2002 Chrysler Sebring

By November 19, 2001
2002 Chrysler Sebring

Chrysler has been on the leading edge of design among American manufacturers in recent years and its Sebring shows that. The Sebring was introduced last year with all-new styling inside and out, a stiff new structure, a redesigned suspension, and the availability of a new V6 engine for the LXi model. In addition to the sedan reviewed here, there are coupe and convertible versions available (see nctd.com reviews).

An optional sports suspension is now available for Sebring sedan LXi models.

Model Lineup

Chrysler Sebring sedan is available in two trim levels. There’s a choice between a four-cylinder engine and the newly introduced V6. All models come standard with a four-speed automatic transmission.

LX ($17,705) comes with a twin-cam 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 150 horsepower. Chrysler’s 2.7-liter V6, which produces 200 horsepower, is available as an option for the LX ($1085). Base Sebring LX trim comes standard with air conditioning and power controls for windows, mirrors and door locks. Steel wheels with 15-inch tires are standard.

The luxurious Sebring LXi ($20,280) comes standard with the V6, 16-inch tires on aluminum alloy wheels, a sportier touring suspension, eight-way power control of the driver’s seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a premium sound system with CD player, a trip computer, cruise control, remote illuminated keyless entry, fog lights, bright exhaust tips, along with a higher level of interior convenience features.

Several safety systems are optional gear for both models, such as anti-lock brakes ($565) and side-curtain airbags ($390). An Enthusiast Group ($400) adds Chrysler’s Autostick transmission, a sports suspension, firm-feel power steering, and an electroluminescent instrument cluster. A selection of options allows the buyer to add some of the LXi features to the LX model or further enhance the LXi, including a power sunroof ($695).

Walkaround

The sleek body of Chrysler’s Sebring four-door sedan shows a sedan can look crisp and sporty like a coupe. Its gracefully arched profile features a dramatic rake to the windshield. A broad but stubby nose focuses on Chrysler’s signature grille design, which features an exaggerated oval air intake port inset with a shaded egg-crate grille pattern. Headlamps, shielded by polycarbonate lenses, wrap around the front corners, while available round fog lights flank the grille. The Sebring shares some design cues with the beautiful Chrysler Concorde.

Flat side panels flare in rings around the wheel wells to draw attention to the wheels, a design best complemented with the available 16-inch alloys. Blackened center roof pillars above the beltline diminish definitions for doors to mimic the look of a pillar-less coupe.

Curvy back pillars flow down into rolled rear flanks in a smooth transition from roof to body. The tail incorporates a spoiler lip arched over large corner lamps and the thick mass of a monotone bumper.

Our only complaint with the exterior is with the door handles: they can be hard to hang onto, particularly when in a hurry.

Though it shares its name and styling cues with the Sebring coupe, there are key differences: The sedan offers the convenience of four doors to access a spacious cabin and comfortable seats for a family of five. It may come as a surprise that the Sebring sedan and Sebring Coupe are built on two completely different chassis, giving each their own character in terms of ride quality and handling.

Interior Features

Sebring’s airy passenger compartment is a refined environment. The cab-forward architectural structure carves out generous space for riders by extending the windshield forward to the firewall and increasing the length and width of the cabin while abbreviating space up front with a transversely mounted engine.

Bucket seats flank a center console. LX models come with cloth fabric upholstery on all seats. LXi comes standard with similar upholstery, but with vinyl bolsters, woodgrain trim and other trim details. LXi comes with eight-way power-adjustable seats, replacing the manually adjustable seats in the LX; LXi also gets a reclining passenger seat. The rear bench seats three with 60/40 folding split seatbacks and access into the trunk, handy when carrying long items.

Round analog instruments with bold black-on-white graphics are tucked beneath an arched cowl and rimmed with chrome bezels. Although the dashboard is essentially flat and linear, there’s a wrap-around feel to the cockpit.

Window and lock switches are mounted on the driver’s door as God intended.

The center console houses the transmission shift lever and a padded armrest. Above the console, a central stack of audio and climate systems contains large rotary dials in a simplified and easy-to-operate scheme.

The Sebring provides excellent outward visibility for the driver with broad and tall expanses of window glass and relatively narrow windshield A-pillars. The glass is thicker than usual, which serves a secondary function as an insulating property to dampen external noise. It combines with the structural streamlining and additional layers of insulation added to doors, body cavities and the floor and ceiling to reduce noise.

Safety systems begin with a rigid structure that encases the passenger compartment. Passive measures include three-point seatbelts for all five seat positions and dual-stage frontal airbags. Also, the headliner has been engineered to accommodate optional curtain-style side-impact airbags.

Driving Impressions

The Sebring feels tight and precise. It feels nimble when cornering, but offers a smooth ride. And there’s plenty of power from the V6 engine that’s standard on the LXi, optional on the LX.

The V6 produces crisp acceleration. It leaps to action from a stoplight start, and it’s quick to respond for passing maneuvers at freeway speeds. This 2.7-liter V6 uses an aluminum block fitted with dual overhead cams and multi-valve technology. It delivers 200 horsepower but still earns respectable fuel economy figures. As a bonus, the V6 operates on regular-grade gasoline. The exhaust emits a pleasant burble when idling.

The electronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission is quiet and efficient. Gear ratios for the transmission have been calibrated to produce fast-clip getaways in stoplight derbies and typical stop-and-go in-town driving situations. Thus, the Sebring feels quick and can transform a freeway entry into an easy maneuver.

For added driving enjoyment, Chrysler offers its optional AutoStick for shift-it-yourself control of a manual stick with the convenience of an automatic. The AutoStick is fun to play with when you’re in a sporty mood. For everyday use in urban traffic, sliding it in the standard automatic mode works just fine.

Sebring LX, when equipped with the standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, feels energetic through all gears. This engine was carried forward from the predecessor Chrysler sedan, the Cirrus. If your budget is a primary concern, this is the engine to pick. The main cost difference is that initial $800, however. EPA-estimated fuel economy numbers differ by only a single point per gallon between the two engines. Order the LX with a V6, and you get a stylish mid-size sedan with V6 power for less than $20,000. That makes the V6 option hard to resist.

Rack-and-pinion steering gives the Sebring a crisp, neutral feel. The suspension, fully independent in a short- and long-arm arrangement up front and a multi-link rear arrangement with stabilizer bar attached fore and aft, delivers a smooth ride. The Sebring remains composed even when dropping the right wheels off the pavement to feel an irregular shoulder. LX and LXi share most suspension components, but the LXi gets a rear anti-roll bar for reduced understeer (i.e., better handling). Wheel sizes and tires differ as well: LX has 15-inch steel wheels, but LXi gets 16-inch aluminum wheels.

Anti-lock brakes are an option. The Sebring’s anti-lock brakes, called ABS Plus, include a software extension that senses when you’re braking and turning at the same time, a tricky situation from a car control standpoint. Chrysler’s system aids the driver in this situation by controlling the vehicle’s yaw for improved stability. This is particularly useful on varying road surfaces, when the right side of the car is on a different type of surface than the left side. Other brake improvements include electronic brake distribution, which balances the brakes front to rear for improved stability and shorter stopping distances. Larger brake rotors and thicker linings are designed to increase durability. Brighter headlamps with an improved light pattern help visibility on stormy nights.

Summary

Chrysler Sebring sedan delivers a spacious and comfortable passenger compartment wrapped in a sleek, sporty skin. It offers some of the benefits of the mid-size imports, yet beats them considerably in pricing. Sebring LXi comes loaded with luxury gear, but still holds the bottom line to a reasonable number.

Model Line Overview
Model lineup:LX ($17,705); LXi ($20,280)
Engines:2.4-liter dohc inline-4; 2.7-liter dohc V6
Transmissions:4-speed automatic; 4-speed automatic with AutoStick
Safety equipment (standard):dual front airbags, rear seat ISOFIX child restraint anchors standard
Safety equipment (optional):ABS with Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD), side-curtain airbags
Basic warranty:3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in:Sterling Heights, Michigan
Specifications As Tested
Model tested (MSPR):Sebring LXi ($20,280)
Standard equipment:air conditioning, dual power mirrors, analog instruments with tachometer, bucket seats with 8-way power for driver's seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel, automatic power windows, power door locks, remote keyless entry, AM/FM/CD
Options as tested (MSPR):side-curtain airbags ($390); ABS with Electronic Brake Distribution ($565); Luxury Group ($1265) includes leather seating surfaces, anti-theft system, automatic central locking, 120-watt audio with six premium speakers, electroluminescent instruments, cargo convenience net, universal garage door opener; Enthusiast Group ($250) includes Autostick, firjm-feel power steering, sports suspension; power sunroof ($695)
Destination charge:N/A
Gas guzzler tax:N/A
Price as tested (MSPR):$24040
Layout:front engine, front-wheel drive
Engine:2.7-liter dohc V6
Horsepower (lb.-ft @ rpm):200 @ 5900
Torque (lb.-ft @ rpm):192 @ 4300
Transmission:4-speed automatic with AutoStick
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy:20/29 mpg
Wheelbase:108.0 in.
Length/width/height:190.7/70.6/54.9 in.
Track, f/r:60.2/60.2 in.
Turning circle:36.8 ft.
Seating Capacity:5
Head/hip/leg room, f:37.6/52.5/42.3 in.
Head/hip/leg room, m:N/A
Head/hip/leg room, r:35.8/53.1/38.1 in.
Cargo volume:16.0 cu. ft.
Payload:N/A
Towing capacity:N/A
Suspension, f:Independent
Suspension, r:Independent
Ground clearance:N/A
Curb weigth:3317 lbs.
Tires:P205/60TR16
Brakes, f/r:disc/disc with ABS/EBD
Fuel capacity:16.0 gal.
Unless otherwise indicated, specifications refer to test vehicle. All prices are manufacturer's suggested retail prices (MSPR) effective as of November 19, 2001.Prices do not include manufacturer's destination and delivery charges. N/A: Information not available or not applicable. Manufacturer Info Sources: 1-800-CHRYSLER - www.chrysler.com

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