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car review

2008 Chrysler Sebring Convertible

Chrysler's Sebring Convertible got a makeover in 2008, and was available with either a hard or soft top.

Slightly longer, wider, and taller than its sedan counterpart, it also offered buyers a choice of either a vinyl or cloth soft-top, and all three automatically folded neatly away behind the back seat.

Three trim levels were available: LX, Touring and top-of-the-line Limited. The latter model featured a cloth top as standard, with the hardtop offered as an option. All three tops could be lowered via a remote key fob, or by pushing a dash-mounted switch. Deployment time was about 30 seconds, and the new Sebring Convertible was the only model in this market segment at the time that offered these three choices.

Interestingly, the hardtop was designed and supplied by German coach-builder Karmann, which shipped it to the Chrysler plant in Sterling Heights, Mich., where the convertible was assembled alongside the Dodge Avenger and Sebring sedan.

There were three engines to choose from: 2.4-litre four-cylinder, a 2.7-litre V-6 and a 3.5-litre V-6. The four-banger was the "world engine" co-built and used by Hyundai and Mitsubishi, while the smaller V-6 featured a Flex Fuel (E85) availability, and the larger V-6 came with a six-speed automatic transmission with Chrysler's Autostick manual shift feature. The two smaller engines were mated to a four-speed autobox. The Sebring Convertible was not a sports car, and the four-cylinder model, in particular, was a bit of a slug, but for the market it was competing in and the crowd it was aimed at, it was pretty much on target.

Equipment level was reasonably high, with all the basic ingredients for this market, including air conditioning, power door locks, power front seats, power windows, hard tonneau cover and six-speaker stereo with CD/DVD/MP3 capability.

As you moved up the model range, you could order all kinds of extras, including heated and cooled cup-holders, a rear-seat wind deflector, leather interior, electronic vehicle stability system and a MyGiG navigation/audio system made by Harmon-Kardon that features storage capacity for up to 1,600 songs. Chrysler enthusiastically boasted that, with this last feature, you could drive from Vancouver to Toronto playing the stereo and never hear the same song twice. For golfers, the trunk of the new Sebring Convertible accommodated two full sets of clubs with the top down – some 186 litres in total.

Transport Canada has no safety recalls on file for this vintage of the Sebring Convertible, but the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has four, and they apply to both sedan and convertible models. First up is a front airbag that may not deploy properly because of faulty seat track sensors; second is a possible problem with the front doors locking properly; third has to do with models equipped with the four-cylinder engine, which could leak coolant fluid and eventually lead to a fire; and the final recall concerns a possibly glitchy tire-monitoring system that could fail and result in the car stalling out.

NHTSA also has 13 technical service bulletins out there for this vintage of the Sebring convert. These range from a wonky gearshift lever, to the ubiquitous foggy headlight lenses, to transmission "shudder," to a rough idle with some models. Various issues with the transmission seem to be a fairly common problem with this vehicle.

That may explain why Consumer Reports gives the sedan version its lowest possible used-car prediction rating. The convert fares a little better, but is still rated below average for reliability. Some comments from owners: "Convertible top has malfunctioned twice in six months," "small trunk space," and "my favourite car ever purchased in over 45 years of buying cars."

Market research firm J.D. Power, meanwhile, has no data on the '08 Sebring Convertible, but the sedan version doesn't fare very well at all, with failing grades in virtually every area. The only part of the car that gets a decent grade is the powertrain quality design; otherwise, it's a below average rating for vehicle dependability from this organization.

From a base price of just less than $30,000 in 2008, the Sebring Convertible has dropped substantially in value. Prices these days range from about $12,000 to $15,000, which is quite a drop. A good deal or a good car to stay away from? Your call.

Tech specs

2008 Chrysler Sebring Convertible

Original Base Price: $29,995; Black Book: $11,875-$15,475; Red Book: $14,200-$14,700

Engine: 2.4-litre, inline-four/2.7-litre V-6/3.5-litre V-6

Horsepower/Torque: 173 hp/166 lb-ft for 2.4-litre four; 189 hp/191 lb-ft for 2.7-litre six; 235 hp/232 lb-ft for 3.5-litre six

Transmission: Four and six-speed automatic

Drive: Front-wheel

Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 10.3 city/6.9 highway (four-cylinder); regular gas

Alternatives: Ford Mustang Convertible, Volkswagen Eos, Pontiac G6, Toyota Solara