2002 Chrysler Sebring

By December 5, 2001
2002 Chrysler Sebring

Chrysler’s Sebring convertible combines a roomy interior, attractive pricing with a sleek design and top-down motoring. Maybe that’s why it’s America’s best-selling convertible.

Who says practicality has to be boring? Boring goes out the window with the touch of a button, as the Sebring’s top drops behind the rear seat. This car looks good even with the top up. Completely redesigned a year ago, Chrysler’s convertible sports smooth lines similar to the Sebring coupe and sedan. Beneath its sleek interior is a stiff structure with a suspension designed to provide sporty handling and a smooth ride. Quick acceleration is on tap from the available 200-horsepower V6 engine.

For 2002, the availability of a four-cylinder engine has reduced the price of entry into Sebring’s alfresco experience. This year, the LX model starts at just $23,075 and comes equipped with a 2.4-liter twin-cam engine rated at 150 horsepower.

Midyear in 2002, Chrysler is introducing a GTC model that comes with the V6, a sports suspension, and a choice of five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission.

Model Lineup

Sebring convertible is available in three trim levels: LX, LXi and Limited.

Sebring Convertible LX ($23,075) comes equipped with Chrysler’s 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and a high level of standard equipment that includes a vinyl convertible top, premium cloth-covered seats, a floor console with cupholders and armrest, air conditioning, power windows, power door locks, and 15-inch steel wheels.

Sebring LXi ($26,160) comes standard with the 2.7-liter V6, a cloth-coated top, leather seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a CD player with six Infinity speakers, and 16-inch cast-aluminum wheels.

Sebring Limited ($28,795) adds premium leather to the seats, instruments with bright white faces and electroluminescent lighting, an in-dash CD changer for four discs, a driver-interactive AutoStick shifter for the four-speed automatic transaxle, and ABS Plus.

The new GTC model comes with the V6, a specially tuned Euro-sport suspension, P205/60TR16 tires on 16-inch painted aluminum wheels, a trunk lid spoiler, body color bodyside moldings, two-tone Ultrahide seat trim, a sport instrument cluster, and a premium sound system.

Four-wheel disc brakes come standard on all Sebrings. Optional is a sophisticated anti-lock brake system Chrysler calls ABS Plus ($565) designed to better balance braking forces at each wheel; this helps improve stability when braking and turning at the same time by counteracting yawing or swerving. ABS Plus comes with Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD), which distributes braking forces front to rear for better stopping performance.

Walkaround

Chrysler has been a leader in American design in recent years and the Sebring convertible is an example of that. Its fluid lines stretch smoothly over a long and broad form. The overall shape is dominated by a prominent hood and cantilevered windshield that rakes rearward at an extreme angle. The design is similar to that of the Sebring sedan and coupe, but there are key differences that go beyond the soft top.

The front of the convertible is set off with an exaggerated oval air intake port inset with a dark egg-crate grille ringed in chrome. Narrow headlamps wrap around front corners above round fog lights flanking the grille.

Side panels with rolled shoulders flare in rings around wheelwells to draw attention to large wheels that include multi-spoke designs in cast aluminum for the LXi, and chrome alloy for the Limited. At the rear a spoiler lip arches over large corner lamps and the thick mass of a monotone bumper.

The Sebring convertible shares its name and styling with a two-door Sebring coupe and four-door Sebring sedan. The sedan and convertible use similar chassis and suspension elements, and share the same V6 engine and automatic transmissions. Convertible and sedan roll out of the same Chrysler assembly plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan. (See separate reviews of the sedan and coupe at NewCarTestDrive.com.)

Interior Features

Sebring’s passenger compartment is an expansive space filled with form-fitting seats and stylish design elements. Generous room for riders stems from cab-forward architecture that extends the windshield forward, abbreviates space for the engine, and increases the length and width of the cabin.

High-back bucket seats are standard in cloth fabric for Sebring LX. Sebring LXi gets leather trim, while the Limited comes with softer premium leather trim. Seats feel firm and comfortable; the driver’s seat gets six-way power adjustments.

A dashboard collection of round analog instruments, tucked beneath an arched cowl and ringed with chrome bezels, employs easy-to-read white-on-black graphics for LX and LXi. Bold black-on-white graphics and electroluminescent lighting add zest to the instruments in the Limited.

Although the dashboard is essentially linear, there’s a wrap-around feel to the cockpit. From the driver’s seat you can easily reach the shift lever and the window and lock switches mounted on the door. A center console houses the transmission shift lever and a padded armrest. Above the console, a central stack of controls for the audio and climate systems shows large rotary dials in a simple scheme.

At the top of the dash, an available display provides compass headings, outside temperature readings, trip mileage, fuel economy and estimated distance to an empty tank — useful information on trips or when out and about.

Unlike some convertibles, the Sebring provides enough room in the backseat for two adults to sit comfortably; and it’s fitted with three-point seatbelts. Twin cup holders extend from the rear of the floor console. Front seatbacks tip and slide forward quickly for easy backseat entry, and the front seatbelts do not impede entry because anchors are integrated in top corners of the seatbacks.

Trunk space is also good for a convertible; the trunk will accommodate two golf bags stacked together.

The power-operated pop-top drops in seconds with one-button ease to let the sun shine in or closes equally fast to block a sudden shower. It’s a snap to operate: Simply unlock two latches located above windshield visors, then touch a single button on the dashboard and the lid folds quickly into a well behind the rear seat. Continue to depress the button and side windows will also drop out of sight. Reverse the process to seal the top shut. It’s quick.

You can hide the collapsed roof by covering it with a smooth boot that locks in place with Velcro taps; when not in use, the boot folds and stows in the trunk.

Driving Impressions

From the outset, Chrysler designed the Sebring to function as a two-door convertible. With that in mind, the structure was designed to be highly rigid, and the Sebring convertible feels as tight as a coupe. Completely re-engineered for 2001, this latest-generation Sebring represents a huge improvement over the previous-generation convertible.

The Sebring maintains an impressively flat stance in corners, even when pressed hard. The stiff chassis, fortified by lateral braces to compensate for the convertible’s lack of a unifying roof structure, plays a key role in achieving Sebring’s taut ride traits. The suspension is fully independent, with a short- and long-arm arrangement up front and a multi-link design in the rear. Front and rear stabilizer bars reduce lean in corners. Sebring’s steering mechanism, with power assistance linked to a crisp rack-and-pinion device, reveals a nice neutral feel.

All three trim choices use the same suspension components, but wheels and tires differ. The LX has 15-inch wheels, but the wheels for LXi and Limited bump up an inch larger and are shod with Michelin all-season tires. The larger tires offer better grip and turn in more crisply, improving the Sebring’s agility.

Step on the pedal to leap around traffic and the Sebring pounces like a cat catching prey. The V6 engine produces 200 horsepower spread over a broad torque band. The 2.7-liters V6 uses an aluminum block fitted with double overhead cams and multi-valve technology. It can charge off the line at a stoplight. It also has enough guts at speed to surge ahead of other cars in a quick lane change. Despite the muscle, it earns respectable fuel economy and operates on 87-octane regular unleaded gasoline.

The electronically controlled four-speed automatic shifts quietly and efficiently. The Limited models comes with the AutoStick transmission, which allows the driver to shift into a semi-manual mode. This can add to the fun quotient when you’re in a sporty mood. But for everyday use in urban traffic the standard automatic employed on LX and LXi editions work just fine.

Summary

The Chrysler Sebring is the convertible for people who don’t want to be cramped in a sports car. It offers a roomy, comfortable interior. It’s stylish and fun and it won’t break the bank. If it does, drop the top and your cares will be whisked away.

A powerful V6 engine and leather upholstery in the LXi and Limited models turn the Sebring convertible into a little luxury cruiser. But this is no loosy-goosy boulevard cruiser; it acts more like a sports coupe.

Model Line Overview
Model lineup:LX ($23,075); LXi ($26,160); Limited ($28,795)
Engines:2.4-liter dohc 16-valve inline-4; 2.7-liter DOHC 24-valve V6
Transmissions:4-speed automatic; 4-speed automatic with AutoStick; 5-speed manual (midyear)
Safety equipment (standard):dual front airbags, 3-point seatbelts front and rear
Safety equipment (optional):ABS Plus
Basic warranty:3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in:Sterling Heights, Michigan
Specifications As Tested
Model tested (MSPR):Sebring LXi ($26,160)
Standard equipment:power folding cloth convertible top with glass rear window and electric defroster, dual power heated exterior mirrors, air conditioning, analog instruments with tachometer, trip computer with compass and exterior temperature display, automatic dimming day/night rearview mirror, leather-trimmed bucket seats with 6-way power driver's seat and manual lumbar control, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, electronic speed control with switches on the steering wheel, automatic power windows with driver's one-touch down, power door locks, remote keyless entry, AM/FM/CD stereo with 6 Infinity speakers, power 4-wheel disc brakes, 16-in. cast aluminum wheels with P205/60R16 all season tires
Options as tested (MSPR):ABS Plus ($565)
Destination charge:$595
Gas guzzler tax:N/A
Price as tested (MSPR):$27320
Layout:ABS Plus ($565)
Engine:2.7-liter DOHC 24-valve V6
Horsepower (lb.-ft @ rpm):200 @ 5900
Torque (lb.-ft @ rpm):192 @ 4300
Transmission:4-speed automatic
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy:20/28 mpg
Wheelbase:106.0 in.
Length/width/height:193.7/69.4/55.0 in.
Track, f/r:60.2/60.2 in.
Turning circle:36.2 ft.
Seating Capacity:2+2
Head/hip/leg room, f:38.7/52.2/42.4 in.
Head/hip/leg room, m:N/A
Head/hip/leg room, r:37.0/44.7/35.2 in.
Cargo volume:11.3 cu. ft.
Payload:N/A
Towing capacity:N/A
Suspension, f:Independent
Suspension, r:Independent
Ground clearance:N/A
Curb weigth:3474 lbs.
Tires:P205/60R16 Michelin MX4
Brakes, f/r:disc/disc with ABS Plus
Fuel capacity:16.0 gal.
Unless otherwise indicated, specifications refer to test vehicle. All prices are manufacturer's suggested retail prices (MSPR) effective as of December 5, 2001.Prices do not include manufacturer's destination and delivery charges. N/A: Information not available or not applicable. Manufacturer Info Sources: 1-800-CHRYSLER - www.chrysler.com

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