cyl Sebring; everyone that’s tried has died of old age.

    Driving a slushbox Mercedes 240D (with its ~65hp and mid-20-second 0-60mph time) is less frustrating; at least the Mercedes diesel doesn’t make noises like Chewbacca suffering the world’s worst bout of constipation while you wait on it.

    Not that it really matters, because if you ever do manage to get some significant forward motion out of the thing, the brakes aren’t going to be any more interested in getting you stopped than the engine was in getting you going. My advice? Find something soft to hit. Like a mattress store.

    Its ONE redeeming quality was the A/C. It managed to frost over the *outside* of the windshield, just above the defroster vents, in 100* weather. That and the stereo-it wasn’t good, by any stretch of the imagination, but it was capable of generating enough muddy, undefined “bass-like noises” to confuse people that’ve never heard a seriously good sound system into thinking it that it was pretty nice.

    I would rather be stripped naked and forced to share a sleeping bag with a rabid badger than drive a Sebring or anything related to it ever again.

  • avatar
    Buckshot

    Vw Eos and Volvo C70 are superior in every way.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    I saw the soft top version of this car at the local car show this winter. For the first time ever, I thought: It would be nice to have a convertible. Not specifically because of this car, mostly because I’ve never owned one, I’d like to do so before I’m too old to enjoy driving.

    That said, I thought this was a pretty nice package for what it is. Let’s face it, there’s not much choice in the convertible market vis-a-vis sedans, and it is what it is. It’s no road racer, it’s a car for regular folks who want a convertible. Not everyone wants a barchetta or a presidential limousine.

    I don’t know that I would buy one of these new, but I might be enticed to buy one used from Avis or whomever. Mostly because I know I won’t hang on to the car long term.

    Good review Alex, and keep on giving us info like the roller bag test. That’s really helpful stuff!

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    I haven’t driven the car so I can’t comment on that, so I’ll defer to Alex’s opinion that the behind the wheel experience isn’t offensive, even if it isn’t exciting or world class. Assuming that is the case, I see a good role for this car. I had no idea how small the Mustangs back seat is till I rode in one while one of my friends was test driving. He’s over 6ft tall and my smallish 5’8 frame was the only one of our posse that could fit in the back seat with him driving, and even then I was stradling the seat (to get out I had to lift my inside leg out of the car – there was not enough room to slid it behind the seat). True 4 seat convertibles are a rare breed. Styling is subjective but I’m a fan. These have quickly joined the rental fleets here in Central Fl and I love seeing them in the rear view mirror – the nose looks very classy and upscale. Would I ever buy one? Nope, but if I wanted new I’d tell my friends to deal with the non existent Mustang space, or buy a nice $15k used e46 convertible and put the money saved towards the inevitable repairs. As far as repairs on the 200 go, Chrysler is now offering some excellent extended warranties so I’d buy one in a heart beat without worrying about that.

  • avatar
    MrGreenMan

    The real enemy of this thing is the Solara, which is dead. Perhaps if Buick brings out a convertible Verano or some sort of Epsilon-based convertible resurrecting the G6 Convertible, which is also dead. This is the only thing approaching a boulevard-cruiser convertible, which is unfortunate. (Just visualize a 1972 Olds 88 with the top down, silver exterior, candy-striped blue and white leather thrones, and realize that the game is over.)

    In other words: Just like the final Panthers were not as good as the generations that had to fight Caprices, this thing has no real competitors in its class, so it’s atrophied. It would be good for Chrysler for Buick to hurry up and make that boulevard-cruising convertible that Opel is going to show shortly in Paris.

  • avatar

    I was test driving a dart the other day at the local dealer when a couple of recent retirees walked in. They said they wanted to look at a wrangler with a soft top and a 200 convertible for their winter house in FL. He seemed interested in the wrangler and asked for the one with the smallest wheels and tires ( so it was easier to get into) his wife took one look said that’s a kids car. When I came back from the test drive they were.signing the papers on the 200.

  • avatar
    Ion

    The Sebring and to a lesser extent the 200 was always a meh car to me. It doesn’t necessarily do anything worse than the competition but it certainly doesn’t do anything better.

    Convertibles generally aren’t hot cakes in my area. I can’t say I see a Solara anymore than I do a Sebring.

  • avatar
    YYYYguy

    I’m no fan of Chrysler, but it sounds to me like right off the bat the author has some bias when writing this article. Having driven the new 200 as a rental, I thought it was certainly adequate and hits the mark for a supple cruising convertible. Not a star, but certainly a decent vehicle.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    It’s a shame that Ford and GM abandoned the affordable, large convertible (with a usable rear seat) to strictly ponycars decades ago. There were a couple of brief moments when it looked like they might come back. When Ford had the Mercury Marauder, they came up with a Marauder concept convertible. Unfortunately, the standard Marauder never came close to meeting sales expectations, and any thoughts of the concept making production died quickly.

    At about the same time, none other than ‘Maximum Bob’ Lutz had a really nice-looking Bel Air convertible concept built. The theory on that one was as a competitor to the new Thunderbird. But, like the Marauder, the Thunderbird never really sold as well as expected, and GM decided to build the really lackluster SSR instead.

    So that left the Sebring and Solara for the ‘large’ convertibles. The Solara was too pricey (and goofy looking, to me, anyway) to sell very well, and when the Solara was discontinued, well, the convertible went with it.

    That essentially leaves the market entirely to just the Sebring-based 200. It’s not that large of a market, but it’s there.

    In fact, it coincides with my irritation at Chrysler building the Challenger rather than coming up with a ‘real’ Charger 2-door. That would have been a great replacement for the Sebring.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “Chrysler building the Challenger rather than coming up with a ‘real’ Charger 2-door. That would have been a great replacement for the Sebring.”

      Agreed, but they probably saw it as losing a midsize sedan/coupe (and wrong-wheel drive) and replacing it with a full size coupe. I am all for this but in the grand world of volume manufacturing, midsize will outsell full size coupes/halo cars I would guess at a 3:1 ratio.

  • avatar
    Quentin

    Google image search Lincoln Mark viii. Look at the white, facelifted 3/4 image. Does this not share a lot of design elements around the nose with the Mk viii?

    *awaits sjeev rage*

  • avatar
    Zackman

    When we decided to downsize from three vehicles to two, we looked at a 200, a C70, an EOS, a LaCrosse and an Impala.

    I must admit we both were impressed with the 200, as we are among the “cruiser” crowd.

    As we decided we would only buy a new car, we went with practical and chose what we did. It does have a sunroof, which I found out I really like…and it was cheapest!

    No more convertible in our future for now. Perhaps when I retire? Who knows?

    Compromises, compromises…

  • avatar
    FJ60LandCruiser

    These are a like a disease in Florida. The rental companies snap them up, because when you get to the Sunshine state you want to tool around with the top down on your way around the sunbaked hell that is Orlando. Then when you get out, you realize that even in October you are redder than a crawfish boil because Florida sun is merciless on pasty European skin.

    When we Floridians get a rental car, then, these are too commonplace and impossible to avoid.

    I drove the Sebring for a week. It was dreadful.

    I drove the 200 for a few days after that. It was less dreadful.

    So I should give Fiahysler extra pity points for not going bankrupt and turning a bloated pig of a car into something less terrible? Forget cars like the Mustang, Eos, etc. This is closest to a Wrangler, which it barely beats in handling and ride quality.

    Hooray.

  • avatar
    snakebit

    Same for L.A and S.F

    I noticed many more convertibles travelling in the east coast. In L.A, depending where you go, AC is much more preferable to dropping the top, and it’s not near as humid as Orlando. You can a wicked burn from less than a hour with the top down. I was given a Mustang convert from Thrifty(the Focus I originally asked for didn’t materialize after my plane landed), and I didn’t drop the top until five days later in San Diego.

    And, on the trips when I did specify a Mustang convert, and was offered another brand (Solara or Chrysler), in the Solara’s case I took it for a week in Lake Tahoe, and thankfully they don’t rent those any more – what a sled- very poor visibility in the back with the top up, with the tiny rear windshield and the rear seat headrests blocking what little vision you have, very poor fuel economy(V6) and the seeming power of a four cylinder. It’s was not even a good Solara. I turned down the offer of the Chrysler, and took a Mazda3. But, I’m not surprised that Florida rental companies are chockful of Chryslers. It seems that whenever I see an ad for travelling there, it’s almost always has a couple pictured in one.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    You know how, in animated movies like “Toy Story”, when they show the outdoors scenes of the car chases, they draw generic looking vehicles that almost look a little something like a current, or couple of year’s old model, or on “Cars”, you can almost make out what kind of car the character is, but can’t put your finger on it?

    That’s what the design of the 200 is to me. It’s not quite, “Oh- GAWD-my-eyes!” ugly, and it’s not even Suzuki-Esteem-plain.

    But it does have weird proportions, odd angles and curves and overall a great deal of discordance and dissonance in the design.

    It’s just kinda weird, in an Aztek-coyote-ugly sort of way….

    Epic. Fail.

  • avatar
    juicy sushi

    I’m sure Karl Welzein will be thrilled to learn of the improvements to his beloved ‘bring.


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