Just as the 2011 Chrysler 200 sedan represents a quantum improvement over its Sebring predecessor, the same deal applies with the convertible version. From fresh sheetmetal to a new chassis, there has been some hard work and long hours put in to eradicate the memory of the Sebring Convertible.
It starts with the styling. The grille has been reshaped to help form a family look established by the bigger 2011 300 sedan. The side mirrors perform a similar aesthetic function, while a bright chrome bar now adorns a re-sculpted rear. The roof is either fabric or a folding hard top.
After pushing a button and waiting up to 30 seconds, that roof is retracted, opening up to a cabin where quality materials create a pleasing dash and center console. With the wind deflector up, it is still possible to have a conversation at highway speeds, albeit at the kind of volume level where each speaker is in a separate room.
Accommodation is generous for four adults, something not often said about a convertible. Those comfortable seats give a good indication to the 200 Convertible’s demeanor – they don’t provide a whole lot of lateral support, the kind of thing that’s invaluable when taking corners at a lick. That’s because the 200 Convertible tends to resist a driver’s efforts to get enthusiastic through the S-bends.
This front-drive machine is set up to gripe rather than grip through a turn, washing wide of the desired line and prompting an easing off of the throttle. This is something of a shame since the version with Chrysler’s new 3.6-liter V6 makes a healthy 238 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque without apparent effort. For a boulevard cruise or freeway jaunt, suspension and engine work together in sweet harmony. And that six-speed automatic transmission chimes in to help achieve 19 mpg in the city, 29 mpg on the highway.
The gearbox is programmed to reach its upper ratios as soon as possible, to aid fuel consumption. Trouble is, there’s too much of a gap between third and fourth. Using the shift lever in manual selection mode brings this more to light. Change down from fourth and the revs go up an embarrassing amount, as if two steps were taken by mistake. There should really be another gear in the mix.
The other engine option is found in the entry-level 200 Convertible, a 2.4-liter four that seems to struggle when producing its 173 hp and 166 lb-ft of torque. Comparing fuel consumption figures – 18 and 29 mpg, city/highway for the 2.4 – the far superior and no thirstier V6 makes a better choice.
Pricing starts at $27,195 (including destination) for the Touring and $31,990 for the V6-powered Limited.
The old Sebring Convertible seemed to find its natural home among rental fleets. The 200 Convertible will still be a friend of Hertz, Avis, et al, since it offers open-top driving for four at vacation-friendly costs – as well as decent trunk space with the roof down – but the new car has enough substance to make more of a case for private buyers.