SEE ALSO: Chrysler Buyer's Guide
Chrysler's Sebring line is unique in the auto industry because the three cars sold under that name are very different under the skin, built on separate platforms. They also occupy distinct, and unique niches, with few direct competitors.
Three cars? Yes. The Chrysler Sebring lineup has expanded for 2001, as the Sebring sedan joins the convertible and coupe. The Sebring sedan replaces the Cirrus, and this is more than just a name change. It's been restyled and re-engineered. The 2.7-liter, 200 horsepower V6 also used in the Concorde and Sebring convertible replaces the previous 2.5-liter V6 in the LXi, and the 150- horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is back in the LX, a trim level absent from the Cirrus for several years.
Both Sebring sedan models are well-equipped, with all of the features expected in an upscale family sedan or, in the LXi, an entry- level luxury car. A Sebring LXi sedan has been my transportation for the past week, and I have been very impressed with it. It combines style, space, and comfort in a unique package. Its efficiency extends beyond space utilization, with excellent fuel economy. In a week of mixed highway and city driving, I averaged just over 25 miles per gallon, with no performance penalty.
APPEARANCE: Despite their differences under the skin, Chrysler has achieved a notable, cohesive look for all of the Sebring models. They utilize styling elements first found on the larger Concorde, LHS and 300M sedans, but subtle differences in shape and sheet metal differentiate them well. The "cab-forward" look is not as radical today as it was when it was introduced in the mid-1990s, mostly due to its being copied widely, but is still a (Daimler)Chrysler hallmark. The sedan has a face much like that of the larger Concorde, with a large, oval "egg-crate" grille inspired by early 1950s Ferraris, and feline headlamps. The long passenger cabin also bears resemblance to the Concorde. The sharply truncated tail suggests that of the 300M. The winged chrome Chrysler badge, inset into a cut-out in the front fascia, is an interesting styling feature shared by all Sebring models.
COMFORT: The 2001 Chrysler Sebring sedan is as unique inside as it is outside. The LXi looks above its price class with an elegant subdued two-tone design, standard leather upholstery and steering wheel trim, and imitation wood trim that actually looks like wood. The front bucket seats provide very good support and comfort, and the driver's seat is power-adjustable. The instrument panel places instruments and controls well and features chrome-bezeled, black- on-while gauges similar to those in the 300M for a sporty touch. There is plenty of interior storage space, including a large locking glove box. The 60/40 split folding rear seat is much roomier than expected for the size of the car, a benefit of the cab-forward design. Trunk capacity is large, although the relatively small opening may make it a challenge to get extremely large items inside.
SAFETY: The new Sebring sedan has an improved structure around the passenger cabin when compared to the Cirrus. All occupants have three-point safety harnesses. Both standard front airbags have multi-stage operation, and side-curtain bags that protect both front and rear-seat occupants are available.
ROADABILITY: The Sebring LXi is billed as an affordable luxury car, and it does feel like a more-expensive car is in large part because of its compliant, well-damped fully-independent suspension. Chrysler's engineers got the suspension tuning right, for a good balance between comfort and handling. It's biased more toward comfort, being a luxury car, and shows plenty of body roll in hard cornering, but motion over bumps is minimal. Interior sound levels are low for its class. Steering effort is light for easy operation around town, but not too light for good control on the highway.
PERFORMANCE: Standard power for the Sebring LXi sedan is Chrysler's 2.7-liter V6. It's a contemporary dual overhead cam, aluminum alloy design, with 200 hp at 5900 rpm and 192 lb-ft of torque at 4300 rpm, a considerable improvement over the 168 hp and 170 lb-ft of the Cirrus's 2.5-liter V6. The transmission is a four- speed automatic with, optionally, Chrysler's "AutoStick" manual shift mode. The engine's low- and mid-range power is strong enough that it is perfectly useful left in "Drive," with good acceleration and commendable fuel economy. But, click the shifter into AutoStick mode and let the engine rev to discover its sporty side with enthusiastic top-end power and a classic six-cylinder exhaust note.
CONCLUSIONS: The 2001 Chrysler Sebring LXi sedan has a unique blend of style, space, and performance.
SPECIFICATIONS 2001 Chrysler Sebring LXi Sedan Base Price $ 20,830 Price As Tested $ 24,230 Engine Type dual overhead cam, 24-valve V6 Engine Size 2.7 liters / 164 cu. in. Horsepower 200 @ 5900 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 192 @ 4300 rpm Transmission 4-speed electronically-controlled automatic with "AutoStick" manual shift mode Wheelbase / Length 108.0 in. / 190.7 in. Curb Weight 3250 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 16.5 Fuel Capacity 16 gal. Fuel Requirement unleaded regular gasoline, 87 octane Tires P205/60 TR16 Michelin MX4 m+s Brakes, front/rear vented disc / disc, antilock optional Suspension, front/rear independent short-and-long arm / independent multilink Drivetrain front engine, front-wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 20 / 29 / 25 0 to 60 mph 8.0 sec (est) OPTIONS AND CHARGES Luxury Group - includes: 16-inch chromed alloy wheels, AutoStick(r) transmission, premium speaker system, power auto central locking, security alarm and key, electroluminescent instrument cluster, universal garage opener, cargo net $ 1,495 AM/FM/cassette/4-CD in-dash changer $ 250 Antilock 4-wheel disc brakes $ 565 Side air bags $ 350 Full-size spare tire with alloy wheel $ 365 Destination charge $ 575