The 2007 redesign of the Chrysler Sebring produced mixed results, and the car was far from compelling.
If you drove one, it was probably a rental. But Chrysler overhauled the Sebring for 2011, renaming it the Chrysler 200.
Wherever you look, the improvements are noticeable. They include a new V-6 engine, upgrades to the interior and a suspension that enhances both comfort and handling. Most people buy the sedan, but for this review, Chrysler loaned us a 200 Limited retractable hardtop convertible.
Wind-in-the-hair and sun worshippers may opt for either a Touring or Limited model.
Touring buyers can take a 173-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission or step up to the new 283-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 engine that is standard in the Limited. Both Limited and Touring models have a folding fabric roof, but Limited buyers can go for the optional $1,995 retractable hardtop, which was on our review car.
“Most people take the soft top,” says Stewart Gilling, sales manager at Mitchell Chrysler-Dodge-Ram in Simsbury. “They like the contrast in color,” he adds. “With the retractable hardtop, if you have a red car the roof is red. If the car is black, the roof is black. With the soft top, you can mix and match.”
The new 3.6-liter V-6 is both powerful and smooth. Acceleration is brisk with 60 miles per hour arriving in 6.5 seconds. Shifts from the six-speed automatic are usually indiscernible, but with some driving styles, can be noticeable, though not unsettling.
The six-speed automatic had a lockup mode while in sixth gear that occurred around 53 miles per hour. This dropped the engine speed from 2,000 to 1,500 RPM and allowed fuel economy to soar, easily shattering the EPA highway rating of 29 miles per gallon. With care, we reached the 32 miles per gallon. Overall, we averaged 25 miles per gallon.
“I’m having fun with the 3.6,” Gilling said. “Two-hundred-eighty-three horsepower; that’s more than enough.”
The ride in the Limited, with its 18-inch wheels and low profile tires is jittery over broken surfaces. It’s busier than in the sedan with 17-inch wheels, but not disturbingly so.
The interior of the 200 is improved. The front seats are roomy enough for the six-foot crowd. The back seat is designed for two passengers, but is cramped. Without cooperation from the front seat occupants, there is not enough leg room for average adults.
The trunk is surprisingly roomy when you fold forward the panel that defines the area the retracted roof will occupy. Doing this disables the power top mechanism and provides 13.1 cubic feet of cargo room.
The first retractable hardtop Sebring convertible I tried was prone to rattles, but with the top up, the 200 felt nearly as tight as a hardtop coupe.
“The vehicle is solid; the performance is unbelievable,” Gilling says.
Chrysler 200 Convertible: Starts at $26,445
Engines: 2.4-liter four with 173 hp and 166 lb-ft of torque; 3.6-liter
V-6 with 283 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque.
EPA 2.4 6-speed automatic 20/31.
3.6-liter V-6 is rated 19/29.