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First drive: Chrysler Sebrings fresh air

Split personality: Drop-top Sebring can be had with either a soft or hard roof.

Chrysler’s Sebring Cabrio is chasing Volkswagen's Eos with value, space and V6 power

7 Mar 2008

CHRYSLER has swelled the ranks of four-seater convertibles with the Sebring Cabriolet.

Available now from $43,990, this is the American company’s answer to the Volkswagen Eos, Holden Astra TwinTop, Ford Focus coupe-convertible, Renault Megane CC and Peugeot 307 CC. It is also hoping to snare some Saab 9-3 Convertible sales.

However, the Sebring stands alone in that it brings to the topless table the choice of a fabric or a folding metal roof, depending on price.

The latter is a three-piece folding steel hard-top design. Known as the Limited, it kicks off from $51,490 and takes 30 seconds to erect.

This compares to the 27 seconds it takes for the one-piece black fabric version known as the Touring.

On both versions, the roof features a three-layer construction, serviceable rear glass window and an electric defroster. It latches automatically and is hidden underneath an electronically-operated hard tonneau cover.

Like the Eos, the front-wheel drive Sebring is a mix of small and medium-class car, offering palpably more interior space than most of the other chop-tops.

11 center imageBased on the mid-sized JS Sebring four-door sedan – Chrysler’s take on the transverse-engined GS platform co-devised with Mitsubishi Motors that also underpins a wide variety of other vehicles ranging from the latter’s CJ Lancer to the Jeep Patriot – the Sebring Cabrio is around 77mm longer than its donor vehicle, at 4930mm in length.

Interestingly, while sharing the same 2765mm wheelbase as the sedan, the soft-top’s height is 18mm shy of the 1500mm hard-top.

With the ability to carry two golf bags when the roof is retracted, cargo capacity is rated at 356 litres roof-up and 193 litres with it folded into the boot.

Chrysler uprated the Sebring body considerably, incorporating ultra high-strength steel in the cross-car beam for greater impact resistance.

High-strength steel is present in the reinforced sill tube, while there are two sets of cross-braces bolted to the underbody and dual-phase steel found in the rear rails and body tunnel.

Reinforcements were also wrought in the cabrio’s unique rear-seat bulkhead behind the rear seats and in the sills for added stiffness.

All up, compared to the previous Sebring convertible that we never saw in Australia, the JS Cabrio is said to be up to 2.5 times stiffer in twist and 1.5 times stiffer in bending.

Powering both Cabrios is Chrysler’s first V6/six-speed automatic gearbox combination for Australia.

Also just made available in the Sebring sedan as an option, it is a 2.7-litre double-overhead-cam 24-valve petrol unit delivering 137kW of power at 5500rpm and 256Nm of torque at 4000rpm.

Saddled with a hefty 1745kg (hard-top: 1785kg) of beefed-up body and chassis, the V6 sprints to 100km/h in 10.3 seconds, on its way to a 206km/h top speed.

Its combined fuel consumption cycle is 10.5L/100km (Urban: 15.2 Ex-urban: 7.7), while the Cabrio’s carbon-dioxide emissions are rated at 248g/km.

The suspension is independent all round, with MacPherson struts at the front and a multi-link rear, while the speed-proportional powered rack-and-pinion steering system allows for an 11.1-metre turning circle.

Standard features include ESP stability control, four-wheel disc brakes, anti-lock brakes with Hydraulic Brake Assist and traction control, dual front airbags, front-seat mounted side curtain airbags, a tyre pressure monitor, a powered driver’s seat, cruise control, an alarm, climate-control air-conditioning, an odour and stain-resistant cloth trim Chrysler calls YES Essentials and 17-inch alloy wheels.

Besides the folding metal hard-top, the Limited adds niceties like 18-inch alloys, Chrysler’s MyGIG multimedia touch-screen display, an uprated audio system, two-tone leather seats, tortoise shell-like trim and chrome accents, heated front seats and heated/cooled front cup-holders.

Chrysler says it has been a cabriolet pioneer, introducing one into the model mix in 1927, while it was also one of the first with a power-operated roof system for a convertible in 1939.

The JS Sebring Cabrio is built in Michigan, USA.

2008 Chrysler Sebring Cabrio pricing:
Touring (a) $43,990
Limited (a) $51,490

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