Sport coupes seem to fall into two categories: high-powered, tricked out rockets for the ÒThe Fast and the FuriousÓ crowd and semi-luxurious two-doors for a mature audience that favors comfort over speed.

While teenagers love to tear around in the former, the rest of us find life a lot more pleasing in the latter. Chrysler's 2003 Sebring is a good example. The 2002 had an oval grille that mimicked the Concorde sedan, but the 2003 gets a completely new nose with larger fog lights and grille dominated by a larger Chrysler logo. The look, which Chrysler describes as "sophisticated," has a distinctly European feel.

Around back, the trunk lid has been restyled, and inside it gets a new instrument panel and a general freshening that enhances its feeling of sophistication. The Sebring's new look appealed to me more with each passing day, and the light blue pearl paint, new for '03, was stunning. The Sebring coupe comes in LX and LXi trim levels, with prices starting at $20,185 and $22,385, respectively. The test car was an LXi equipped with leather interior, 17-inch wheels, anti-lock brakes, traction control, side airbags and the AutoStick automatic transmission. Its sticker price was $27,915.

The 3.0-liter, 200-horsepower V-6 engine and five-speed manual transmission is standard on the LXi, while a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine is the base engine in the LX. The V-6 is pretty smooth and reasonably powerful, making it the engine of choice because of the spirit with which it moves this four-passenger coupe. The test car's AutoStick automatic transmission, a $165 option that most people will want, gives the driver the option of shifting manually when conditions warrant.

While most sport coupes are really just two-seaters in disguise, the Sebring's back seat is large enough to be used by adults. Rear-seat passengers don't feel claustrophobic because the seat is mounted slightly higher than the front seat, giving them a better view through the windows. The Sebring's trunk is quite spacious, and can be made even more so by folding down the 60/40 split folding rear seat.

In keeping with the update of the Sebring's styling, Chrysler turned its attention to the interior and revised the instrument panel, specifically the gauge package. Instruments have black backgrounds, chrome trim rings and a clock-like appearance. The center section is covered with a brushed aluminum panel whose finish is mirrored by pieces on the door panels.

The single cupholder at the front of the console does not accommodate tall cups very well.

The front seats are nicely contoured and provide excellent support. Seat belts integrated into the seats are more comfortable and easier to reach than belts mounted on the door pillar, especially on coupes with long doors.

The LXi is equipped with finger-tip radio controls on the back of the steering wheel, and the auto-dimming rearview mirror contains an exterior temperature readout and compass. Ho meLink buttons for garage doors are built in.

Given the sporty nature of the Sebring, the suspension is tuned to provide nicely responsive handling without a bone-jarring ride. This is not a sports car, but more of a touring coupe, and it rides accordingly. The LXi's 17-inch wheels and low-profile tires look good but also quicken the steering response when turning into corners. Low-profile tires often degrade ride quality, but these don't seem to cause unnecessary roughness.

In many ways, the Sebring is more of a two-door sedan than a sports car, and that is a niche with few occupants. Updating the styling makes it even more competitive.

Price
The base price of the test car was $22,385. Options included leather interior, anti-lock brakes, traction control, side airbags, automatic transmission, AutoStick, power sunroof, front reading lamps, 17-inch wheels and AM/FM cassette and CD player.

The sticker price, including freight, was $27,915.

Wa ranty
Three years or 36,000 miles.

Point: The Sebring is a four-passenger coupe, not a sports car, and as such it appeals to mature drivers. The 2003 restyle creates a sophisticated look, while the interior is more comfortable than before.

Counterpoint: Compared to cars such as the Mustang GT and the Mitsubishi Eclipse, the Sebring comes up a bit short on power. The single cupholder at the front of the center console doesnÕt hold large cups.

SPECIFICATIONS:
Engine: 3.0-liter, 200-hp V-6
Transmission: AutoStick Front-wheel drive
Wheelbase: 103.7 inches
Curb weight: 3,276 lbs.
Base price: $22,385
As driven: $27,915
Mpg rating: 20 city, 27 hwy.
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