(first posted 3/16/2016) Just like Oldsmobile and their proliferation of various, vastly different from one another Cutlass models, Chrysler was also guilty of this same-name frenzy, first with its LeBaron and New Yorker nameplates, and then with the Sebring. Much like later Cutlasses, the final Sebring sedans left more than just a unique name in the way of desire.
Recycling the name of a trim level used on the Plymouth Satellite in the early-’70s, the first Chrysler Sebring arrived mid-way through the 1995 model year in the form of a fixed-roof coupe, as replacement for the 1993 LeBaron coupe. Built by Diamond Star Motors, Chrysler’s manufacturing joint-venture with Mitsubishi, the 1995 Sebring coupe and its Dodge Avenger sibling were mechanically related to the Mitsubishi Eclipse/Eagle Talon, as well as the Mitsubishi Galant, from which their platform was derived from. Due to these circumstances, the Sebring and Avenger coupes shared little in common with non-DSM Mopar products.
With the LeBaron convertible ending production in 1995, it came as somewhat a surprise that its in-house, Chrysler-engineered successor also wore the Sebring badge, despite no mechanical or visual relation to the coupe. Could it be that Chrysler was just following the pattern of having its mid-size coupe and convertible share the same name?
Alternatively, it’s been suggested that naming the JX convertible “Sebring” was a move made in response to the Sebring coupe’s low demand. Thus, Chrysler could lump all Sebring coupe and convertible sales together for reporting purposes. Whatever the reason, it would have made more logical sense to name the convertible “Cirrus”, as it rode on a modified Cirrus chassis, and shared a large number of components with the Cirrus sedan.
In any event, the Sebring coupe, Sebring convertible, and Cirrus sedan continued on this way, unchanged through the 2000 model year. Depending on how you look at it, Chrysler’s decision to rename the Cirrus sedan “Sebring” for its second generation either made things significantly less confusing or much more confusing.
Riding on an updated version of the Cirrus’ JA platform now known as the JR, the Sebring sedan continued Chrysler’s evolution of cab-forward design language, although styling was somewhat blander and overall less pretty than the Cirrus. Unlike the larger LH, whose variants were each given dramatic redesigns for their second generations, the JA’s transition to JR was far less riveting.
With sleek yet blunter noses than their predecessors, all Sebrings sedans initially featured fierce wide bumper-located grilles à la Concorde, a design feature unfortunately marred by most states’ mandated front license plates. A small air intake below the Chrysler winged badge and large tiger eyed headlights completed the Sebring’s aggressive front end.
Moving along the sides, the sedan’s sheetmetal was fairly slab-sided and straight edged, with little in the way of body contour or character lines. Prominent wheel arches thankfully added a bit of aggressiveness and three-dimensional effect to the largely cookie cutter profile. Sebring cabins were made spacious and airy by the car’s arching roofline and steeply raked windshields, a Cab Forward hallmark.
Spaciousness aside, those cabins, were not to most splendid place to spend time, something I can attest from my experiences as a passenger in these Sebrings. When my mom was having work done on her Jeep in 2003, the dealer gave her a gold Sebring LX sedan for the duration, which lasted about 2 weeks. One of my friends in high school also owned an sea green ’06 LX sedan, that I frequently rode in.
Recalling both of these experiences, the things that stand out are considerable NVH, front seats that were uncomfortably low to the ground, and poor a HVAC system. And that’s not even taking into consideration the senses of sight and touch.
Predictable of the Daimler-Chrysler era, material quality was poor, with most components comprised of hard and hollow grained plastics. In terms of design, the Sebring’s dashboard was a incohesive nightmare of square and round shapes that came across as a cut-rate attempt at invoking the art deco vibe of the LHS/300M and PT Cruiser interiors. Despite a new shape, the overall interior layout was identical to the JA, with the same low center console and shifter.
Wood trim, despite its obvious fakeness, at least added some much needed contrast and warmth to the otherwise stark cabin. On a creative note, the placement of the wood trim did invoke the shape of the winged Chrysler logo, albeit in a squared-off manner. As with other Chryslers, timepiece-inspired analogue gauges attempted at adding an upscale, retro aura.
Sebring sedans initially came in two flavors, the base LX and the better-appointed LXi. For its introductory year, Sebring LX standard items included manual air conditioning, manual adjusting front seats, power windows, AM/FM cassette stereo, cloth upholstery, driver’s adjustable lumbar support, 15-inch wheels with wheel covers, and simulated wood interior trim.
LXi models added features including Chrysler’s Autostick allowing for manual gear selection, remote keyless entry, 16-inch allow wheels, CD player, 8-way power driver’s seat, leather wrapped steering wheel and gear shifter, and chrome interior door handles. Leather upholstery and heated seats were available. Coinciding with a face-lifted front end, new trim levels were implemented in 2004, consisting of an unnamed base model, mid-level Touring, and up-level Limited.
Taking a name out of the Eagle page of Chrysler’s history book, 2005 brought a sport-oriented TSi model, which added a performance suspension, genuine matte wood interior trim, aero kit and rear lip spoiler, and a two-tone leather upholstery pattern. An in-dash navigation system was also available on Limited and TSi sedans from 2005-2006.
Powering Sebring sedans was either one of two engine choices, both mated to a four-speed automatic transmission. Found in the base LX model, the dual-overhead cam 2.4L I4 produced 150 horsepower and 167 pound-feet of torque. Optional in the LX and standard in LXi models was a dual-overhead cam 2.7L V6, making 200 horsepower and 190 pound-feet of torque. The same engine found in the Chrysler Concorde/Dodge Intrepid, the 2.7L quickly earned a poor reputation for reliability, with several common problems ultimately leading to a class action lawsuit against Chrysler.
Regardless of engine, all Sebring sedans featured four-wheel independent suspensions, consisting of a double-wishbone front and a multilink rear. An anti-roll bar was standard in the front, optional for the rear. Four-wheel disc brakes were standard across the board, with anti-lock brakes, traction control, and side curtain airbags all optional.
In the mid-’90s, Chrysler was on a roll and it seemed like things were only going to get better. Although products such as the Cirrus weren’t without flaws, compared to their predecessors they were huge leaps forward in terms of development and production efficiency, design, handling, powertrains, and overall refinement.
Then came the Daimler takeover, which pretty much put the kibosh on a continued level of progress and enthusiasm in Chrysler vehicles. Cars like this Sebring sedan were little more than an old Cirrus with a new name and new clothes. Despite new sheetmetal and some improvements here and there, in terms of overall competitiveness and advancement, the 2001-2006 Sebring didn’t offer buyers much more than the 1995-2000 Cirrus did, and compared to class leaders, the Sebring was an even more woeful model.
That’s not to say that the Sebring didn’t have its strong points. Compared to similar sized models from domestic makes such as Mercury and Buick, the Sebring boasted higher style, a less numbing driving experience, a wider range of trim levels aimed at specific buyers, as well as few unique features such as navigation and Autostick. Unfortunately, Daimler-Chrysler’s cost cutting and lack of investment in crucial products for the Chrysler brand were all too apparent. Any forward strides made by the Cirrus in this segment were lost, and the gap between Chrysler and mid-size industry leaders once again widened, putting Chrysler at a greater disadvantage.
The Malaise continues, folks!
Indeed. It looks like someone tried to fuse a Camaro with a Camry, which is about as middlebrow as a design could get.
I still love the pre-facelift front fascia of these, just like I did on the Concorde. That grille mouth was still daring in 2001 and was more Jaguar than Chrysler in its heritage, too.
To get a good idea of what Daimler did to Chrysler, I recommend “Taken For a Ride” by Bill Vlasic and Brad Stertz. It was one of the first books I bought from Amazon, around the time of this car’s debut. Even at that time, it was very evident what really happened at Daimler.
Great recommendation, Dave. “Behind The Wheel” is another good one from the 79-80 era.
Now if someone would write an expose of the Cerberus years.
BMW took over Rover to get land Rover
Daimler took over Chrysler to get Jeep
it might be said
BMW got Rover, but Ford got Land Rover who eventually ended up selling it to Tata Motors.
bmw got the tech they needed
Daimler took over Chrysler to get its cash. At the time, Daimler was in bad shape, something the Germans hid with heavy doses of media relations. All of the Daimler company save heavy trucks was losing money, including the prestigious Mercedes-Benz cars. Daimler had to sell off its railroad equipment division for cash. Daimler siphoned off Chrysler’s assets, its managers ran Chrysler into the ground with cheap, ugly, blocky, unimaginative designs like the next Sebring/200 and Dodge Avenger and cast off Chrysler like an old dishrag.
It wasn’t a bad-looking car for the most part. The facelift wasn’t an improvement and even the initial styling has something a trifle off in the proportions or relationship between the sail panel and the rear fender (it seems like either the fender is a little too tall, the rear deck a little too short, or both), but in all it holds up pretty well against its obvious contemporary rivals so far as style goes. The usual problems, though: It looks like birds could nest in some of those panel gaps and the plasticky upholstery is rather depressing.
I tend to agree about the plastic wood. Close up, it resembles some cheap pressed-wood furniture I’ve had, but it does warm up the overall look and provides some welcome relief from the expanses of beige/tan/gray plastic. (GM cars of this period tend to have these vast walls of cheap plastic so you can’t avoid looking at it.) The instrument treatment is an interesting touch as well — a bit Rover 75.
I end up feeling really bad for the designers of cars like these (or a fair number of latter-nineties GM cars, for that matter). The visual ideas are there and some of them probably looked fabulous at the mockup stage, but the materials and finish let them down. It’s a bit like writing a brilliant script for some kind of space opera and then ending up with special effects only one step up from having a guy hold up homemade toys while making “Pew-pew-boom!” noises.
The gorgeous lines and the body design of the Cirrus demanded two doors on it. It’s curious how blander and boring is the Sebring coupe and convertible if compared to the Cirrus.
Cheaper than the smaller Peugeot 306 Pininfarina, the Sebring convertible was the last convertible with some success in middle class market in Brazil, succeeding the previous Ford Escort XR3 and GM Kadett Bertone available along the 80’s and 90’s. After Sebring, convertibles disappeared from Brazil, VW tried the Eos, however it’s prices put it into oblivion.
Although Ford offered the Taurus in Brazil in the whole 90’s, Chrysler experienced the best acceptance for an American car with Cirrus, it quickly gained evidence in the “Executive sedans” market, reaching the best sellers Civic and GM Vectra C for some period, unfortunately import taxes, Brazilian money devaluations in the ending of 90’s shortened Cirrus-Stratus success. Even with good prices if compared to other sedans, Chrysler could never repeat the same success with Sebring sedan.
I bought a 1998 Cirrus LX with the 2.5L V6 in 2000. It was comfortable, quiet, had good power for the time, and was virtually ignored by the police because of it’s “Old man car” image.
The wife had a minor fender-bender in it (not her fault) so we received a new Sebring sedan as a rental from the insurance company. It just didn’t seem to have the character that ours had. I was happy to get ours back.
The biggest automotive mistake I have ever made was trading it in after a couple of years on a 1999 3.0L Caravan. We had a new baby and thought that we needed the van. That van was the least reliable piece of garbage I have ever owned. It has forever soured me on anything Chrysler sells.
Decent looking cars but undone by DC era cheapening and outright bad engineering.
I live in the heart of Chrysler country and it’s surprising how few of these you still see on the road. You actually see more of the previous gen Breeze Cars.
Well-written and informative piece, Brendan. I agree with Dave – the pre-facelifted nose looked miles better than the ’04. Still, I remember thinking these were slightly retrograde compared with the Sebring it replaced.
Also, I felt the first Sebring coupe was simply not attractive, especially compared with the old LeBaron it replaced. What especially irked me was the fake, plastic “grille” up top with the real air intake below. It has probably been a few years since I’ve seen one of those tooling around.
These sedans were definitely a retrograde step from their predecessor Cirrus, and at the time they fairly screamed “rental car”. About 50/50 chance any one you saw would have a little Enterprise or National sticker on it somewhere. Nowadays, most of them have descended to beater status.
The second-gen coupe, on the other hand, actually was quite attractive–on the outside, at least. Let down by the same lackluster interior as the sedan. But on release it appeared, at least to me, a lot nicer-looking than the 1st-gen Sebring coupe.
Sorry, but the interior on the coupes is NOTHING like what’s on the sedan/convertible. Totally different cars. I have an ’02 coupe as my daily beater.
Memory must be hazy on “things I saw 10+ years ago”. It’s tough getting old.
Easy to get em confused. Might’ve been the ‘vert you saw…which was related to the sedan.
See, that’s it. I didn’t catch that the coupe had a different interior than the convertible. When I was in college, for spring break one year, a friend borrowed her Dad’s nearly new Sebring convertible for the trip, so I have a good amount of seat time in one of those. Don’t know that I’ve ever actually been in one of the coupes.
Quite a confusion here, it’s a Chrysler Sebring coupe with vinyl roof looks just like a convertible!
Spotted last month on 8 Mile Rd around Royal Oak Charter Township and Detroit.
That’s just sickening 🙁
Correct. Just as with the first-gen Sebring coupes, these used the same basic dash as the Mitsubishi Eclipse with which it shared its platform.
Why were the Sebring convertible and Sebring coupe on different wheelbases?
They’re totally different cars. The sedan/vert are Chrysler’s and the coupes (Sebring and Stratus) are DSMs. Essentially, the coupes are stretched Eclipses…that applies to both generations.
Neat, I didn’t know that. Thanks!
Friend of mine had the original DSM Sebring coupe. He was driving down LSD when the front left wheel assembly literally decided it didn’t want to be a part of the vehicle anymore (it’s unclear how much of the car fell off, this was years ago, but it wasn’t just a matter of lug nuts not being tightened enough.) He managed to get the car into a ditch. With the insurance check from the totaled Sebring he bought an F150 which is now at least 10 years old and still kicking.
I took a liking to the uncluttered styling and compact proportions of this Sebring with its relatively low beltline and good outward visibility. I rented a Sebring sedan from Thrifty in about 2004 and I remember the long parking brake lever being very stiff to actuate. This model was resurrected in Russia as a Volga Siber in 2008 but was discontinued only two years later.
What’s “manual air conditioning”? Rolling the windows down?
My car’s A/C is manual in the sense of having to reach down and turn it on and off as well as adjusting the temperature I like. Aren’t all cars except luxury cars like that?
I had a Stratus of this generation as a rental for a business trip in 2003. I was considering buying one, but the experience of driving it and the horrible starkness of the interior left me cold. No deal, and never bought another Chrysler and never will.
“Manual” as in just being an air blower for hot and cold and not having automatic climate control with selectable temperature degrees, just a scale going from red to blue.
I suppose much of the perception of cheapness is heavily dependent upon factors such as trim level or even the color palette. Case in point, I have a good friend who once owned an ’03 Sebring LXI convertible. His Sebring was finished in a lustrous dark green metallic, with a tan leather interior. The seats in particular were exceptionally nice, as the leather had a rather deep graining that felt good to the touch. At the time I was driving an ’04 Accord LX, and I don’t recall the interior ambiance of his Sebring being downmarket, though to be perfectly fair, my friend’s car was a much higher specification than my Accord.
I drove this car on a couple of occasions, and although its driving dynamics left little to no impression on me, it was perfectly acceptable for its intended mission. We took his Sebring on several lengthy road trips up to Canada, and the Sebring proved a rather pleasant environment to spend a summer day. Luckily my friend unloaded the car long before the dreaded 2.7 had a chance to grenade, but the ride was fun while it lasted.
A lot of the impression of cheapness was due to Daimler’s lack of style and lack of desire to spend money at Chrysler. It has been a miracle, how FCA took the blocky, boring Teutonic Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger and remade them into the stylish, near-luxury models they are now; and developed the Dodge Challenger.
My sister had one of the coupes and actually liked it. Her’s had the V6, I think, as she was never one to buy the cheaper/less powerful version of anything.
I never heard anything bad about the car….until another sister backed into it and didn’t feel inclined to take responsibility. Then for a couple months it looked like we headed to a sort of “Hatfields versus McCoys” situation.
She finally traded it for a Subaru Outback because she wanted something to haul large/bulky items to and from flea markets. True to form, she bought a turbo Subaru.
Back in August I scored a clean low miles one owner ’02 LXi coupe. Its fully loaded with the 3.0 and 5spd. Its been a good daily grinder but just too tame and sensible feeling. A sheep in wolfs clothing, which is the total opposite of my rowdy ’03 PT Cruiser GT.
The name game aside (confusion while buying parts is maddening), what’s frustrating is that in early/mid aughties these and the Stratus R/T were all that Ma Mopar had for a prospective coupe buyer. Fine for casual users but enthusiasts were better served at GM or Ford. Shame, because the parts were in the bins to give them a good spanking. Magnum 360s were always strong and the 4.7 might have been a contender in a lite rwd coupe.
I’ve always liked that generation of Sebring coupe. Very nice!
Thanks, man. I got it well below KBB, too so I couldn’t pass it up. Theres meat on the bone so Im gonna sell it here pretty soon…its getting near Challenger time!
I actually prefer the facelifted version. REALLY wanted one in stone white after seeing one in that color when they first came out. This one is stock, but the one I saw was lowered, dark tint and had aftermarket charcoal grey crosslace wheels. Really looked sharp, even if its more of a cruiser than a speed demon.
My SIL bought an 05 2.4 used, a few years ago in the same shade of blue green as the feature car. I have mentioned before that my brother and his family are serial killers of cars.
That Sebring is still running even after their spotty maintenance and having had a tree fall on the roof. It’s now in the hands of my nephew.
I’ve ridden in it and liked the ride, room and interior. Looks a lot better than that melted plastic in GM cars, especially when it comes in that cadaver beige color.
Not seeing the “cheap” plastic which seems to be the go to adjective when describing Chrysler interiors.
Plastic is plastic. The question is how well does it hold up over the years ? I’ll take durable and easy to clean over superficial beauty any time. Don’t get me started on the cheese level of piano black plastic which people seem to equate with “upscale” interior fittings.
I will give it that the next generation Sebring and Avenger had AMC Hornet grades of plastic, but the featured car’s is no better or worse than that used by others at the time.
And my SIL’s Sebring was not only well assembled but totally unobjectionable. One would have to be dedicated to finding something to nitpick or pre-programmed to say “cheap” to find it objectionable, IMHO.
“Cheap plastic” has been so overused over the years, I really wonder if the accusation has any real meaning any longer. It all comes out of the same dead dinosaurs.
““Cheap plastic” has been so overused over the years, I really wonder if the accusation has any real meaning any longer”
Yes, I’ve never really cared one way or the other, it’s all cheap. I don’t get the obsession with “soft touch” surfaces that normal people never touch. I’d much rather have a “cheap plastic” interior that functions well than the convoluted stacks of buttons and screens that are prevalent in most modern cars.
That said, the interior of the Sebring isn’t great by any measure.
I agree with the cheap plastic interior being a subjective thing. The first car that really hit me as being cheap was a 2001 Honda Civic. I thought it was a huge step down from the previous generations. I remember being not impressed with the plastic faux carbon fiber weave and the painted silver plastic that was supposed to pass as metal haphazardly spread across the interior.
Then I sat in a 2003 or 2004 rental Corolla that had acres of hard grey plastic everywhere. The early 2000’s was not a good time for interiors.
Most people think that Civics have good interiors, but they are are comparing it to other compacts like the Corolla. My yard stick was the previous generation Civic, so my opinion of cheap was different than other people.
While I agree, Dweezil, that piano black trim is awful (I don’t find it luxurious and it shows fingerprints), I think an attractive and high-quality interior is something very important for me when buying a car. After all, it is where you spend your time and something as simple as a tinny door or a glove compartment lid that needs a shove to close… that’s annoying. It gives the impression the car won’t last. Contrast with a car with soft plastics, doors that close with a thunk… you feel like you have spent your money well and the car is well-built and durable.
Car buyers all have different priorities so I can understand why it’s not a priority for you but for me, I want the cabin I sit in to be pleasant to all the senses: quiet, no weird plasticky smells, soft-touch plastics and trim…
Sorry I am late to comment, William. You are correct. My intention is to buy for long term durability. It’s probably why I don’t “get it” when reading references to “cheap plastics”, etc.
Same with the house hunting shows. I see potential buyers gagging at surfaces, materials, etc. I would be worrying about whether the plumbing & HVAC system worked, termites, roof leaks and appliances working, rather than the visuals and whether or not the kitchen is “dated”.
Definitely subjective. When I think of cheap plastic I think of late 90s GM interiors, which have wide knobby faux leathergrains that no healthy animal would have, near glossy sheens, elderly friendly ginormous buttons in contrasting colors(hey I don’t like teeny tiny ones either but those are ridiculous) and shades that don’t quite match the next due to material/manufacturing/fade resistance variables. Not to mention brittleness from age. My only real dislike of plastic use are surfaces I often rest my hands and arms on (*cough* door cards*cough*).
I think cheap plastic is a valid criticism in those respects. It’s often misused however as a pledge that ” I hate monotone, give me my real wood and metal to contrast damnit!”. The irony being “real wood” and metal are often covered in a thick layer of clearcoat or paint, which is… Plastic! Spartan interiors are really what get criticized 99% of the time when a reviewer criticizes an interior for being “cheap plastic”, I can see their point but it’s all cyclical. Spartain interiors before the mid 70s often had painted metal dashes and exposed painted metal on the doors with fiberboard door cards only there to hide the window mechanisms and whatnot, whereas luxurious cars slathered on that ever more monotone, thick molded, faux wrapped in leather appearance. That’s almost the inverse of what reviewers desire today, cheap cars long since adopted and held onto that old luxury “wrapped” appearance and what higher end cars have done to attempt to differentiate themselves from lesser models is add trim bits of wood/metal back, add fake stitching ect. It’s all a desire for interiors to look more hand made, rather than manufactured. Doesn’t matter how good the manufactured is, if it doesn’t have the sprinkling of tinsel, it’ll still be called a cheap plasticy interior
Like I said earlier, I think it’s both the quality and the design. I’ve seen a variety of cars (e.g., early ’80s econoboxes) whose plastics were also hard and undoubtedly cheap, but whose dashboards were designed so that most of that plastic (other than the steering wheel, I guess) was angled away from you. My complaint about latter-day GM cheap plastics is that it wasn’t enough to have plastics that were cheap, hard, in ugly hues, and sometimes with unpleasant textures, but the dashboards, door panels, and consoles were often designed so you had big acres of the stuff everywhere you looked. A little of that is admittedly due to modern airbag requirements (the aforementioned cheap early ’80s econoboxes didn’t need a giant steering wheel bus or a big passenger-side space to house airbags), but still.
Great summary, Matt.
That whole Cirrus, Sebring convertible, and Sebring coupe thing always confounded me back in the day. I prided myself on knowing every car name on the road as a kid, but 3 cars seemingly of the same feather but still distinct from one another on the outside having two names made me double take a lot. I think I called the Cirrus a Sebring most commonly, and fittingly enough Chrysler followed suit with this generation sedan, just as I had the name shuffle figured out!
Its even worse on the Dodge side: Avenger was the coupe, Stratus was the sedan…made perfect sense. Then they shared names for both…I always thought Stratus was too wimpy for a supposed sporty car. Then it swings the other way and Avenger (what an awesome name) is used on a milquetoast sedan! UGH!
Very true. So the original Avenger was DSM based and the Stratus was on the J platform, ala Sebring/Cirrus. Then the lesser name sweeps the line, opposite of Chrysler, and then later on the Avenger comes back as a blocky sedan to replace them all.
I really struggled to keep on top of Mopar names in the Diamler era. The Avenger coupe was one that threw me too. When it came out I thought it replaced the ALSO DSM based Stealth, In fact it even used an almost identical rear end treatment the departed R/T version used, but it was clearly a different class of car. On top of that there was virtually no differentiation between any of the brands, the Cirrus/Breeze/Stratus were identical minus the tiny little grilles.
Here’s how it breaks down:
–First wave, had the Avenger/Sebring coupes and Cloud cars (Cirrus, Stratus, Breeze) as well as the Sebring convertible.
The coupes were DSM-based. Essentially theyre lengthened and reskinned 2nd gen Eclipses. Unlike the Talon (a rebadge of the 2gen Eclipse with all the same drivetrain options) these had the DOHC 2.0 engine from the Neon R/T standard with manual or auto options, or the Mitsu 2.5 V6 and automatic. Something of a downgrade.
The sedans/convertible were Chrysler built and had the 2.0 or 2.4 Mopar 4’s or the 2.5 V6. So some powertrains WERE shared here, and a mix of Mopar and Mitsubishi.
–Second wave, Breeze is gone, and the Cirrus/Avenger names are gone.
Coupes again are lengthened reskins of the 3rd gen Eclipse but with all mitsu power. 2.4 I4 and 3.0V6 both available in manual or auto. FWD only for all. Downgrade for the Eclipse, but moderate upgrade for the Mopars. Mopars share the names with the sedans/convertibles but literally nothing else.
Sedans/Convertibles are again Chrysler based but this time all Mopar power. 2.7 V6 is top motor…if you can call it that.
–Third Wave has no more coupes. Avenger sedan at Dodge, Sebring sedan/convertible at Chrysler….later renamed to 200.
All Mopar Power again, with the 2.4 and 2.7 as well as an upgrade to the 3.5…and later the 3.6 Pentastar. These are based on the Galant platform and built at the same Normal Illinois DSM plant, but are more or less regarded as Chryslers.
Aaaaand….now my head hurts!
My wife has an unfortunate taste for Dodge styling (unfortunate because the company’s wretched build quality and reliability has cost us a lot of money over the years.)
So when she and I were shopping for a new car for her around 2001 or so, we looked at a new Stratus, nearly identical to this. To be blunt, it was an awful car. “Airy” cabin? No. It was narrow and uncomfortable, and the low seating was unpleasant.
The dealer also sold Mitsubishis, and showed us a 2001 Galant after we expressed our displeasure with the Stratus. The Galant was frankly a much better car.
We should have bought it. What we actually bought was a 2000 Intrepid, which should have been a nice car, but it came with the 2.7. The timing belt tensioner failure happened four years later with about 96K miles on it, days before its shop appointment to investigate the underhood rattle.
I ended up in the backseat of a Sebring convertible on one of my first dates with my wife.
Not what you are thinking though, just riding in the back of a friends car. 🙂 Still one of our most memorable early moments together though, riding around town with the top down.
Oh, yet another lament about how Daimler ruined Chrysler.
Unfortunately, it is all true (and Chrysler was not the only subsidiary that Daimler ran into the ground).
But it got even worse in the next generation of Chrysler midsizes. If these were dumbed-down versions of the edgier yet more graceful 1995-1998 Cirrus/Stratus, the next Sebring/Avenger looked like Daimler designers (no more Chrysler, the braintrust that had been behind the LH cars, the Cloud cars, the Dodge Ram and the Neon either left DaimlerChrysler on their own or were bought off into retirement by Daimler) intentionally made them blocky and awkward so they would be unattractive, then built them rough-edged and noisy so they would not create competition for Mercedes products. As has been said before, you don’t succeed by intentionally not doing your best…an adage proven by Daimler.
I loved my 2005 TSi I bought new. Was a fun, comfortable, quick, and reliable car. Sold it before the 2.7 starting giving me troubles. I still see it around town.
Somebody who actuallly owns a TSi! I wrote about these in my special edition series, couldn’t find any production numbers but I’m certain these are very rare!
My 2005 was a one year color. What was dumb was I couldn’t get a lot of options that the Limited could. No infinity radio, auto a/c, heated seats, etc. But, the one off stuff made up for it.
I had seen the prototype online at a car show and had to have it. Sucker for special editions. Had real California walnut!
I actually find this generation more attractive externally than the Cirrus (if less dramatic), but unfortunately that’s all it seems to offer over it. It was such a shame: the 1990s was a huge boom period for Chrysler with exciting new product and a much-improved financial situation. And then Daimler came in…
I will say though that the facelift, in my eyes, didn’t ruin the styling although the pre-facelift models are more attractive overall.
Very surprised to learn this generation had navigation as an option, albeit a chintzy, tiny-screened version. I wonder how many Chrysler actually built like that… it seems like 90% of Sebring sedans are rental-spec base models with steel wheels and cloth seats.
Don’t think I’ve ever even seen a TSi in person, but then again, these cars are some of the easiest vehicles to zone out in traffic short of a Kia Optima.
I love the white faced gages on these cars. Very classy, and the speedometer in 10 mph increments as it should be. Too many new cars split it into 20 mph increments which is just dumb. Too bad the stylists didn’t hide the fog lights behind the grille and put the license plate over to one side.
Truly sad, what Daimler did to Chrysler. I don’t care who you are, the facts are undeniable. The sale of Chrysler to Daimler was a disaster.
That said, I’ve always liked the JA and JR cars; they were inexpensive, dependable transportation (in 4 cylinder form) that were overlooked by the main stream automotive media.
the 1st gen Sebring Convertible was very desirable imho
I’m surprised nobody mentioned the fact Peugeot was inspired (?) by the trout-like cab forward Mopars to come out with this hideous creation which was a failure on this side of the Atlantic (and everywhere else I suppose). At the time Peugeot was making noises about going back to the US and I thought, “yea, right – let’s try to woo them with that cab-forward style nobody wanted on a Mopar”.
I currently own 2002 2.7 LX in european specification. Here, LX was top of the line, with standard features like US LXi plus glass sunroof, Infinity stereo, leather, heated seats, headlight washers and folding mirrors. Only options were CD changer, side curtains and chrome wheels, mine was ordered with first two.
Despite being close to 300k km it’s still reliable, comfortable daily driver. Even infamous 2.7 proved to be trouble-free with regular maintenance. Spare parts are cheap and readily available – and that can’t be said about every imported US vehicle.
In Europe, fully loaded 2.7 was priced similar to basic, 4-cylinder versions of MB C-Class, Volvo S60 or Audi A4. Of course, both interior design and materials used, are less sophisticated than those in it’s class competitors, but considering the price, I would say it was (and still is) a fairly good car. Sebring was roomier, faster, much better equipped and delivered suprisingly good handling. Most of it’s values can still be appreciated today, at very affordable price – if someone is willing to accept vehicle bit less refined than rivals.
I’ve always wondered why Chrysler used a different car for the 2 door. Why didn’t they just build a hardtop version of the convertible like the old Lebaron coupe and convertible? I had a 98 Stratus, modestly optioned and 4 cyl and I’m sorry to report to all the Domestic car haters on this site nothing went wrong in the 4 years I owned it.
I’ll admit, I liked the looks of these ok when they were new. Probably the Stratus a tad more with it’s different touches, but for the early 2000’s I thought they were modern looking and weren’t too bad overall I suppose. A friend’s sister had a red 2004 Stratus Sedan for a long while.
However, I realized how much I didn’t like it and it wasn’t as efficient of a machine as it may have appeared to be. I was given a 2004 Stratus with the 4 banger as a loaner while my car was having some work done once. I remember that the engine was fairly anemic and turned up surprisingly bad gas mileage for a 4 cylinder in my book. The interior was ok, but some of the features, like the console bin under the radio, weren’t even useful because Chrysler didn’t design it to be slanted back so that Items don’t fly out when you accelerate. Really low seats that I couldn’t get comfortable in and the overall feeling I was driving a glorified tin can. This was back when I had my 1997 Taurus and was probably a month away from saying good bye at that point, but the overall quality and attention that Ford put into the interior made going from this newer Stratus back to that a revelation. That old Taurus was downright plush compared to these. The Stratus had about 60k on it at that time, and I remember the check engine light coming on the day before I had to return it. I was less than impressed.
I have always had a weird view of Chrysler. They make products that look highly appealing. LOOK appealing, but by and large, I haven’t had the best of luck in my own personal experience. I tried a Grand Caravan once, but that turned out really bad really quickly and I was done with it after 3 months. My dad and my brother seem to have better luck with Chrysler and I’m happy for them. It’s just always been a let down for me with Chrysler and I’m not willing to spend my money on their products. To be honest though, I feel that their lackluster products in many cases are why they are where they are today. Almost nonexistent lineup, not the greatest quality, reliability, or even styling. Happy for you out there if your Chrysler experience has been a good one, but I don’t even really see the point of them as a company anymore.
I remember trying to sit in a then new 2001 at Auto Show. I banged my head on the low roof, and said choice words. This is one reason we have UV’s all over nowadays.
I just cannot look at these cars without thinking, “rental cars”. They have such a generic amorphous look to them and I think I usually saw one in any ad featuring a product, needing a car in a photo. You could remove the badges and be unable to tell what it was.
Now, normally, I like this. I like plain rides. But I don’t like cheap plastic and the interiors of these cars were some of the cheapest I ever saw.
Finally, the old man thing. This was not a car for someone under 50.
Many many years ago I became sick and tired of seeing interiors that were nothing but a sea of gray! How many decades can car manufactures continue to make these ugly and boring interiors? While the latest versions have improved some, with touches of colors, there are still, after decades of gray, still gray on gray.
A number of years ago, I recall seeing a new car brochure of an interior. Of course it was all gray. It took me a minute to realize that the only thing that stood out as indicating that the photo was actually a color photo vs a black and white photo – was the speedometer needle that was orange!!!
I bought new a 1996 Sebring LXI coupe, fully optioned, white & silver. Spacious interior & trunk; comfortable ride and very solid feeling. Only one issue I had was a slight squeak from front suspension when turning slow to park which persisted for years. However, Chrysler took the car and rebuilt every front suspension component, part by part, until they identified the issue. This was after the warranty ran out, no charge to me, and provided a new loaner car for two weeks. I traded the Sebring in 2010, 98,000 miles, for a special ordered 2011 Camaro. At that time the Sebring still drove and looked almost new. Frankly, that Sebring coupe had better quality interior materials then my current Camaro.