Over the past few years, Chrysler's Sebring and its Dodge Stratus twin have fallen to the wayside as midsize competitors like the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and Ford Fusion steadily outgunned, outsized and out-equipped them. For 2007, Chrysler hopes for a comeback: The redesigned Sebring is larger, more powerful and more feature-filled than its predecessor.
Though the previous Sebring included coupe, convertible and sedan body styles, the new car comes only as a sedan. Chrysler says it has no plans to resurrect the Sebring coupe, but a convertible isn't out of the question. A related Dodge Avenger sedan, the replacement for the Stratus, should arrive soon.
The Sebring is available in base, Touring and Limited trim levels. A 2.4-liter four-cylinder is standard; an available 2.7-liter V-6 carries over from the previous Sebring, and it can run on ethanol-based E85 fuel. Optional on the Sebring Limited is a 3.5-liter V-6.
A long list of innovative, if unnecessary, options include a 20-gigabyte hard drive for media storage, a voice memo recorder and a heated and cooled cupholder.
Chrysler calls the new Sebring's sheetmetal "sleek" and "elegant," which is to say it has none of the 300's brute machismo. Rather, the Sebring's scalloped headlamps and flowing hood strakes recall a kindler, gentler Chrysler — the maker of minivans and PT Cruisers, remember?
Large C-pillars join a stubby trunk, and rear lights ape those on the Toyota Camry, Lexus ES 350 and many of their kind. Sixteen-inch steel wheels are standard. Alloy wheels in 17- and 18-inch diameters are optional.
At 190.6 inches long, the Sebring is roughly even with its predecessor, as well as the Camry, Accord and Fusion. Height measures 59 inches, exceeding the outgoing Sebring by a sizeable 5.1 inches and all three competitors by more than an inch.
The Sebring's simple cabin includes three backlit instrument portals, a two-tone dashboard and an analog clock. It's a welcome change from Chrysler's recent history of button-strewn dashes. A center console flows toward the stereo and climate controls, the latter a straightforward three-dial layout.
In uplevel models, seats are clad in leather and heated up front. An optional climate-controlled cupholder can vary temperature between 35 and 140 degrees. Gadget lovers will want to spring for the Harman Kardon "infotainment" system, which includes a USB-accessible hard drive with 20 gigabytes of media storage, a 6.5-inch screen that displays movies and navigation information, and a voice memo recorder that can store messages up to three minutes long.
Some traditional luxury features — such as a power passenger seat and dual-zone climate control — are offered in upper-crust versions of the Camry and Accord, but remain absent even in the Sebring Limited.
Thanks to an extra 5 inches of exterior height, the Sebring's cabin is 9 percent roomier than its predecessor's and now ranks in the same league as the Accord, Camry and Fusion. Trunk space measures just 13.6 cubic feet — a 15 percent decrease from the previous Sebring, and considerably smaller than all three competitors. Fortunately, the front passenger seat has an optional fold-flat feature to accommodate longer cargo through the 60/40-split, folding rear seat.
Standard in the base Sebring is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with an estimated 172 horsepower and 165 pounds-feet of torque; it's Chrysler's much-publicized World Engine, and it's also used in the Dodge Caliber R/T and Jeep Compass, among others. Optional in the base model and standard on the Sebring Touring and Limited is a 2.7-liter V-6. It makes an estimated 190 hp and 190 pounds-feet of torque, and it can run on regular or ethanol-based E85 fuel. The Sebring Limited offers an optional 3.5-liter V-6 that generates an estimated 235 hp and 232 pounds-feet of torque.
The 3.5-liter V-6 runs through a six-speed automatic transmission with AutoStick manual shifting; other engines have a four-speed automatic.
With the top engine running on recommended 89-octane fuel, gas mileage is estimated at 19 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway — not the highest figures, given the V-6 Camry and Accord have more horsepower but yield better mileage with cheaper 87-octane fuel.
Antilock brakes, front-seat side-impact airbags and side curtain airbags are standard. An electronic stability system is optional.