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First and Second-Gen Chrysler Sebring Drop-Tops Need More Love, but the Third Was a Dud
Here on Open Top Month at autoevolution, we looked at an innovative limited-production dual cowl Chrysler convertible from the late 1940s that represented the arguable technological peak of the company. Never again would Chrysler stand alone as building the most advanced automobile on the road.

First and Second-Gen Chrysler Sebring Drop-Tops Need More Love, but the Third Was a Dud

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In fact, it was only going to go downhill from there. Slowly, painfully, and at times with blatant disregard for what American drivers truly wanted to buy. A classic case in point? Look no further than the early-2000s Chrysler Sebring Convertible. A drop-top so forgettable, we bet you totally forgot it exists in our mortal realm. Rest assured, you weren't missing much.

But is that really an honest assumption? One would assume that the Sebring convertible is a complete wet noodle in both of its two generations. At least, that's if you took just a passing glance. The Sebring never attempted to be a sports car, nor was it really marketed as one. But with the top down and the wind in your hair, is room for an exception in the cards?.

Well, believe it or not, the late-model Sebring coupe manages to have its fans after all. Two of the most prominent are Brian and Roman of Regular Car Reviews. Roman especially said he was prepared to rake the poor car over the coals for being a certified "lol, Chrysler" moment. But they stopped well short of doing so. Instead, they both praised its virtues as a reasonably comfortable and surprisingly competant highway cruiser GT car with room for four adults. So then, an old-school ragtop must only add on as a positive.

The first generation Sebring Convertible hit American streets in 1996, a full year after the Sebring coupe introduced the moniker to the U.S. Domestic Market. It replaced an outgoing LeBaron convertible that truly was the Chrysler at its worst disaster people assumed the Sebring was. Interestingly, the Sebring coupe and convertible in their respective first generations shared no parts in common. Instead, the drop-top was a Chrysler Cirrus sedan with its roof lopped off.

To make things needlessly confusing, the Cirrus and Sebring convertible was sold in various parts of Europe under the Stratus name borrowed from the USDM Dodge Stratus. With every Sebring convertible from this time originating in Chrysler's Mexican production line, special Mexican market examples could be had with its 2.5-liter, four-pot engine turbocharged. The U.S. had to settle with a non-turbo variant of the same engine or a fuel-hungry 2.5-liter 6G73 V6.

Moving onto the second generation Sebring, we find the convertible made its way over to the new millennium. This time around, it was the Sebring coupe and sedan's turn to be derived from some other platform. This time around, a Mitsubishi Eclipse. Meanwhile, the convertible found itself derived from an updated variant of the JR-platform Chrysler Cirrus. This time around, a stronger 2.7-liter V6 engine replaced the outdated 2.5-liter unit. All alongside a slew of turbo and non-turbo inline four-cylinder engines.

With as many as seven different trim levels between Europe and North America, there was a strong fanbase for the platform in countries like Germany and Great Britain, especially the convertibles. Owners there no doubt lauded the smooth and laid-back driving experience of this American barge to be nothing like the standard Euro fare that people across the pond are subjected to daily. You know, the endless Audis, BMWs, and Mercs.

Roman of RCR once said if the second-gen Sebring had a less floppy chassis and a nicer engine, it could have been a legitimate sports car. But the same can't be said for the third-generation Sebring. Ladies and gentlemen, if you want to see everything wrong with Chrysler, look no further. Slow, unreliable, and with less refinement than an early 2000s Camry, the 2008 launch date for the platform might have been palatable had it taken place five or so years prior.

Not to mention, the third-gen Sebring in its lower trim convertible form came rocking the infamous 2.4-liter World engine in the U.S., while European sedans got a neat two-liter Volkswagen diesel engine, among other choices. Sure, the top-of-the-line Sebring LX convertible may have come with a 3.5-liter V6 engine jetting 234 horsepower.

But a lack of overall refinement compared to its European and JDM rivals made this American offering seem undesirable. The plastic-riddled interior alone was enough to be trounced by even an early-model Honda S2000's interior. Not that the Sebring in any of its forms was meant to be anywhere near that sporty. Being styled like the Mercedes-assisted Crossfire sports car didn't do anything to change that. 

So then, the third and final act may not have been much to write home about. But we can at least deduce that the first two generations of the Sebring Convertible don't deserve nearly as much flack as it sees. If you ask us, it has a lot more to do with bias than it does costs, facts, and figures. 

They do at least have their virtues. So the next time you find yourself scoffing at an Sebring drop-top, at least make sure it's a third-gen. The earlier two just aren't worth your scorn. 

Check back soon for more from Open Top Month here on autoevolution. 



 
 
 
 
 

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