2010 Chrysler Sebring 2.7 V6 Touring Convertible (USA)


When I returned the Suburban to the Hertz Phoenix airport facility, in the hope of getting a less gigantic machine to sample, it was with the expectation that there would be a wider choice of vehicles. As it turned out, although cars were being handed in at a rate. there was not that much cleaned up and ready to go. From a somewhat limited choice, I decided that I would take one of those real doyens of the rental fleet, an “affordable” convertible. What could be better than the prospect of a sunny (and blisteringly hot!) day and the opportunity to drive with the roof down? Even if the car is a Chrysler Sebring, a model not noted for having received good reviews at least in saloon form, where it is widely condemned to “bottom of class”.
For some time now, the rental fleet market has continued to convince Chrysler that they need a car like this, and it has no real competition. Granted, most rental companies will also offer you a Ford Mustang Convertible, and often for the same price, but for other rag top car rentals, your options are very limited. I had always believed that although the Mustang is clearly more of a fun car to drive, the Sebring is more commodious and therefore if there are more people and more luggage, it is really the only option available. However, when I lifted the very heavy boot lid to have look at luggage capacity, I am not so sure. The area under the lid is indeed large, but there were two rather flimsy looking bits of plastic, one resting on the boot floor and a smaller one which seemed tethered to the first by two pieces of webbing, which, on perusal of the instructions needed to be raised to a 45 degree angle and the end pieces slotted – rather awkwardly – into retaining lugs on either side of the boot. With dire warnings stuck on the piece that remained on the boot floor that you were not supposed to put a suitcase on it, the resulting area was tiny. So tiny that with the roof down, I certainly could not get the main suitcase, of a rather soft and squashy type, into the boot at all, and if you were not supposed to put it on the bigger area, even with the roof up, then luggage capacity is actually far more limited than in the Mustang. In the end, I had to squeeze it in the rear seat footwell, by putting the front passenger seat well forward.
Whilst talking about the roof, let me continue, as this is really the raison d’etre of this car. Unless you opt for the top spec Limited model, which has a metal roof, you get a cloth roof, with glass rear window. Provided that the luggage cover contraption is in place – and it took several attempts to get this rather primitive device located so the sensors in the retaining areas thought it was in situ – opening and closing it is easy, and takes 27 seconds. You have to do so from a button on the dash, operated when the ignition is on, and you cannot do it with the driver’s door open. Push the button, and watch as the boot lid opens up rearwards, the windows drop down, the roof is released from the windscreen header rail, and the whole lot slides down and occupies almost all the boot space. Look in the boot, and at the sides you can see all manner of hinges, pistons and other parts associated with the opening roof, none of them hidden from view, with some very crude looking pieces of engineering on display. All the evidence that you need that this car is built down to a price.
It is usually the quality of the cabin in a Chrysler product that provides the evidence of cost containment, but this car was not too bad. The dash design is a little less angular than in a Dodge, so although the materials used are similar, it looks slightly “better”. Generous swathes of aluminium effect plastic feature on the centre console, the doors and in front of the passenger, as well as surrounding the deeply dished dials of the main instrument binnacle. The dials are clearly marked and easy to read. Column stalks do most other things for you, with an inner rotary selection on the left hand one to adjust the level if instrument lighting, whilst the outer rotary does the outside lights. When I set off to the exit of the parking garage, it turned out I had not managed to put the headlights on, as all I had done was make the instruments visible. The centre of the dash contains an XM satellite radio and the air conditioning controls. Driving with the roof down most of the test, I did not make much use of the latter. There is an analogue clock between the central air vents, which is a relatively unusual fitting for a mass market car. Oddments space is somewhat lacking, with just a meagre glove box and a lidded cubby under the central arm-rest, which is positioned well back, so it is quite awkward to access when the seat is well forward, and some small door pockets. Rear seat passengers get a cup holder in the side panel mouldings and that is it.
In fact rear seat passengers may not be that happy in the Sebring anyway. There is a surprising lack of legroom, even when the front seat is set well forward. There are definitely only two seats and two seat belts there. Access to the rear is not too difficult with the roof down, not least because the front seat belts are fully integrated into the seats, with no connection to the body work at all. This also made them much easier to reach for and to put on. With the roof up, it is still not too hard to get into the rear of the car, and once there, it is less claustrophobic than in cars such as the unlamented Solara Convertible. Reasonable sized side windows give some light in there and also mean for the driver that over the shoulder visibility is not too restricted. Driving with the roof down, of course, and all round vision is excellent.
So, to the driving. The test car had the middle of three available engines, a 2.7 litre V6, which develops 186 bhp, and like an increasing number of American cars, is now deemed FlexFuel capable, able to run on an E85 ethanol mix. Entry level cars, the LX models, have a 2.4 litre 4 cylinder motor, which is nearly as powerful, at 173bhp, but is widely condemned for its lack of smoothness. Top spec cars, the Limited, come with the 3.5 litre V6, which is supposed to transform the car. I had no significant complaints about the engine in the test car. It was smooth, and the Sebring shifted up and down the 4 speed automatic box quite readily. On the freeway, it was quite a relaxed cruiser, and even with the roof down, provided you had the side windows up, there was not much buffeting. The Sebring rides quite well, too, certainly rather better than the Suburban, although to be fair, I did take on different roads in the Phoenix area,, which had some different surfaces on them. Even the steering and handling is not as bad as I feared, with reasonable feel to the steering, and predictable handling. There was no evidence of scuttle shake, which was both a relief and a surprise, especially given the flex in the huge boot lid when opened up. The only quality issue I did note was that it seemed very hard to close the drivers door properly, and I must have had a 50% failure rate, as the warning buzzer so helpfully told me! It is a long and heavy door and needed a firm pull to close it properly.
The Sebring Convertible surprised me. It was not as bad to drive as I might have feared, and it was also far less commodious for passengers and luggage than I was expecting. Given the second of these attributes, I would have to recommend to anyone seeking a convertible for their US holiday that they go for a Mustang every time. With the 2011 engines now available, you will get a far far nicer car, that is a lot more fun, and, provided you can slot your luggage through the rather narrow boot opening, you will actually be able to get more luggage in it with the roof in the all important “down” position.
2010-10-17 15:57:18

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