What's New for 1996
Remote keyless-entry system gets a panic feature, and a HomeLink Universal Transmitter debuts on this suave sport coupe. Three new paint colors are also available. Chrysler dumps its final K-Car variant this year in favor of the Sebring Convertible. Based on the Cirrus platform and drivetrains, this drop top shares only the name of the Sebring Coupe.
Another hit from Chrysler arrived in showrooms last year, and it is called Sebring. It's a sports coupe that carries four occupants in comfort, with reasonable performance abilities and suave good looks. The Sebring is a stylistic success, though we don't like the faux grille up front. What appear to be four large air intakes in a traditional grille are actually black, ribbed plastic inserts. We bet that will look nice once the Sebring has met with a few rocks.
Aside from the goofy grille, we can't fault Chrysler's stylists on the Sebring. Huge fog lights lend the sophisticated coupe an aggressive look, and tastefully restrained rear styling exudes class. Underneath the sheetmetal, you'll find the underpinnings of a Mitsubishi Galant, and the dashboard of the Mitsubishi Eclipse/Eagle Talon twins. The fact that the Sebring is built in the same Illinois assembly plant as these models bodes well for long-term reliability.
Two kinds of Sebring are available: LX or LXi. The LX is powered by a 140-horsepower version of the 2.0-liter four found in the Neon. A five-speed is standard in the LX. The LXi adds a 155-horse Mitsubishi V6 and a mandatory automatic transmission. Alloy wheels shod with bigger tires, and four-wheel disc brakes with antilock are also standard fare on the top-level Sebring. The four-banger, when equipped with a five-speed, is the quicker car. Option packages let you trim the LX out to base LXi standards.
Changes for 1996 are limited to the addition of a panic mode on the remote keyless entry system, three new colors, an improved CD/cassette player and a HomeLink Universal Transmitter. Hey, you don't need to fix what ain't broke.
At less than $20,000 for a well-equipped LXi, the Sebring competes very well against the Ford Thunderbird, Pontiac Grand Prix, and midsize coupes from Japan. If you'd prefer to save a few hundred dollars, try the mechanically identical Dodge Avenger on for size.
The oldest car in Chrysler's lineup, and the only one still based on a version of the K-Car chassis, is retired for 1996. The venerable Le Baron Convertible, and its worn out name, are now history. Replacing the car is the luscious Sebring Convertible, which really ought to set the sales charts on fire. Available in JX and JXi trim, the Sebring Convertible shares its name with the coupe in Chrysler's stable, but shares its platform, structure and drivetrains with the Cirrus sedan.
Just look at this rakish drop top. The mouth waters, doesn't it? Well, don't get too worked up. The most potent powerplant available is a 2.5-liter Mitsubishi V6. It puts 164 horsepower to the ground through the front axle. Base JX models get a 2.4-liter twin-cam four cylinder good for 150 horsepower. This sounds more than adequate, right? An automatic transmission is the only choice on the Sebring Convertible, and that certainly saps some potential fun from these engines.
The power top includes a glass rear window, and the trick seatbelt system is fully integrated into the front seats. Engineers chose this type of restraint to avoid the need to create a stubby, and aesthetically displeasing, B-pillar to attach a conventional three-point belt. CFC-free air conditioning is standard, and antilock brakes are optional on the front disc rear drum brake system.
Many interior fitments, including the dashboard and gauge layout, have been lifted from the Cirrus. The Sebring Convertible is in an entirely different league from the Le Baron Convertible. As such, expect prices to rise accordingly, but not out of competitive range with the Mustang ragtop. Performance will likely be a tick or two off the Cirrus and Sebring coupe due to the higher curb weight of the convertible. However, with stylish, classy looks like these, who cares?