22/06/2007 00:00

Chrysler Sebring review (2007 onwards model)



Christopher Hubbard's biography (© Image © MSN)

  • What – Chrysler Sebring
  • Where – Northern Ireland
  • Price – £17,995 - £18,995
  • Available – July
  • Key rivals – Ford Mondeo, Honda Accord, Peugeot 407, Toyota Avensis, Vauxhall Vectra, Volkswagen Passat

Summary

All-new Chrysler Sebring sees the American manufacturer taking on the Mondeo-sized segment for the first time. Can equipment levels and a competitive price win us over?

  • Likes: diesel performance, six-speed gearbox, equipment levels, different
  • Dislikes: diesel refinement, interior quality, ride, handling, steering, price, styling

GALLERY: Chrysler Sebring

First impressions

Chrysler Sebring (© image © DaimlerChrysler)

Click images to enlarge, more below

The all-new Sebring is Chrysler’s first foray into the ultra competitive Mondeo-sized D-segment. With a single ‘Limited’ trim level fielding extensive standard equipment – including 18-inch alloys, automatic air-conditioning, tyre-pressure monitor, and more that we’ll come to below – it aims to offer high value and distinctive American design, principally to those at or approaching retirement age (according to Chrysler UK’s Sales Director, no less). Chief rivals are cited as the aforementioned Ford, the Peugeot 407 and Volkswagen Passat – but especially the Honda Accord and Toyota Avensis, which Chrysler says target a similar market. That’s a tough gig for a newcomer, especially one closely related to the uninspiring Dodge Avenger.

##%Overview of the Chrysler Sebring range[[%LNK|VipOverview||Chrysler|Sebring|%]]7%##

Chrysler Sebring (© image © DaimlerChrysler)

The car is available in two flavours, a track day only version with an adjustable rear wing or for the same price Lotus will provide a car that meets the Single Vehicle Approval guidelines – lights, numberplates and four-rather than six-point harnesses – allowing it to be used legally on the road. Both variants have fully adjustable suspension settings and in a nod to track-day specialists, the key fob contains a memory stick detailing the factory defaults plus suggested settings for a number of UK racing circuits.

Performance

Chrysler Sebring (© image © DaimlerChrysler)

The Sebring launches in July with just three engine options – 2.0-litre petrol and 2.0-litre CRD diesel, both with manual gearbox, and a 2.4-litre petrol automatic. The diesel is a 138bhp Volkswagen unit, making it old-school loud but usefully punchy. 229lb ft of torque means decent midrange performance, even if the 12.0-second 0-62mph time lags considerably behind all of Chrysler’s highlighted opposition. The six-speed ‘box, however, is genuinely impressive. Considering America's love affair with the automatic the slick, positive, short-throw action of the manual comes as quite a surprise. Engine and gearbox together make for a respectable combination.

Chrysler Sebring (© image © DaimlerChrysler)

The five-speed, 2.0-litre petrol feels gutless in comparison, despite an extra 16bhp. The gearshift mechanism isn't as sweet either, and without the diesel clattering away under the bonnet, wind and road noise are also more obvious. Thrashy and ineffective without the CRD's torque, you'd have to be a die-hard anti-diesel fanatic to take this engine over the diesel. The better choice does carry a £1,000 premium, though, making it a fiver short of £19k, and matching the 167bhp 2.4 four-speed auto I wasn’t able to drive. Given the Sebring's equipment levels, at first glance this seems pretty reasonable...

##%Compare the Chrysler Sebring with the Ford Mondeo, Volkswagen Passat, Honda Accord and Vauxhall Vectra[[%LNK|CompareOverview||||466^^75156092007,627^^75162482007,193^^72125202008,12^^73343062007,568^2472^37696382007%]]8%##

Ride and handling

Chrysler Sebring (© image © DaimlerChrysler)

That is until you actually take it for a drive. The ride is initially rather stiff, so around town you'll feel every ridge and manhole cover – not the most relaxing experience. Up the pace – as the diesel's drive-train seems to encourage – and it's immediately clear that despite the low-speed hardness the Sebring is severely lacking proper body control. And as if bouncing and pitching from one bump to the next wasn't enough, the steering isn’t just devoid of feel but inconsistently weighted. Vague and light around the centre line, the sudden, rubbery resistance once you’ve wound on a few degrees of lock makes it tough to judge your inputs precisely.

Chrysler Sebring (© image © DaimlerChrysler)

Combined with lurching body roll, even a single change of direction feels like you're tacking a sailboat. Attempting several closely spaced direction changes at any kind of speed is definitely not recommended – though at least ESP is standard if things really get out of hand. It's unlikely you'll ever reach that point: there's so much movement, and so little feel, that even in a straight line the Sebring seems to require constant correction, hacking away at your confidence in the chassis. Ghostly impressions of torque steer occasionally filtering through the haze don’t help. Dynamically, the mainstream has nothing to fear.

Interior and safety

Chrysler Sebring (© image © DaimlerChrysler)

If anything, the interior's even worse. The dashboard may be swoopy, and dotted with (plastic) chrome highlights and accents in 'tortoise shell'. But even the supposedly soft-touch surface on the top has a 'pebble' finish and light grey colouring that makes it look like a refugee from an early 90s Hyundai. I'd happily trade the standard fit leather for better quality; you could use the low rent stuff round the centre console as a nail file, and some of the gaps between joins were big enough for my fingertip. Way below what we’ve come to expect in this segment.

Chrysler Sebring (© image © DaimlerChrysler)

There’s plenty of space in the front, but rear legroom is average at best, and nothing compared to the new Mondeo. The boot is long but not deep, and restricted in its usefulness by intruding rear suspension turrets. Also, for a car aimed primarily at those later in life, you can’t help noticing the entry lip is on the high side. The six-speaker Boston Acoustic stereo is massively bassy; I can’t see this, or the complex £1,500 ‘MyGIG’ satnav/infotainment centre option, appealing to the intended target audience. Still, six airbags implies decent safety levels (no Euro NCAP rating yet), and the heating/cooling cupholder is a cute gimmick.

Economy

Chrysler Sebring (© image © DaimlerChrysler)

Unsurprisingly, the diesel offers the best fuel consumption and emissions figures amongst Chrysler’s trio. But at 45.6mpg combined and 170g/km of CO2 the Sebring again fails to match any of its rivals. In terms of value for money, spec for spec Chrysler reckons the Sebring works out considerably cheaper thanks to its extensive list of fitted equipment – the only optional items are special paint, a sunroof, and the MyGiG satnav device. But this doesn’t take into account the substantial difference in interior quality, driving dynamics and overall refinement – all of which suggests it’s the Sebring’s £17,995 to £18,995 price tag that’s expensive.

The MSN Cars verdict: 2/5

The six-speed gearbox is good, the diesel engine acceptable, and equipment levels high. But in every other respect the Sebring is second-class. Shopping on a budget? Then you’d be better spending the money on something second hand.

Ratings out of five: Chrysler Sebring

Performance
***
Ride & handling
*
Interior
*
Safety
***
Price
**
Practicality
***
Fuel economy
***
MSN Cars verdict
**
 

Need to know

Petrol engines
2.0, 2.4
Diesel engines
2.0
Power (bhp)
138 - 167
Torque (lb/ft)
140 - 229
0-62 (secs)
11.1 - 12.0
Top speed (mph)
118 - 126
Combined mpg
31.7 - 45.6
C02 emissions (g/km)/tax (%)
170-211 / 21-29
 

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