1998 Chrysler Sebring Reviews and Ratings

Convertible 2D JX

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1998 Chrysler Sebring
Kevin Ransom

The Chrysler Sebring JX convertible definitely knows how to make a splash.

Ever since it was rolled out for the 1996 model year, the Sebring convertible's elegantly handsome lines,

twinkle-toed road manners and easy, push-button retractible top have made it one of the most popular convertibles

in America.

Never a company to take success for granted, Chrysler not only tweaked the base-level JX and midline

JXi for '98--it also introduced a new luxury model: the Sebring Convertible Limited.

The Limited offers many luxury-line features as standard equipment, including chrome-plated cast-aluminum

wheels, "Rose Zebrano" woodgrain interior accents, a beige-and-agate inside color scheme with perforated

leather-trim seats, a padded console armrest, electro-luminescent lighting on the instrument cluster and

special "Limited" exterior badges.

For the record, the Chrysler Sebring JX convertible is not a soft-cover version of the Sebring LX coupe.

In fact, they're not even the same car--they share only a nameplate and an engine box. The Sebring LX coupe

is descended from the Mitsubishi Galant sedan platform, while the Sebring JX convertible was spawned from

Chrysler's Cirrus/Stratus platform. The Sebring JX convertible shares an engine and instrument panel with the


The Sebring JX ragtop replaced the stalwart LeBaron convertible that Chrysler retired in 1996. From the early

'80s through the mid-'90s, the LeBaron convertible sold briskly, even though it lacked pep and suffered from

uninspired styling. Like the LeBaron, the Sebring ragtop is a true, by-design convertible, although sleeker and

more muscular.

Besides the introduction of the Limited, and some new equipment options and cosmetic touches on the JX and

JXi, the '98 Sebring convertible is mostly, and wisely, unchanged from the '97 model. Walkaround
We tested the mid-line JXi model. Although the JXi is more bountifully appointed, the Sebring convertible is

so sharp that it almost seems insulting to describe the JX as the base model. The paint job on our JXi test

model--a purplish-black color called Deep Amethyst Pearl--was darkly elegant.

Improvements for '98 include a new engine mounting system, new ignition key lock for added security and a

refined anti-lock braking system (standard on the JXi, optional on the JX), with an optional traction-control

system. The JX offers new wheel covers, while the JXi sports new cast aluminum wheels, plus gold badges and wheel


The Sebring JXi's sculpted corners give it an eye-catching but dignified European look--unlike the wedge-shaped

Sebring LX coupe and aggressive Dodge Avenger. Indeed, in some ways, its Teutonic-inspired lines suggest a Mercedes

450 SL. The Sebring's narrow, compact grille, its sloping, smartly contoured hood and its squinty headlights give

it an imposingly self-assured visage.

The Sebring's firmly-mounted retractable top is a snug fit, and is attractively decorated with a glass light

in back. Its trunk space is commodious for a convertible, with enough space for six shopping bags and a medium-sized


Including the $545 destination charge, our JXi test model had a base price of $25,575. It was equipped with

such options as the 2.5-liter, 24-valve 6-cylinder engine ($800); the AutoStick transmission--an automatic that can

be shifted like a stick shift ($150); an Infinity stereo system with cassette, CD player, 150-watt amplifier,

premium speakers and graphic equalizer ($340); and a $175 luxury convenience package that consisted of a HomeLink

garage door opener integrated into the driver's side visor and an inside rearview mirror with the day/night feature.

The total price was $26,660. Interior
Standard equipment on the base Sebring JX convertible includes: dual airbags, air conditioning, vinyl

convertible top (fabric on our upmarket JXi test model), rear defroster, tinted glass, front bucket seats,

tilt steering column, map pockets, power windows and heated exterior mirrors.

The Sebring may also be ordered with a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine, the AutoStick transmission (on the

optional 2.5-liter V6), an enhanced theft alarm, an optional electrochromic rearview mirror, a trip computer

with compass (JXi), and the addition of trunk-unlock and panic-alarm modes for the optional keyless remote entry


We loved the retractible top's ease of operation. Chrysler designers have spared us the agony of having to

pore over an owner's manual and wade through a painfully sequential list of instructions. Instead, you can retract

the Sebring JX's top by pressing a single power switch. (You'll need to flip two windshield latches first.) So,

if you're caught in sudden cloudburst, you can raise the top while sitting at a stoplight.

Once lowered, the top can be tucked under a boot that fastens with Velcro tabs. And when it's time to

raise the top--by simply pressing the "up" button--the front-seat windows automatically slide down a few inches

allowing them to align properly with the top.

The seatbelts are height-adjustable, and are deftly integrated into the back of the front bucket seats--to

prevent rear-seat passengers from tripping over them when climbing in and out. The seats are supportive and quite

comfortable. Driving Impressions
Our Sebring JXi was powered by the optional 2.5-liter, 168-hp V6. The V6 was so nimble that we don't think

our sportier side would be happy with the standard 2.4-liter, 150-hp four-banger. Besides being smaller, the

four-cylinder engine is inherently noisier. After all, if you're in the market for a sporty convertible, you

shouldn't short-change yourself in the powerplant department. The extra $800 for the V6 will be money well


The AutoStick--for a scant $150--is also recommended. With the AutoStick, you can manually upshift or

downshift by sliding the shift lever down, and then to the left or right. It's fun to operate on winding

roads and in the mountains. Shift up early to save gas, shift up late for maximum acceleration.

The extra oomph of the V6--and the quicker response offered by the AutoStick--came in handy in critical

passing situations. The Sebring JXi accelerates quickly from a dead dig, but fades a bit in the homestretch:

it took more than 10 seconds to go from 0 to 60 mph.

On the downside, the Sebring JXi suffers from some engine noise. Whether accelerating from a dead stop or

punching it on the freeway, the engine raises a ruckus. And, of course, a ragtop doesn't filter out road noise

the way a hard top would.

On the up-side, the taut suspension kept body roll to a minimum in hairpin-turns and the power rack-and-pinion

offered precise steering response allowing us to handle these maneuvers without worry.

If you're a real convertible enthusiast--and, in our hearts, aren't we all?--you know there's nothing like

cruising along a twisting, tree-lined road with the top down. We like the Sebring's clean, aerodynamic body lines.

Based on our experience, it's a great car for enjoying the pastoral pleasures of a rural road on a sunny day.

The Sebring's smart windshield design provided unblocked sight lines in all directions. And our heads were

subjected to minimal wind buffeting. Summary
The svelte styling of the Sebring JXi--and the prowess of its V6--make it one of the most fun-to-drive

convertibles on the market. Those factors, plus its rear-seat roominess and crisp handling, have given the

Sebring JXi a strong toehold in the U.S. sporty-convertible market.

Historically, domestic-ragtop buyers gravitated to the Chevy Camaro and Ford Mustang convertibles. That

market is no longer a two-horse race. Based on its gangbusters sales performance for the past two years, the

Sebring ragtop should be enticing soft-top buyers for years to come.

Model as tested
Sebring JXi
Basic Warranty
Assembled in
Toluca, Mexico
Destination charge
Gas guzzler tax
Base Price
Price as tested
Options as tested
V6 engine, AutoStick transmission, integrated universal-transmitter garage door opener, premium sound system w/cassette, CD player, amplifier and equalizer.

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
Safety equipment (standard)
Dual airbags
Safety equipment (optional)
168 hp 2.5-liter sohc 24v V-6
4-speed AutoStick automatic

Specifications as Tested
ABS, air conditioning, power top (cloth), glass rear window w/defogger, tinted glass, AM/FM/cassette stereo, front bucket seats, tilt steering column, leather-wrapped wheel, power windows, power locks, heated power mirrors, aluminum alloy wheels, six-way power driver's seat, floor mats, illuminated vanity mirrors, theft alarm

Engine & Transmission
168 hp 2.5-liter sohc 24v V-6
Drivetrain type
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
150 @ 5200
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)

Brakes, front/rear
Suspension, front
Suspension, rear

Seating capacity
Head/hip/leg room, middle
Head/hip/leg room, front
Head/hip/leg room, rear

Fuel capacity
Trunk volume
Turning circle
Towing capacity
Track, front/rear
Ground clearance
Curb weight

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