Another in a series of my reviews that appeared in the online version of African Americans On Wheels, a now defunct automotive magazine that was included as an insert in the Sunday newspapers of major cities.
The Sebring Coupe and its Avenger sibling have always perplexed me. As Chrysler already had a 2-door convertible in the works based on the new Cirrus, would tooling a coupe really have been that much more of an effort? My guess is that since the ongoing Chrysler-Mitsubishi on-again/off-again relationship was in full “on-again” mode, they wanted to leverage that relationship in order to have enough capacity to meet the expected demand for the convertible, which was by far the better selling LeBaron. As the coupe market still had some (weak) legs, they likely wanted to maintain a player in that segment as well and just didn’t have the capacity. I’m also guessing that they engineered the convertible from the Cirrus rather than the Galant (like the coupe) to have more control over one of their best-selling cars and also to maximize profits. If anyone knows the whole story, please share.
I feel that the few people who bought the coupe made out far better than those that purchased the convertible. I drove convertible press car one weekend when the magazine had a big meeting in Detroit, where our managing editor was located. It creaked and groaned and felt like it was not screwed together very well. The 2001 redesign didn’t bring much of a powertrain improvement, either. I drove a rental Sebring sedan with the 2.7-liter V6 and, even though I know there was a V6 under the hood, ended up looking anyway because it felt like a four.
Surprisingly, the one I enjoyed driving most of all was a rental 2005 Avenger with the Mitsubishi 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine. It was roomy, looked great, and had more than enough power for a lovely drive from Ft. Lauderdale down to Key West.
The following review was written on March 13, 1999.
Let’s say you have your heart set on a Mitsubishi (It’s possible!). You like the spaciousness of the Galant, but don’t want a sedan. Your alternative is the sporty Eclipse, but it’s too small and “boy racer” for your tastes. What do you do? You hop over to your local Chrysler dealer where you’ll find the Sebring: platform of the previous-generation Galant, interior of the Eclipse, wrapped in a beautiful Chrysler-designed coupe body.
The Sebring coupe, which is a near-twin of the Dodge Avenger, was introduced in 1995 as a quick-fix replacement for the eight-year-old LeBaron coupe. By basing the Sebring coupe on the Galant/Eclipse, Chrysler was free to concentrate on the Cirrus sedan/Sebring convertible, which have Chrysler platforms and interiors. While not in Toyota’s or Honda’s league, Mitsubishi’s quality rankings are generally higher than Chrysler’s, and the Sebring coupe feels better screwed together than the convertible with whom it shares its name.
In base LX form, the Sebring is powered by a 140-horsepower, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that’s also found in the base Eclipse, and is noted for being one of the roughest, noisiest engines around. The upmarket LXi has Mitsubishi’s 2.5-liter V6, which is not a paragon of smoothness itself, nor very powerful. It’s these engines more than anything else that make the Sebring coupe inferior to its competition, including the Camry and Accord coupes as well as the Chevy Monte Carlo and Pontiac Grand Prix. In keeping with luxury coupe fashion, the LXi V6 is offered only with a four-speed automatic transmission.
Too bad, because the rest of the car is so good. The sporty Eclipse interior with its wrap around dash and console has been touched up with elegant woodgrain accents. The rear seat is spacious for a coupe, and the 13.1 cubic-foot trunk is near the top of its class. The Sebring’s handling is above average for a luxury coupe.
If the powertrain shortcomings bother you, wait until next year for the new Sebring, which most likely will be powered by the base Concorde’s 200-horsepower V6, and hopefully will be just as lovely.
For more information contact 1-800-4A-CHRYSLER
Type: Two-door Coupe
Engine: 163-horsepower, 2.5 liter V6
Transmission: Four-speed Automatic
EPA Mileage: 20 city/27 highway
Tested Price: $23,540
We all now know that only the sedan and the convertible were available with the 2.7, while the coupe received the Mitsubishi 3.0. Lucky coupe.
Sharp looking cars, especially in the context of overstyled modern cars with poor proportions.
I saw an absolutely immaculate one of these in a nice mauve/light purple at the Costco gas station a few months ago, a time capsule with an older set of modestly sized and attractive looking aftermarket alloy wheels and a half-bra on the front. I complemented the owner on his sweet ride (an older black gent) and he lit up, I think it made his day that someone else appreciate his obviously well-loved car.
Interesting that these and the Eclipse had the “420a” motor, which was a “reversed” version of the Neon DOHC 2.0L engine: Neon had exhaust facing the firewall, intake on the front, these were reversed. The Neon was rated at 150hp, these 420as at 140hp.
Another interesting tidbit: south of the border, these were offered with a 2.0L turbo and a stick, not sure if they turbo’d a 420a or stuck a Mitsu 4G turbo in there.
Well proportioned coupe that gets high marks from current and previous owners. A bit under-powered IMHO for today’s real world driving. Not a big fan of FWD cars.
Special ordered a white fully optioned 1996 Sebring LXI & traded it for a new 2011 Camaro, After 100,000 miles without issues it was still tight & even the leather upholstery looked almost new. Two door body style, large trunk and roomy interior with fold-down rear seats made it a great long distance road car for me & four cats. Agree, my only fault with a car this heavy was it could have used more power. Overall, best auto I have owned in its price range in the last 55 years.
This car should have done better. At the same time, chevy offered the dismal monte carlo and people BOUGHT it. Honda had the accord which was ok but a little dull in styling, toyota had the camry solar which is . .. taking away two doors doesn’t make a car sporty or athletic any more than me wearing running shoes and shorts makes me an athlete, ford had the thunderbird, mustang, and probe. . . But this definitely had sharper styling than a lot of the competition and was keenly priced. I suppose that anyone who wanted a two door Chrysler just got the convertible. I’ve been looking at sebring convertibles over the last few weeks cos I want a fun toy car and I am impressed with the solidity and how they handle. Much better than a saab 9 3 convertible i once bought for resale. The sebringnfeels solid, has plenty of power, and handles with verve and these are 15 year old cars.
To be fair the ’98 Accord coupe did have some really cool rear taillights, plus by the 90s the Honda/Toyota desirability over domestic competition was fully in place across much of the country. Handling shortcomings of the Solara? IMO not a big factor for someone shopping this segment of cars, which were more about a sporty look than necessarily high performance (although the Mazda derived Probe in particular was a good handler iirc).
Another great review, of a beautifully-styled Chrysler. Though I did prefer the Avenger’s design, featuring the below bumper crosshair grille. And so much better looking than the later Avengers.
I recall being impressed (and shocked), the way Chrysler products were growing in size. Their mid-sized and large cars looking almost massive compared to the competition. So much potential here.
My niece moved back up to Vermont, and brought her Sebring with her, probably 13 years ago…but was in an accident with the Sebring, and bought a new Saturn Astra (remember those?) in its place. I liked both cars, the Sebring was pretty plush, too bad she didn’t have it very long….even the Astra is gone now…I think she drives an Impala now.
Is a 99 Chrysler Sebring a classic convertible