BY ANDY ENRIGHT
Some people get a real kick out of owning something their friends won't have. True exclusivity comes when an in demand item is manufactured in tiny quantities. Values skyrocket and it becomes a real collector's item. The other tactic is to sell tiny quantities of something nobody really asked for in the first place. Valuations will slump and you'll wonder why you bothered. We're still scratching our heads and wondering why Chrysler decided to import fifty left hand drive Sebring Cabrios in a period between summer 2001 and 2002. The good news is that used buyers can now get a big hunk of car for citycar prices.
Models Covered: Chrysler Sebring - (Two door convertible 2.7 petrol [LX])
Some cars make absolutely no sense at all when new but come good second (or third) time around. The Sebring is just such a model. Introduced in July 2001 as a specialist interest vehicle, it was lumbered with an asking price of £22,995, featured a thirsty petrol engine just when diesel was taking off and you had to sit on the wrong side. As a case study in launching a flop it could barely be bettered. As expected, Chrysler dealers had to resort to some drastic price cutting measures to sell all fifty of them. These days, there are even less plying our roads as I know of one that ended up in the water at Southampton docks and was consequently written off. Exclusivity doesn't usually come cheap but in the Sebring's case we'll make an exception.
What You Get
The Sebring Cabrio provides full seating for four adults, a relatively spacious luggage compartment and a well engineered electrically powered soft top. Designed from the ground up as a true cabriolet, the Sebring features very generous levels of standard equipment. The sole LX specification includes air conditioning, cruise control, six-way power driver's seat, power assisted steering, electric windows, remote control central locking, full leather trim, 16-inch alloy wheels, CD player and a 150-watt sound system. The design of the dash is a trifle old fashioned, the plastics quality reminiscent of the sort of hire car you'd schlep away from LAX in but there are a lot of buttons to prod. When new, the Sebring featured the largest boot in its class with a handily low loading sill. The fully insulated power operated hood has a glass heated rear window and can be raised or lowered with one touch of a button. Holding the button in place also lowers all four side windows. Although the styling looks a little odd (especially in profile) the Sebring is one of the best convertibles around if you genuinely need to seat four fully grown adults.
What You Pay
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What to Look For
With a lot of electronic functions, it's well worth checking that everything is working. The engine is a relatively unstressed 2.7-litre V6 that generates 200bhp. The four-speed auto box is also trouble free, although it's well worth inspecting the hood and seats for signs of discolouration as the trim is very pale and marks up easily with stains being difficult to get rid of. The alloy wheels tended to be protected from the worst kerbing damage by bulbous tyres. Check the CV joints for signs of wear and tear.
(Based on a 2001 Sebring Cabrio LX - approx excl VAT) A replacement clutch assembly will be about £345. A new starter motor retails at around £275, a radiator is around £460 and a replacement headlamp will cost you around £195.
On the Road
Let's not beat about the bush. This is no focused driver's car. Instead, the Sebring Cabrio is a very easy cruiser, wafting about gently on an engine that serves up a healthy 262Nm of torque. You'll need to rev the engine quite hard to make progress as peak power arrives at a nosebleed 5,900rpm, but that's hardly the point. Start driving the Sebring hard and you'll find that the steering, brakes and body control aren't really up to the demands of fast road driving. Instead it's a great place to drop the hood, crank the stereo up and just relax. In case you were interested in the figures, it'll reach a top speed of 131mph and will get to 60mph in 9.5 seconds. Fuel consumption is a so-so 26.6mpg on the combined cycle, although as touched on before, this is one of those cars that feels better the more gentle you are with the major controls.
The Sebring isn't going to be for everyone and even tracking down a used example might take some diligence and no little patience. Buyers will be rewarded with an unusual and surprisingly likeable big convertible that's a welcome antidote to most performance-obsessed rivals. If you like demon cornering, high quality plastics or widespread spares availability, this may not be your bag. Otherwise, give it a go.