Since its introduction in 1995, the Chrysler Sebring convertible has set the standard for roomy and affordable top down driving. In fact, Chrysler has sold nearly a quarter million Sebring convertibles since then, making it North America’s best selling rag-top. Now, there’s a whole new Sebring in town, and with summer just around the corner, America’s favorite soft top is better than ever. How so, you say? Well let’s take a spin and find out.
While Chrysler will tell you that the 2001 Sebring Convertible is all-new from the inside out, it’s the exterior that quickly catches your attention first. More aerodynamic than last year, it trades that car’s Euro-retro style, for a smoother Chrysler-family look in line with its new Sebring sedan and coupe namesakes.
It rides on a stiffened platform, with the same 106-inch wheelbase and unique construction as last year, while the fully-lined power convertible top boasts a convenient new 4- window-down feature, that makes opening up to the sun a true one button operation and allows owners to show off the all-new interior.
The restyled instrument panel is much cleaner, with improved fit and finish. And in our Limited-grade test car, features stylish, electro luminescent gauges. The Limited also comes with two-tone leather trim on its plush, yet supportive 6-way power seats. Heat and ventilation are controlled by a trio of foolproof rotary switches. The sound system also has very user-friendly controls, but is set a bit low in the dash to easily use while driving. The standard CD changer is set really low, but its 4-disc capacity means that you can just load it and forget it. As with the previous Sebring Convertible, the 2001 model offers real rear seat room for two adults, plus 11.3 cubic-feet of trunk space.
At the other end of the Sebring ragtop is another big improvement, Chrysler’s new 2.7- liter, all-aluminum, twin-cam V6. Horsepower is up 19% to 200, and torque is up 13% to 192 pound-feet, compared to last year’s Mitsubishi V-6. A 4-speed automatic is standard, with Chrysler’s AutoStick manual shift part of the Limited package. Together they pull the front drive Sebring to 60 in 8.4 seconds. And through the 1/4 mile in 16.3 seconds at 87 miles-per-hour. That’s almost 3 seconds quicker than the ‘97 Sebring ragtop we tested. The new engine feels far more refined too, even under full throttle. Power builds consistently to the redline. Transmission shifts are slow, and a little abrupt, but gear ratios are perfectly tailored to the power curve.
A retuned short-and-long-arm suspension, makes the Sebring Convertible quite capable in corners. While the stiffest domestic convertible we’ve ever tried, there is still enough body flex to induce more front plow than we’d like. Soft springs allow plenty of body roll too. Still, the power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering responds quickly, and delivers good feedback. So, no sports car, but no slouch either.
The same goes for braking. 4-wheel discs with Chrysler’s new ABS Plus directional stability system produced stops from 60 averaging 135 feet. While a little long, they were dead straight, with pedal feel only deteriorating slightly as the pads heated up.
Out in the real world, we enjoyed the responsive drivetrain. Also, the body flex remained well hidden expect over very harsh bumps and broken pavement. Otherwise the Sebring is a smooth cruiser. And, that is what the Sebring Convertible is all about. Cruising, and being seen cruising.
Plus, the price for its sharp styling, one-touch top, refined drivetrain, and comfortable interior starts at only $24,995 for the base LX. The higher-content Lxi starts at $27,455, while our top-of-the-line Limited goes for $29,540.
With almost 250,000 examples already on the road, this open air Sebring is firmly established as America’s favorite drop-top. And with the arrival of this highly improved 2001 Chrysler Sebring Convertible, it looks unlikely to surrender that title for a long, sunny time to come.
Engine: 2.7- Liter Twin-cam V6
Torque: 192 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 8.4 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 16.3 Seconds @ 87 MPH
60-0 MPH: 135 Feet
EPA Mileage: 20 MPG City 28 MPG Highway