by Matthew Wilson
Chrysler is very good at making comebacks. It's also equally talented in getting into the kinds of situations that eventually require miraculous comebacks. This time is different they say, and I believe them. Give them some credit, especially when considering the sorry condition the entire lineup was in before, there was only so much that could be done short of complete redesigns (the 300 sedan is an exception).
The 2011 Chrysler Sebring...wait, no, sorry, Chrysler 200 convertible is undoubtedly an improvement over the old model because, let's face it, it couldn't get much worse. And while designers and engineers at Chrysler did a commendable job of, amongst other things, renaming it, the 200 convertible is still an overall disappointment. Although the sheetmetal has been restyled with a much more toned-down appearance with the new Chrysler logo proudly displayed up front, too many design remnants of the Sebring remain.
Admittedly, the all-new interior is a pleasant place to be, with much higher quality black soft-touch materials and bits of chrome trim. Unlike before, there's now padding in the appropriate places, such as the door panels and console. Still, it's hard to call something an improvement when this interior should have been here all along with the Sebring. Two trim levels are offered, Touring and Limited. Starting off at $27,195, the Touring includes cloth seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and driver and front passenger six-way power seats.
With a $31,990 base price, the Limited has leather upholstery, heated front seats, Bluetooth, remote starter, and an upgraded Boston Acoustics sound system. There's also a nav system that can be fitted with the Garmin-based nav system. And unlike before, there's actually a decent engine available under the hood. Limited models come standard (a $1,795 option on the Touring) with the automaker's new 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 with 283 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. Without a doubt, the engine is the best part about the entire car.
It's smooth, quick acceleration allows drivers to experience a proper and modern V6 with decent fuel economy, rated at 19/29 mpg city/highway. The base engine is the old 2.4-liter four cylinder that produces 173 hp and 166 lb-ft of torque, and yet manages to return slightly worse fuel economy than the V6, at 18/29 mpg. Best advice: avoid this and opt for the V6. Both engines are mated to a decent six-speed automatic transmission. The V6 goes from 0 to 62 mph in about 7 seconds and the four banger does it in 9.1 seconds.
Remember, you're not going to break any speed records in a Sebring...damn, did it again, a 200 convertible. The second best part (there are only two) about the car is the folding top. There's a choice of either a fabric or steel roof, with the latter costing an extra $1,995. Although it adds an additional 61 pounds to the total weight, we prefer the steel roof simply because it looks nicer with its more upscale appearance. Lowering time is a respectable 30 seconds (27 for the softtop) and there's enough trunk roof left that Chrysler claims is enough for two golf bags.
There's also a folding wind blocker (optional on the Touring) over the rear seats. When the top is raised, sound-deadening materials work well to make the interior very quiet, even at highway speeds. Comebacks aside, the 2011 Chrysler 200 convertible is an improvement over its pathetic predecessor. However, considering that a.) each trim doesn't come cheap b.) it still looks like a Sebring despite the exterior restyling and c.) it still looks like a Sebring, it'll be best to wait for a successor (sometime in 2013).
Granted, the new Pentastar V6 is a great engine, but that's still not enough to make the Sebring worthy of a new name. Simply put, the Chrysler 200 convertible is just a better rental car than it was before.