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Expert Reviews 1 of 4
By Richard Truett
May 11, 1995
The rebuilding of the Chrysler lineup continues at a torrid pace this summer. The company's all new minivans are expected to take center stage. But also in the spotlight is this week's test car, the Chrysler Sebring LX coupe. The Sebring
doesn't fit the usual sports coupe mold. Most of the two-door cars on the market are either high-performance vehicles, such as the Ford Mustang and Eagle Talon, or luxury coupes, such as the Lincoln Mark VIII or the Lexus SC 400. The Sebring is a
two-door car that isn't a hot rod and isn't loaded with wallet-draining luxury features. Think of the Sebring as a competent, capable car for those who prefer only two doors - and a reasonable monthly payment. PERFORMANCE Chrysler's Sebring
comes in two versions, the base LX and the more expensive LXi. LX models, such as our gray test car, come with a peppy 140-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that features double-overhead cams and 16 valves. A five-speed manual transmission is
standard; a four-speed automatic is optional. The LXi features a 2.5-liter V-6 with 24 valves; horsepower is rated at 155. But that model has a starting price of $19,029. And even though the LXi comes with more equipment, such as an automatic
transmission, the price difference is rather steep for a car that delivers only 15 more horsepower. Chrysler's new 2.0-liter engine, which also is serving a tour of duty in the Dodge/Plymouth Neon, is a high-quality, refined power plant, one of the
finest engines Chrysler has ever built. The 2.0-liter, in-line four-cylinder is a capable, easy-revving motor that lets the Sebring move away quickly from a stop and pass slower traffic with a minimum of fuss. The engine delivers a solid kick when
it is run between 4,200 and 5,500 rpm, it runs smoothly when it is revved hard, and it makes a nice whooshing sound. Our test car's five-speed transmission came with gears that were nicely matched to the engine's performance. That is, the engine never
struggled to get the car moving or to accelerate quickly. The gearbox shifted easily. With the air conditioner running most of the time, our test Sebring LX delivered 21 mpg in the city and 30 on the highway. HANDLING In most instances, the
Sebring is easy to drive and predictable. But in wet weather, the front tires don't grip well - even though 60 percent of the car's weight rests on them. I found that I had to take it easy when I started off in first gear on wet roads, because the
tires would spin easily. To address that problem Chrysler could add a traction control system or a fatter set of tires. In any case, road noise is muffled well. You don't hear much of what goes on underneath the car as you drive over poorly paved
roads, bumps and potholes. The Sebring has a four-wheel independent suspension system that is very similar to the setup used in the Mitsubishi Galant sedan. In fac
t, the Sebring and Galant are distant relatives. Mitsubishi builds the Sebring (and the similar Dodge Avenger) at its Diamond-Star Motors plant in Normal, Ill. All Sebrings come with power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering and power-assisted brakes.
LX models have discs up front and drums in the rear, while LXi models have discs at all four corners. An anti-lock system is standard on both models. The brakes in our test car did not stand out - they were just adequate. The steering, however,
did stand out. The wheel has a nicely weighted feel, and the Sebring responds instantly to small movements. But you can't make sharp turns in the Sebring, which has a massive 39.4-foot turning radius. In fact, making a U-turn in this car is no easy
maneuver, and you can forget about any parking lot gymnastics. FIT AND FINISH The Sebring's Mitsubishi roots are evident in the high quality manner in which the car is assembled and in the design and style of the
interior. For instance, many of the switches and buttons used in the Sebring are identical to the ones in the Galant and Eclipse - and that's no bad thing because they are attractive and easy to use. Despite the smart layout of the interior -
buckets up front and a pair of split fold-down rear seats - the Sebring could use a little work. I felt the tilt steering wheel was too close to the edge of the seat. Even in the fully raised position, the steering wheel seemed too low; I almost had
to squeeze under it to get situated in the seat. That seat, however, was very comfortable and provided good lower back support. The rear seat also is better than average. It is large enough to hold adult passengers comfortably, and there is plenty of
legroom and foot room. The trunk is cavernous. I would estimate it will hold at least four golf bags. Our test car came with cruise control, electric mirrors, power windows and door locks and a powerful Infinity CD stereo system with 8 speakers.
Although the Sebring LX isn't a high-performance sports coupe, it will deliver you to your destination quickly, comfortably and in style - and for less than a Ford Thunderbird, Mercury Cougar or Chevy Monte Carlo. Based on the generous amount of
standard equipment and high quality of assembly, I would say the Sebring LX ranks as an excellent value for the money. And it looks like another winner for Chrysler. Truett's tip: Chrysler's Sebring is a stylish, quick, comfortable
mid-size sports coupe with an affordable price tag. It also is well equipped.