The Truth About Cars » Chrysler Sebring The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 16 Jul 2014 16:33:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Chrysler Sebring What Happened to the Four-Seat Convertible? Tue, 16 Apr 2013 16:15:35 +0000

When I was a kid, I knew there to be two universal automotive truths. Number one was that the Lamborghini Countach was really cool. I, like all kids, had a Lamborghini Countach poster on my bedroom wall, which I’m convinced was part of a cunning decades-long Lamborghini marketing scheme: first, hook them when they’re seven. Then, thirty years later, come out with a model that’s actually drivable. And now that buyers are getting older, confuse them with special editions.

The other universal truth was that if you wanted a convertible, you were going to the Chrysler dealer to buy a LeBaron.

In today’s world, this is hard to believe. That’s because the only people who go to Chrysler dealers are employees, plus the occasional tourist who visits Chrysler of Manhattan in search of a bathroom after leaving the Intrepid Museum.

But in the late 1980s and early 1990s, there were two different Chryslers. One was the Chrysler who made impressively awful crap like the Dodge Monaco, which is probably the car least suited for actually visiting its namesake. (Close runner-up: Pontiac Parisienne.) But the other Chrysler made some decent vehicles, like the original Jeep Grand Cherokee, the minivans, and – most importantly – the LeBaron.

Chrysler’s Convertible Domination

The LeBaron was perfect because it meant that people who wanted a convertible with four seats (in other words, your wife’s mother) didn’t need to buy a performance car like a Mustang or a Camaro. Instead, they could get a comfortable, reasonably attractive, well-priced Chrysler and cruise around all day visiting salons. While Chevrolet and Ford competed for discerning enthusiast buyers, Chrysler walked away with the “relaxed convertible” set whose low standards consisted primarily of: make sure the top goes up and down.

When the LeBaron died in 1995, Chrysler made a rare bold move and actually offered an all-new model. This time it was called the Sebring, making it the car most suited for actually visiting its namesake. (Close runner-up: Chevrolet Suburban.) The Sebring continued the LeBaron’s tradition by offering four usable seats, a cushy ride, a reasonable price and – most importantly – a top that went up and down. No, it still wasn’t a great car. But the ragtop Sebring sold in such high numbers that you had to wonder: “are there really this many mothers-in-law?”

Toyota Joins the Party

Toyota must’ve been wondering the very same thing. That’s because the 1999 model year heralded the debut of the Camry Solara, a two-door Camry with an available soft top that appealed to Sebring buyers with slightly higher standards. Once again, these sold in enormous numbers, a fact that Toyota commemorated by creating a second-generation model that actually was enormous. Seriously: at 192.5 inches, it was the exact same length as a Land Cruiser. Most of that bulk was in the rear, as Toyota wanted to include a place to store the top, trunk space, and – from the looks of it – a lighted indoor racquetball court.

For several years, Toyota and Chrysler went at it in the four-seat droptop market, with Chrysler earning the price-conscious bottom-feeders and Toyota snagging people who wanted a well-built convertible the size of a botanical garden.

But the rivalry only lasted a few years.

In 2008, Toyota announced it would be cancelling the Solara after the 2009 model year. And with the Sebring’s 2008 redesign, prices rose to stratospheric levels that the droptop’s build quality simply couldn’t justify. Today’s Chrysler 200 convertible starts at $28,000 with shipping, and it includes an interior that looks like this:


What Happened?

My question is: what the hell happened to the world of reasonably-priced four-seat convertibles? During the early 1990s, it wasn’t possible to cruise around in the summer and not see 40-year-old divorcees driving LeBarons. During the early 2000s, every single middle school had a teachers’ lot full of Sebring convertibles. And in the late 2000s, you couldn’t enter a parking garage without getting stuck behind a Solara owner hitting everything in close proximity while backing out of a parking spot.

Yes, the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro still exist. But both of those are rear-wheel drive sports cars with beefy styling and a high-performance image. That’s not quite suitable for the Sebring convertible set, who just wants to cruise around in top-down bliss without concern for performance, or acceleration, or anything, really. The Volkswagen Eos would be perfect, but its base price is more than $35,000. Truly. In fact, the “Eos Executive,” whatever that is, starts at $42,000. For a four-cylinder Volkswagen based on the Golf.

Interestingly, it seems like Honda and Nissan could enter this segment tomorrow and walk away with it. Both already offer two-door versions of their midsize sedans. Would it be so hard to chop off the roof, create a convertible, and price it around $25,000? Or maybe $27,000, if the interior has a little less cheap plastic than the Chrysler 200?

Apparently, it would be too hard – or Nissan and Honda think the market just doesn’t exist. That means today’s children will grow up with only one universal truth: the Lamborghini Aventador is really cool. See you in thirty years.

Doug DeMuro operates He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, road-tripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute lap time on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.

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Vellum Venom Vignette: Redesigned Chrysler 200? Tue, 27 Nov 2012 11:54:07 +0000

TTAC commentator halftruth writes/draws:

I got taking a look at the Chrysler 200 recently and while I want to like it, I cant get past the little droop on the bottom of the tail lights. I took a couple of stabs to see what they would look like flat and perhaps they are too VW-ish, but I like them better this way..

What do you think? I did them quickly in paint but I think you get the point…thanks!After:

Sajeev answers:

Normally I prefer less fussy tail light designs, but not when it comes to very tall and clumsy proportioned sedans.  And when you think tall and clumsy sedans, the Chrysler Sebring-200 is one of the worst offenders on the planet. And not in that ironic hipster way like a Scion xD or xB or whatever…nor in that cheap and cheerful way like a penalty box Chevy Aveo or Nissan Versa. The Chrysler 200 is simply a poorly proportioned vehicle. And it needs all the help it can get.


My point is witnessed above, in the abomination that was the Chrysler Sebring. The Chrysler 200 needs those tail light flairs of modest style, it visually thins a plump sedan.

So I will disagree with you, even though I’m kicking myself for doing it! What say you, Best and Brightest???

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Review: 2012 Chrysler 200 S Convertible Sat, 08 Sep 2012 13:00:27 +0000

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?

Click here to view the embedded video.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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