Curbside Classic: 2005 Chrysler Sebring Coupe – A Mitsubishi In All But Name

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It may have been the first and briefly, the only Chrysler Sebring, but the 1995 Sebring coupe was soon joined by a completely unrelated Sebring convertible, and later a Sebring sedan, both of which vastly eclipsed it in popularity.

1997 Sebring LXi

The Sebring coupe was in fact, technically not a “true” Chrysler. Rather, it was a product of Diamond-Star Motors, the partnership that was originally a 50-50 joint-venture between Chrysler and Mitsubishi, but later just became a Mitsubishi operation. After 1991, Chrysler continued contracting Mitsubishi to build vehicles, such as the Sebring coupe and its Dodge Avenger (and later Stratus) sibling. However, these cars were all Mitsubishi under the skin, and shared little to nothing with Chrysler-built products.

2001 Sebring coupe 3:4

Despite its lower sales and somewhat questionable existence in a market that was continuing its move away from coupes, Chrysler updated the Sebring coupe for 2001, coinciding with the redesign of the Chrysler-built Sebring convertible and the introduction of the Chrysler-built Sebring sedan.

2001 Sebring coupe side

Sharing more visual relation to the other Sebrings than its predecessor, the Sebring coupe continued to built by Mitsubishi on a stretched Eclipse platform, use Mitsubishi powertrain, and share little in the way of interior components with the other Sebrings.

2001 Sebring coupe rear 3:4

Riding on the same 103.7 inch wheelbase as before, the Sebring coupe retained nearly identical exterior dimensions to its predecessor. Regardless, its higher beltline and lack of lower ribbed cladding visually lessened the somewhat exaggerated length of the previous Sebring coupe.

2001 Sebring coupe front 3:4

With its long, low-slung hood, wide “shoulders”, and high deck with integrated spoiler, the second generation Sebring coupe emanated an aggressive, “in motion” appearance. On 2001-2002 models, this aggressiveness was further accentuated by its bottom-breather full-width grille, single bumper ribs, and available 17-inch 7-spoke chrome wheels.

2003 Sebring coupe 2

For 2003, the Sebring coupe received a rather significant visual refresh, which greatly altered the car’s appearance, for better or worse in your own opinion. Up front was a still low yet larger, somewhat more textured grille, larger fog lights, and new scalloped headlights. Front and rear bumpers extended lower and were canted outward towards the bottom, with thicker side skirts and available multi-spoke aluminum wheels all contributing to a more grounded appearance.

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As before, coupes exclusively continued using Mitsubishi inline-4s and V6s. LX (later just referred to as the unnamed base model) coupes were powered by a SOHC 2.4L I4, producing 147 horsepower and 158 pound-feet of torque, mated solely to a 4-speed automatic. Optional on the LX and standard on LXi (later renamed “Limited”) trim was a SOHC 3.0L V6, making 200 horsepower and 205 pound-feet of torque. A 5-speed manual was still standard with the V6, with both a regular 4-speed automatic and a 4-speed Autostick semi-automatic optional.

2003 Sebring coupe 1

Contemporary reviews generally found handling and ride quality to be a good balance of responsiveness and comfort. Acceleration in the 4-cylinder models was predictably sluggish, but overall, cornering, grip, and braking in all models was cited as good, and contributed to a somewhat sportier feel than in the convertible and sedan. A multi-link rear suspension with coil springs and MacPherson struts up front gave way to a firmer ride than in other Sebrings, though along with the low roofline, low seating position, large transmission tunnel, made for a less comfortable traveling experience.

2001 interior

Inside, the coupe’s three-pod instrument panel and center console shared with the Stratus coupe were straight out of the Eclipse. Given the coupe’s sportier demeanor, a more driver-focused layout was much appreciated…

2001 Sebring interior

…However, it’s a shame the budget didn’t allow the Sebring to gain its own interior, with a more elegant design and better finishes. Chryslers did receive a little bit of faux wood trim on the console, but overall, the basic Eclipse interior design seemed to be at odds with the more upscale styling details of the exterior.

Equally unfortunate, was that Mitsubishi interiors were becoming noticeably cheaper in material quality as rivals were improving. Especially towards the end of its run, the interior of this “Chrysler-bishi” was looking especially dated compared to its prime competitors, the Honda Accord coupe and Toyota Camry Solara.

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Speaking of which, mid-cycle interior changes were less drastic than the exterior, with new upholstery patterns, a new gauge cluster, and the deletion of wood trim in favor of the faux brushed aluminum look that was then, and still somewhat is today in vogue. Unfortunately, the production complexities and low demand for the coupe bodystyle didn’t warrant the addition of features such as automatic climate control, heated seats, and navigation, which were available on competitors as well as Sebring sedans and convertibles.

2004 Sebring coupe interior

Any nitpicking aside, the Sebring coupe remained an affordable way for one to get a spacious two-door coupe, offering a moderate blend of comfort and sportiness. Even in its final season, the top-tiered Sebring Limited coupe retailed for just over $25K including destination (just over $30K in 2016 USD). With this in mind, once popular options such as leather, power driver’s seat, ABS, chrome wheels, premium Infinity sound system, Autostick, and front side airbags had been added, the Sebring’s price tag was nearly $30,000 USD.

2004 Sebring convert

In comparison to its coupe namesake, the Sebring Limited convertible stickered for just over $31K, and included most of the aforementioned features as standard, plus its obvious drop-top capability. Higher resale value, greater comfort, and a more luxurious interior all made the Sebring convertible a more attractive choice for many 2-door Chrysler shoppers. Lack of many competitors in the midsize convertible market also greatly contributed to the convertible’s wider appeal and stronger sales.

2003 Sebring coupe 3

Adding to this was that demand and interest for fixed roof coupes was at historic lows. With under 15,000 units produced per year (less than half average production of first generation coupes), Sebring coupe production never accounted for more than 10% of total Sebring production. Coupe production ceased early in the 2005 calendar year, with just 345 units produced. Total 2005 model year production was naturally slightly higher, but nothing significant, especially considering combined convertible/sedan production was over 100,000 units that same year.

2008 Sebring con

The second generation Sebring sedan and convertible bodystyles lasted through 2006, upon which the redesigned sedan came for 2007, and the convertible for 2008. Whether or not is was to compensate for the loss of the coupe, the convertible now did offer an available folding hardtop, though like the coupe itself, Sebring hardtop convertibles never seemed very popular on the ground.

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Related Reading:

2002 Chrysler Sebring LXi sedan

1992 Mitsubishi Eclipse