The cars we loved.
The 90’s was a relatively good time for Chrysler. It had cars that people actually wanted to buy at all ends of the spectrum. Somewhere between the cheekiness of the Neon and the audacious Viper was the Sebring Convertible. Built on a mashup of the JA and JX platforms, it had no body panels or interior bits in common with similar cars like the Eclipse based Sebring Coupe and Stratus/Cirrus sedan twins.
Although minimal parts were shared among Chrysler products, the Sebring JXi convertible used a 2.5L V6 engine from Mitsubishi’s parts bin. Base JA models used another Mitsubishi engine a 2.4L from the convertible Eclipse. The mutation of the JA platform meant that there was more room for a less restrictive intake manifold resulting in slightly more power than the coupe with the same V6 engine. At nearly 3500lbs in JXi trim, the 167 hp Sebring convertible was no rocket, needing about 10 seconds to get to 60 mph.
Going fast was not the Sebring Convertible’s mission anyway. Most are spotted cruising the boulevard, often with back seat passengers as the car moved at parade float speeds. The softly sprung almost roomy four seat convertible was mostly a looks proposition. It offered considerable value and style to boot, making BMW and Mercedes owners look twice. Inside the familiar looking Chrysler dashboard gives it away, but to their credit, the execution was one of the better of the time. The large comfortable front seats were very Mercedes like with their built- in seatbelts. This was clearly a car to be seen in top down.
The Sebring cut a sleek profile, top up or down. Despite being a $25k car, it had the look of a far more costly machine (from a distance). An enormously popular seller, it replaced the equally popular Lebaron Convertible. Even in base trim, the Sebring was regal looking, which might explain its popularity as a rental car upgrade option. In top JXi trim, it featured 16 in wheels and all-season tires at a Chrysler sport coupe standard of 215/55.
Despite the low profile rubber, gripping the road was never the Sebring’s strong point. An independent (unequal-length) upper and lower control arm suspension kept the car grounded in all but the most aggressive parking lot maneuvers. Originally equipped with front disc and rear drums, the brakes would get an optional upgrade to disc all around. Light steering with little road feel was the hallmark of the boulevard cruising convertible. Despite being named for a racetrack, the A smooth shifting 4-speed automatic was the sole shifting option in the JXi (a five speed manual was standard in the base models).
Even with a manual the Sebring made no pretensions to being sporty, that was what the Avenger was for. It just looked good and looking good was what it was all about for the Sebring’s buyers who Chrysler said were 60% female. The popularity of the Sebring convertible (and coupe) seemed to drop off with a update in 2001. The Sebring’s descending popularity seemed to parallel Chrysler’s problems in general. The Sebring convertible survives today, but is not nearly as popular as it was in its first generation heyday.