Chrysler Sebring – that sounds vaguely familiar...?
The Sebring has been out in the US since 1998 where it has been a reasonable seller, but hardly set showrooms alight. Even so, that’s more than could be said for the Cabriolet versions that the UK importer bought over here in 2001 and 2002 - it sold just 35 of them in two years. But this all-new saloon, with petrol and diesel engines and numerous gadgets, should fare a little better.
Why so optimistic?
Chrysler is on a roll having just enjoyed its best ever September sales worldwide and having been the fastest growing brand in Europe in the past three months. Also, the new Sebring is the first ever Mondeo-segment car that Chrysler has built in right-hand-drive and with a diesel engine. Plus, the forthcoming Los Angeles Motor Show is likely to see a thinly-disguised coupe-cabriolet version of the Sebring due to go into production in 2008.
But it looks horrible...
Yup. It’s definitely not as daring as the 300C and it’s not about to win any US beauty pageants either, but in the metal it’s not quite as offensive as its awkward proportions suggest in photos. However, the front bumper sticks out further than Barry Manilow’s nose hair. Chrysler is aiming the Sebring at the more conservative end of the market at the Toyota Avensis and Honda Accord, but the expected 3000 sales per year are hardly going to give the Mondeo sleepless nights.
What about that diesel engine?
Quite, despite a 2.0 and 2.4-litre petrol being available, the 140bhp 2.0-litre turbo-diesel is going to account for around two-thirds of UK sales. It’s the same engine from the VW Passat TDI and can manage 45.6mpg average fuel economy. The only downside is that the engine is too noisy and to deliver its best needs to be kept on the boil via a slightly sloppily-changing six-speed gearbox.
This isn't sounding like a driver's car...
The Sebring’s good ride quality is a plus point, but anyone wanting a more sporting drive should wait for September 2007 and the Dodge Avenger. The Avenger is based on the same platform and with the same engines but with a more sporting focus to go up against the likes of the Alfa 159 and Mazda 6.
Does anything stand out with the Sebring?
Well, there’s a massive interior for starters which can easily swallow four 6-foot tall adults in comfort (five at a squeeze), it has a big boot and the passenger seat folds flat for extra long items on the way back from Ikea. The interior uses some hard, cheap-feeling plastics here and there, but the build quality is better than we’ve seen from Chrysler for a while too. We like the tortoise-shell and alloy-look trimming as well, and there are heaps of gadgets. As well as touch-screen satellite navigation and Bluetooth compatibility, there’s a very neat and funky optional fold-out DVD player for rear passengers that’s housed between the front seats. Also, the stereo can play CD and DVDs and also has a USB port and an MP3 audio jack point to plug in your iPod. Better yet, it also houses a 20Gb hard drive to store personal data on the sat nav system or even download photos. And get this, the cupholders can either keep your cup of coffee hot or keep your soft-drink cold during a journey.
The Sebring has average refinement and dyanmics. But it’s spacious and in the land of the repmobile, where something different is always good, the Sebring will definitely attract buyers. Chrysler is promising keen pricing and a lengthy list of standard equipment which, as well as those gadgets listed above, will certainly appeal. But the biggest headache for the Sebring - and every other rival in this class - is the Mondeo’s arrival next year. The Sebring could have travelled all the way to Europe for the first time, only to be whipped by a firm from its own US backyard.