The Chrysler Sebring is a sports or midsize car in convertible, sedan, and coupe variants, produced in three generations from 1995 to 2010 by Chrysler Corporation. It was set to succeed Chrysler LeBaron in its coupe and convertible variants, and Chrysler Cirrus in the sedan variant. It was replaced by Chrysler 200 and, interestingly, GAZ Volga Siber, a Russian-made saloon, licenced and produced on the same platform.
Chrysler decided to name the car after Sebring in Florida, a place which holds the famous endurance race 12 Hours of Sebring.
The First Generation (1995-2000)
Codenamed FJ and JX, Chrysler Sebring first appeared in 1995 as a coupe, joined by the convertible in the ensuing year. The coupe shared a common platform with the Mitsubishi Eclipse. The convertible, on the other hand, had its underpinning based on the Chrysler JA platform, the same one used by the Cirrus sedan. Compared to the related Dodge Avenger, it had slightly softer suspension. Despite not being an actual muscle car, it had little body roll and behaved well when handling curves. LXi had rear sway bars, differently set up fully-independent suspension, as well as 17-inch wheels.
The coupe variant could sit five. It was one of the more comfortable coupes on the market at the time. Trunk offered plenty of space, equivalent to that of midsize cars. Its grille derived inspiration from the classic Chrysler 300 series, but only served a decorative purpose and not functional. Airflow went through the lower part of the bumper. Engines in the coupe were 2.0L 420A inline-four and 2.5L 6G73 V6 petrol, while the convertible had 2.4L EDZ inline-four and 2.5L 6G73 V6 petrol options, paired with a 5-speed manual gearbox or a 4-speed 41TE automatic transmission.
The facelift version of 1997 brought changes to the grill, which was slightly larger and black and came with the new Chrysler 'Wings' logo. Other additions are ribbed lower body and new wheel styles, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, adaptive automatic transmission, fully independent suspension, variable speed rack and pinion steering, 17-inch aluminium wheels, 4-wheel double wishbone suspension, power windows, one-touch power moonroof, electrochromic mirror with compass, power accessory delay ignition, and Homelink universal transmitter.
These options were available for the LX and LXi models (coupe) and the JX and JXi (convertible).
The Second Generation (2001-2006)
Sebring continued into the second generation with the addition of a sedan variant, based on the same Chrysler JR platform as the convertible. The 2004 facelift brought updates to the grille and headlights. The new Chrysler winged emblem found its location on the rear deck. However, Chrysler discontinued the coupe variant after 2005. In some countries, Sebring wore the Cirrus nameplate and came with an option of a 2.4L DOHC engine. Europe received its own Sebring, with front and rear lights redesigned to European standards, changes to rear bumper to fit European-size licence plates, fog lights, as well as Euro 3 emissions standard.
Engine options for the sedan and convertible include 2.4L EDZ inline-four and 2.7L EER V6 petrol, while the coupe had 2.4L 4G64 inline-four and 3.0L 6G72 V6 petrol options. These powerplants teamed up with either five-speed manual gearbox or four-speed F4A42/F4A51 automatic transmission.
The IIHS rated the Sebring 'Acceptable' for the frontal-impact test and 'Poor' for side-impact, in which test the Sebring did not have side airbags fitted. Chrysler later refused to retest the car with the side airbags.
The convertible version received a facelift in 2004, sharing some design features with the sedan while remaining distinguishable from both the sedan and coupe versions. Its interior featured considerable elements from the previous generation with slight styling revisions.
Chrysler based the updated coupe on the third-generation Mitsubishi Eclipse platform, sharing little in common with the other versions, aside from the name and exterior features to justify tying it under the same model.
Available trim levels were Base, GTC, Limited, LX, LXi, Touring, TSi, with options to fit additional options to existing packages.
The Third Generation (2007-2010)
Codenamed JS, after its platform name, the new Sebring rolled off from production lines in Sterling Heights, Michigan. With the convertible released a year after the sedan, the second-generation convertible was kept to fill the gap until 2008. Chrysler Airflite, a concept car from 2003, influenced its design.
The updated convertible lifted design cues from Chrysler Crossfire. It first appeared at the Los Angeles International Auto Show in 2007 and enjoyed resounding success in the United States, outmatched only by the Ford Mustang convertible. The new generation came with the option of either a retractable hardtop or a soft top, with Karmann taking charge of production. Vinyl was used on the base LX models, while the Touring and Limited received cloth roof, with optional hardtop.
In 2010 it received a facelift, changing both the cosmetic and powertrain features, making it different enough to be rebranded as Chrysler 200. The change was prompted by unreliability issues, resulting in poor reviews by most European car magazines and shows, with 2 out of 5 stars at best. The third-generation Sebring sold for a total of 233,693 units in the United States.
The third generation would make its way onto the Australian market in both convertible and sedan versions, in the following specification:
- Cabrio with a 2.7L EER V6 petrol engine paired with a six-speed automatic transmission, in Limited or Touring trim level.
- Sedan with a 2.4L World I4 petrol engine paired with a four-speed automatic transmission, in Limited or Touring trim level
- Sedan with a 2.7L EER V6 petrol engine paired with a six-speed automatic transmission, in Limited trim level
- Sedan with a 2.0L VW I4 t/c diesel engine paired with a six-speed automatic transmission, in Touring trim level
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Author: Luka Kusic