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Sebring Sedan (above)

Sebring Coupe

2001 Chrysler Sebring Sedan & Coupe Road Tests
A tale of two Sebrings

Similar in some aspects, the Chrysler Sebring Sedan and Sebring Coupe offer somewhat different driving experiences.

By Bill Roebuck

If the heritage of the Sebring name brings you into a Chrysler dealership to check out the all-new 2001 models bearing that nameplate, you may be in for a surprise. The Sebring sisters -- the Sedan and the Coupe -- are more like stepchildren than blood relatives. The sedan is a Chrysler-designed and -built four door, while the coupe is built by Mitsubishi. Both are assembled in the United States. Despite the identical nameplate and similar design cues, these two models deliver somewhat different driving experiences. To read a review of the Sebring Convertible, click here.

In a nutshell, the mid-size sedan is comfortable, competent and roomy, while the compact-size coupe is sporty, youthful and more fun to drive, although a bit less roomy inside. Just what you'd expect.

If you like the Sebrings and can't decide which one to get, you could justify one of each for your family. The sedan could be driven by mom or dad, and the coupe by the family's young driver. Then when the sibling starts a family, possibly coinciding with the time a parent has a mid-life crisis, they can switch cars -- the parent to the sporty, fun coupe, and the protégé to the capacious family-oriented sedan. Both can still boast they drive a Sebring, but they can choose the one that best suits their lifestyle at any point in their lives. By the way, there's also a new Sebring convertible, but we didn't test it for this review.

The reality is, if you just want one car, the sedan has almost everything you need. It's performance is surprisingly quick and agile. Power comes from a 2.4-litre, four-cylinder, 150 hp engine on the LX, or a spicier 2.7-litre, 24-valve V6 with 200 hp on the LXi (the model we tested).

The sedan's huge front grille exhibits an aggressive, racy look. A rigid platform gives the sedan's very good stability on the road and aids in isolating noise. The ride is both responsive and quiet -- sedan-like, yet sporty.

Inside, the dashboard presents competently designed controls, with three large dials for heating, cooling and ventilation. The stereo, positioned below the air controls, features an easy-to-reach volume control and large station selector buttons. A cassette player is included. A four-disc CD changer is optional and fits in an area below the stereo. Two large cupholders sit in front of the centre-mounted gearshift lever, and a console storage box/armrest holds up to five CD cases.
One drawback is that the driver's view out the rear window is obscured by the high parcel shelf. Also, ABS brakes are an option on all Sebring models.

Overall, there's little to fault in the Sebring sedan. It's comfortable to sit in and drive, its performance is more than adequate, and it has a very nice design.

The same can be said for the Sebring coupe. It has the same aggressive grille at the front, and except for the two-door styling, is similar in overall appearance. Performance benefits from a peppy 3.0-litre V6, also generating 200 hp. (A 2.4-litre, four-cylinder with 142 hp also is available.)
The five-speed manual transmission, standard on the LXi coupe which we tested, provides aggressive acceleration (0-60 mph in 8 seconds). When driving on snow, it was necessary to start off in second gear to reduce wheelspin. A four-speed automatic is standard in the LX model.

Inside, the coupe features the same stereo and large air controls similar to the sedan, although in a different layout. Cupholders are positioned behind the gearshift lever. Like the sedan, the seat and driving position are supportive and comfortable, although rear-seat legroom and headroom is tighter.

Performance is more aggressive in the coupe, and handling feels tighter and more precise. The coupe also comes in LX and LXi trims, with the higher-end model featuring 17-inch aluminum wheels, performance tires and four-wheel disc brakes.

The Sebring LX Sedan is priced at $23,240, the LXi Sedan is $27,195, and the Coupe in LXi trim is $30,095.

© Copyright Bill Roebuck, 2002.

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