LA Auto Show – 2008 Chrysler Sebring Convertible's Tricks Revealed in Los Angeles
- November 29, 2006
- Chrysler, New Model Introductions
- Posted by George Peterson
- Comments Off on LA Auto Show – 2008 Chrysler Sebring Convertible's Tricks Revealed in Los Angeles
Just as Chrysler’s latest Sebring sedan is going on sale, the convertible was revealed in Los Angeles, with a little help from actress Jennifer Love Hewitt. The Sebring convertible known and loved by rental fleets everywhere has soldiered on for about ten years without drastic changes, serving as a comfortable touring convertible with room for four plus a little luggage. It is time for a new version, and recent interest in the segment means more competition and a raised bar for success in the field.
The new Sebring convertible arrives in dealers in early spring 2007, eleven years after the Sebring replaced the LeBaron. Back in 1996, four-seat droptop options were few. Fast forward to 2007. Technology and convenience advances that keep these comfortable all year round and generally higher interest in convertibles has contributed to more offerings. Power retractable hardtops make as easy as pushing a button to drop the top and as comfortable as a fixed roof with the top up. Grand touring convertibles need not be a sacrifice in any weather.
Chrysler has modernized the Sebring, and an optional power retractable hardtop just one of the new features. Though the loaded Limited pictured includes the hardtop, leather interior, and optional conveniences like MyGig and heated/cooled cupholders, an entry version with a 173HP 2.4L I4 and a vinyl softtop can help keep the rental fleets happy. Sebring will also offer a cloth softtop. Asked why so many top options, Chrysler executives give two reasons. The obvious one is price, but Chrysler’s research also found convertible owners and intenders for whom a hardtop cheats the experience. The hardtop will be optional at all trim levels. All tops are fully power-operated, with no manual lock, and get the hard tonneau covering the top and finishing the car’s overall look.
Compared with its sedan sibling, the convertible is three inches longer, with the extra room in the trunk. The extra space gives room for a folding top and luggage; but a bonus is that the longer decklid gives the convertible better proportions and a more finished look than the sedan carries. Like Eos and others, a cargo cover in Sebring’s trunk helps prevent damaging the roof. If the cover is not locked into place, which the car knows by sensors on both sides, the top doesn’t come down.
Like the sedan, three powertrains will be offered. Unlike the sedan, the 2.4L I4 is only available in the base car. The Touring and Limited are both standard with the 189HP 2.7L V6, though the Limited can be ordered with the 235HP 3.5L V6.
Sebring Takes on Pontiac G6, Volkswagen Eos
Chrysler hopes Sebring will retain its past success of being counted as the best-selling convertible in the States more often than not. But cannibalization of a relatively small niche market could mean slower sales for this iteration. Sebring’s natural competitors are the Pontiac G6, the Toyota Camry Solara Toyota Camry Solara, and the Volkswagen Eos. To a lesser degree, Sebring goes up against the Mitsubishi Eclipse and Ford Mustang. Only the top-end Sebring would be considered against the Volvo C70 and upcoming BMW 3-Series convertibles, with the premium nature of those brands and their higher price points.
Sebring really needs to beat the Pontiac G6 and the Volkswagen Eos. Camry Solara is nearing the end of its lifecycle, its future is in doubt, and it doesn’t offer a hardtop. We won’t fully know how the Sebring stacks up until we see a production version, but the right boxes are checked for staying in the hunt. It offers some features the G6 and the Eos lack, like the heated/cooled cupholders, MyGig, and the remote operation of the top (you can drop the top using the key fob, as well as order up remote start). Chrysler claims the top drops in almost exactly 30 seconds, softtop or hardtop, about the same as its four-seat competition.
Chrysler has the product basics right, though the base car with a vinyl top and the I4 doesn’t sound particularly appealing, and the convertible manages a more finished profile and sophisticated look than the sedan, even as closely related as they are. This spring, Chrysler dealers will find out what buyers think.