The 2009 Chrysler Sebring is the white bread of sedans, and depending on where you stand in the bread section of your supermarket, you know that can mean a lot of different things.
The test car arrived in my driveway bright blue and fresh-looking. While the Sebring hasn't been updated for this year, it still looks current. A glance through the window showed me a Dark Slate Gray leather interior with brushed metal and tortoiseshell accents. Not bad, I thought. So much for a plain old PB&J on white bread; this car might be a bit more than I anticipated - maybe PB&J with extra-crunchy peanut butter.
The Sebring has a remote-start button on its keyfob. Fancy! A quick look through the car told me that it has a heated and cooled cupholder in the front and an in-dash six-disc CD player with a DVD player and an MP3 jack; it also has a rear cargo organizer. Forget PB&J, this is looking more like fontina on grilled ciabatta. Yum! I couldn't wait to get in and drive the Sebring.
The Sebring's four-cylinder engine failed to impress me with its tinny sound. The four-cylinder is relatively fuel-efficient, with an EPA-estimated 21/30 mpg city/highway, but it sounds a little wimpy. I know that's a petty gripe. The Sebring got me from Point A to Point B without any drama, and while it's not going to win any races, we all know that sitting in traffic isn't a race anyway.
From the outside, the Sebring reminds me of a Wonder Bread bag: It's bright, cheery-looking and glad to see you. This was mostly due to my test car's hyper color, Deep Water Blue. It's a fine color for some people because the car looks fun in that shade of blue. If you want to take your car with a dose of grown-up-ness, get it in Silver Steel, Brilliant Black or Stone White. It looks nice in these colors, if tamer. Overall, the Sebring looks sharp and modern, but not overly so. No one was giving me looks of horror as I was driving it, but no one was looking at me in any other way, either.
My kids got in and out of the Sebring without any problems. The doors were easy to open without being too light and tinny-sounding when closed.
What I did like about the exterior styling was the back end. So many cars in this price range just look boring and generic. The Sebring's rear has a little character to it, with taillights on the rear fenders and trunklid. This placement gives it some visual interest and continuity. There's also a little flare on the lid that adds some sporty spice. Nice!
The Sebring made me feel like I'd upgraded, with nifty features like a power remote trunk release and remote start. What's remote start? There's a button on the keyfob that lets you start your car from across the street (or parking lot or wherever). It's a fun, fancy feature that I never actually used in a real-life sort of way. Of course, I had to try it out (see the video below), but I didn't think about using it after that. However, it was fun to be treated to something so nifty.
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Great
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Some
Here's where the 2009 Sebring has the opportunity to be a fancy ciabatta or foccacia bread. The Sebring has a number of upscale-looking features that at a glance are impressive. Upon use, however, some of them wound up being more like day-old cinnamon-raisin bread. It still looks pretty good, but it wasn't as great as I'd hoped.
The tortoiseshell-style steering wheel (their words, not mine) looks fancy and has a lot of foccacia potential. The upper-third of the steering wheel had the tortoiseshell-style hard plastic on it. I found it to be really chilly on cold mornings and sweaty and slippery on hot afternoons. There's also more of those tortoiseshell-style accents on the dash and doors. It looks nice at first, but the coloring in it is a bit too orange and it winds up looking a little cheap.
On the other hand, the heated and cooled cupholder for the driver brought back the fun Wonder Bread aspect to the Sebring. There's a nifty light in the cupholder that turns red or blue when the heater or cooler is on, respectively.
The leather seats look nice with their contrast stitching, and because they're leather, keeping them clean is easy. The instrument cluster was classic-looking and easy to read. The center stack is pretty minimal, with Chrysler's rectangular design, and that's a good thing.
I have to say that all of the other controls in the Sebring were really easy to use right out of the gate. That doesn't happen much these days, so thank you Chrysler.
In the backseat, there are two cupholders in the center armrest. It's wide enough for three boosters in the second row, if you finagle them a little. The Latch connectors are clearly marked and easy to get to. There's enough room for a rear-facing infant-safety seat, but it's a bit of a squeeze.
The center console is reasonably sized for a sedan, and the trunk is happy to handle almost any task. Except a double stroller. It just isn't happening mamas. Sorry.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
The Sebring has several safety features, including four-wheel-disc antilock brakes and front, side-impact and side curtain airbags for both rows.
Electronic stability control, traction control and brake assist are available in the Electronic Stability Program Package. These features will cost an extra $425 of your hard-earned buckaroos to the Sebring's price, but you and your kin are worth it.
The Sebring's future is up in the air now that the Chrysler-Fiat deal has been finalized. The underperforming sedan could be shelved, but we'll have to take a wait-and-see approach.
In Diapers: The trunk is spacious enough to hold most baby gear, except for a double stroller.
In School: There's plenty of room for three booster seats in the backseat.
Teens: It's a little blah, but they'll be comfortable sitting in the second row.