Review: 2002 Chrysler Sebring GTC Convertible

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SEE ALSO: Chrysler Buyer's Guide

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS

    Ah, the joys of a convertible. Put the top down and cruise 
through town or country with your friends or family. But, if you 
want to take more than one other person along, especially for any 
length of time, the list of choices gets pretty small. The Chrysler 
Sebring convertible has been the best-selling convertible in the 
country since 1996, and for good reason. It hold four people with 
more room than any other currently-available convertible, and goes 
for a very reasonable price. First sold in 1996, the Sebring 
convertible was extensively revised for 2001, with new styling and a 
new V6 engine with greater power and improved fuel economy. 
Chrysler is not resting on its laurels, though. A new and sportier 
model of the Sebring convertible recently made its debut.

    The new-for-2002 1/2 GTC is the sports model of the Sebring 
convertible lineup, featuring a specially-tuned suspension, sport-
oriented trim, and, most importantly for the enthusiast driver, a 
five-speed manual transmission that allows the driver to take the 
best advantage of the engine's willing performance. I've been 
driving one for the past week, and have thoroughly enjoyed it. The 
five-speed and slightly firmer suspension make it a pleasant touring 
car on any sort of road, and the quick-acting power top allows a 
wind-in-the-hair experience or weatherproof comfort as desired. 
It's comfortable, versatile, practical, and fun.

APPEARANCE: While it has the same general shape as the original 
Sebring convertible, the newest version is a little fresher and 
crisper. The 2001 redesign brought greater similarity in appearance to the Sebring 
coupe, convertible, and sedan, with the large oval 
Chrysler egg-crate grille and winged badge at the front of a well-
rounded nose. The convertible's rear panel was restyled, with more 
angular taillights. Despite the long passenger cabin and consequent 
large top, the Sebring convertible maintains its graceful look with 
the top up. The GTC has body-color side molding, unique alloy 
wheels, and a small spoiler at the rear edge of the trunk. 

 
COMFORT: The Sebring convertible has a major advantage over 
any competitor - just ask the two rear seat passengers. While there 
are other convertibles that are nominally four-seaters, their rear-seat 
occupancy can be best suited for as little time as possible, small 
children, or even luggage. In some cases, rear-seat occupancy 
qualifies as cruel and unusual punishment. Not in the Sebring. If the 
front seats are all the way back, rear passengers over five-and-a-half 
feet will be cramped, but that would take an NBA first-round draft 
pick in the front seat. Even with the top up, rear headroom is good. 
As in the previous version, top-down wind protection is very good, 
even in the rear seat. The power-operated fully-lined top can be 
raised or lowered quickly, with two latches being the only manual 
part of the operation. In GTC trim, the front seats are supportive 
manually-adjustable buckets. As in the original car, the shoulder 
straps anchor to the seat backs, easing entry for rear passengers. 
The 2+2 rear seat has a comfortable back angle, and the trunk is 
reasonably-sized. Upholstery is ``Ultrahide,'' a leatherette synthetic. 
Like the exterior, the second-generation Sebring convertible's 
interior is similar to its predecessor's, but freshened. The GTC has 
sporty-looking black-on-white instruments and faux carbon-fiber 
``pyramid weave'' trim on the instrument panel. Because few 
people, even convertible buyers, live in areas with perfect weather 
year `round, the Sebring convertible is designed to be a year-round 
only car, and so has an excellent heating and air conditioning 
system, a well-insulated, multi-layer top, and a heated, glass rear 
window. 

SAFETY: The second-generation Sebring convertible's unibody 
structure was redesigned for improved crashworthiness and control 
of impact energy. 

ROADABILITY: Last year's redesign also improved chassis 
rigidity, for more precise handling and a quieter ride. The Sebring 
convertible was designed from the start as a convertible, and is not 
a conversion from another car. Despite the large, open, passenger 
compartment, there is little cowl shake, even on less-than-perfect 
roads. All models share a fully-independent suspension, with double 
wishbones in front and a multilink system in the rear. Befitting its 
sports status, the GTC has a slightly firmer suspension tuning than 
other models. Like a European touring sedan, it's comfortably soft 
over rough roads but well-damped, for sporty handling. The 
Sebring convertible is a bit large and heavy to be a serious sports 
car, but excels at a moderately quick pace on a scenic road, 
especially with the top down. 

PERFORMANCE: A ``proper'' dual overhead cam engine gives 
the Sebring Convertible GTC sporting credentials, and the 2.7-liter 
 alloy V6 is a sweetheart of an engine, especially with the standard 
five-speed manual  transmission. (A four-speed automatic is 
available.) It has a reasonable amount of torque off the line, but, 
like many import sports powerplants, it must be revved for 
maximum effect. And it likes to spin, rewarding the driver with 200 
horsepower at 5800 rpm, 190 lb-ft of torque at 4850 rpm, and a 
classic six-cylinder sound. Good shift linkage adds to enjoyment. 
Keep the revs over 3000, keep the top down, and enjoy the 
convertible life.

CONCLUSIONS: Travel in sun, fun, and style with the 2002 
Chrysler Sebring GTC Convertible.

SPECIFICATIONS
2002 Chrysler Sebring GTC Convertible

Base Price			$ 25,250
Price As Tested		        $ 27,315
Engine Type			dual overhead cam aluminum alloy 
                                 24 valve V6
Engine Size			2.7 liters / 167 cu. in.
Horsepower			200 @ 5800 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			190 @ 4850 rpm
Transmission			5-speed manual (4-speed automatic 
                                  available)
Wheelbase / Length		106.0 in. / 193.7 in.
Curb Weight			3452 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower	        17.3
Fuel Capacity			16 gal.
Fuel Requirement		87 octane unleaded regular
Tires				P205/60 TR16 Goodyear Eagle LS
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / solid disc,
                                 antilock available
Suspension, front/rear		independent double wishbone / 
                                  independent multilink
Drivetrain			front engine, front-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		20 / 27 / 22
0 to 60 mph				8.5 sec (est.)

OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Inferno Red-tinted pearl coat color			$ 200
Cold Weather Group - includes battery and
 engine block heaters					$  40
Security Group - includes security alarm, sentry key
 theft-deterrent system, power automatic central
 locking						$ 195
Audio system - includes AM/FM/cassette/4-disc
 in-dash CD changer					$ 250
Infinity speakers with 150-watt amplifier		$ 475
Smoker's Group (ashtray)				$  30
Full-size spare tire with matching wheel		$ 250
Destination charge					$ 625
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