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Sebring convertible a perfect match for the sunshine

(May 14, 2009) - Only two hours by car from Los Angeles, Palm Springs has long been a favourite get-away destination for the stars.

  • transportation, business, shopping and ownership concept - customer and salesman shaking hands outside

(May 14, 2009)

Only two hours by car from Los Angeles, Palm Springs has long been a favourite get-away destination for the stars.


Hollywood's finest have had off-season and weekend retreats in this desert playground since the 1920s, drawn by the beautiful weather, the mountain views and the small town atmosphere.


Since then, Palm Springs has also become a winter haven for thousands of sun-starved snowbirds from the northern states and Canada.


What makes Palm Springs so desirable as a winter destination is the sunshine– the valley community averages 350 days of sun a year. While it may be cool, windy and foggy in Los Angeles, only two hours away in Palm Springs the weather is likely sunny and warm.


The lush flower gardens, manicured greenery, and palm trees in the valley during the winter months sit in stark contrast to the snow-capped mountain peaks off in the distance.


In fact, Big Bear Mountain ski resort in the San Bernadino Mountains is less than an hour away. Visitors to the area can frolic on the slopes while enjoying the warmth and sunshine in Palm Springs.


My wife and I fell in love with the Coachella Valley three years ago on our first visit and have made it our mid-winter getaway destination ever since.


Of course, with all that sunshine, a convertible is the car of choice among residents and visitors alike and our 2009 Chrysler Sebring Convertible test car fit right in with the crowd. Almost every other car you see on the streets is a convertible and the Sebring is at or near the top of the popularity scale along with older Mercedes models and Ford Mustangs.


For anyone contemplating a convertible, our test car was equipped with a retractable hardtop, which is offered as an option. A cloth, folding top is standard.


If you want a car for all for seasons, this is the way to go. It has the looks and feel of a coupe for the cold weather months and it transforms into a convertible in only a matter of seconds.


Volkswagen and Volvo also offer similar retractable hardtops in the Eos and C70 models, but at a higher price than the Sebring.


The Sebring Convertible is available in three trim levels with some great prices being offered these days– the LX starts at $20,495 with a 173 hp 2.4-litre I-4 engine, the Touring at $24,295 with a 189 hp 2.7-litre V6 and the Limited at $31,695 with a 235 hp 3.5-litre V6. The first two come with a four-speed automatic transmission, while the Limited's V6 comes with a six-speed automatic with Auto Stick.


Our top-of-the-line Limited tester was dressed in an attractive Inferno Red Crystal Pearlcoat, while the interior featured beige and cream colours–a great combination.


Luckily, our trip coincided with the second-annual Desert Classic Concours d'Elegance, held the first Sunday in March.


While our wives lazed around the pool, my friend Bob and I trotted off to this fabulous classic car show with about 140 collectible automobiles on hand this year under warm and sunny skies at the palm-tree lined O'Donnell Golf Course.


The vehicles came from all across the country, with many fetching price tags of $1 million and more. In fact, one car, which organizers refused to identify, was valued at up to $20 million.


Tourism officials in Palm Springs describe the community as a "desert oasis with a cosmopolitan twist." The Desert Classic Concours is just one example of that with Italian, French, German and British cars joining their American counterparts for show of high-end automobiles.


While Palm Springs is the best known city in the Coachella Valley, the greater Palm Springs area is made up of a number communities such as Cathedral City, Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage and La Quinta, to name a few.


During our trip we experienced both city and highway environments with the Sebring. With the larger of the two V6 engines under the hood, our tester had more than enough power for merging into traffic on high-speed freeways in and around Los Angeles.


With the top up, the trunk is spacious enough to hold four golf bags, although two big suitcases just fit with a bit of pushing and pulling. With the top down, trunk space is compromised with room for two golf bags.


The power-operated folding top (either cloth or painted steel) is a snap to operate with an automatic latching system that makes life easy. The Touring and Limited models feature a remote top-down operation with the push of a button on the key fob. Once the top is retracted, a hard plastic tonneau cover slips down to conceal the top.


Fuel ratings for the 3.5-litre V6 automatic are 12.9L/100 km (22 mpg) and 7.4L/100 km (38 mpg) highway.


The price is an attractive feature these days and the retractable hardtop (a $2,400 option) adds a touch of practicality for anyone wanting a car for all seasons.


AT A GLANCE


CHRYSLER SEBRING 2009 CONVERTIBLE


BODY STYLE: two-door convertible.


DRIVE METHOD: front engine, front-wheel drive.


ENGINES: 2.4-litre four cylinder 16-valve DOHC (173 hp, 166 lb/ft) with four-speed automatic; 2.7-litre 24-valve DOHC V6 (186 hp, 191 lb/ft) with four-speed automatic; 3.5-litre SOHC 24-valve V6 (235 hp, 232 lb/ft) with six-seed automatic.


FUEL ECONOMY: 2.4-litre– 10.3L/100 km (27 mpg) city, 6.9L/100 km (41 mpg) highway; 2.7-litre– 11.7 L/100 km (24 mpg) city, 7.6L/100 km (37 mpg) highway; 3.5-litre– 12.9L/100 km (22 mpg) city; 7.4L/100 km (38 mpg) highway.


PRICE: LX $20,495; Touring $25,295; Ltd $31,695.


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