Sebring convertible could carve out a new audience

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Ready for some fun in the sun?

Check out Chrysler's new 2008 Sebring convertible.

There are three top options for the Sebring convertible -- the retractable hardtop, a cloth conventional top or a vinyl top. By June, you'll be able to pick your favorite.

The nice thing about the new model is that, with the top down, there's still some room for luggage or a couple of golf bags, which is not something you can say about some of this car's competitors.

The 2007 Chrysler Sebring convertible.
Click photo for larger image.

People riding in the new convertible will sit 2.5 inches higher than in the previous Sebring model, and the new car is 3.5 inches taller and more than two inches wider. The length is about three inches more than the sedan, which mostly has gone to provide more luggage room.

The convertible comes in three models -- Limited, Touring and Base -- and engine choices include a 173 horsepower, 2.4 liter four (23/31 mpg.); a 189 horsepower, 2.7 liter flex fuel V-6 (20/28); and a 235 horsepower, 3.5 liter V-6 (18/28) coupled to a six speed automatic.

The convertible has the same styling elements of the Sebring sedan: a streamlined look, Crossfire-style strakes down the hood, and of course, the familiar winged Chrysler emblem.

And if you prefer your top to stay up, the sedan is worth a look. The Sebring looks like nothing else on the road, and that's a good thing, because just about all the other family sedans look as though they came from the same mold.

It's got a fastback roof line, those familiar Chrysler Crossfire-like strakes across the hood, and a racy, hunkered down profile. The interior, too, has familiar Chrysler themes, which means sophisticated, tailored and different from what everybody else is doing.

The Sebring is likely not to be everybody's cup of tea, but then again, neither have any of the other success stories that Chrysler's had of late. I expect the Sebring to carve out a whole new audience of "fashion forward" buyers who are value oriented, but want to drive something that is not a block of cheese on wheels.

The base engine on the Sebring Sedan is a 172 horsepower 2.4 liter four. A 2.7 liter, 190 horsepower V-6 and 3.5 liter, 235 horsepower V-6 also are available. Estimated mileage for these engines is 23 mpg city and 31 highway.

The Sebring also has a lot of interesting technology, including a Harmon/Kardon information, entertainment and safety navigation audio system; heated/cooled cupholder; optional available rear-seat DVD/entertainment system; standard seat-mounted thorax air bags; standard side curtain air bags and low risk deployment air bags. An Electronic Stability Program and anti-lock brakes also are available.

Prices for the Sebring start at $18,995 and top out at $23,995.

The other new product for Chrysler is the Aspen, a full-sized SUV based on Dodge's Durango that is being billed as the "300 of SUVs."

That might be a bit of a stretch, but the Aspen does have a lot of the styling cues that are the hallmark of the 300. Chrysler also has managed to put in just enough styling differentiation between the Durango and the Aspen that buyers of the Aspen will not feel slighted.

Base price for the Aspen is $31,940 -- it tops out at $39,225.

The Aspen has room for up to eight and is powered by a 4.7 liter, V-8 engine. You also can get the well-known 5.7 liter Hemi V-8 engine.

The Aspen is distinguished by packages. It offers "E" and "J" packages with both coming in two-wheel and all-wheel drive versions.

Standard equipment includes side curtain air bags, second row 40/20/40 folding seat, two passenger third-row seat, power driver's seat, rear passenger heat and air conditioning system, mini trip computer with compass and outside temperature data and stain resistant fabric.

Stepping up to the "J" package offers a 60/40 third row seat, chrome wheels, reclining second row seats, running boards, leather seats, parking assist system, six disc audio system and Sirius satellite radio. Mileage figures were unavailable.



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