Chrysler hedges its bets
If you asked us to name the one thing that made the Chrysler 300
an overnight success, we wouldn't point you to its rear-wheel
drive, its retro styling or its Mercedes-Benz mechanicals. No, it's
the fact that Chrysler took a risk: The company bet real money that
real people would spend their real money to buy this stylish, agile
and unconventional sedan, and it paid off.
But Chrysler decided not to gamble on the redesign of the
midsize Sebring sedan. Instead, the 2007 Chrysler Sebring, which
goes on sale in early November, represents a safe move, a defensive
play borne of the same kind of carefully measured thinking that
puts hundreds of thousands of people in
Honda Accords and
Toyota Camrys every year.
Still front-wheel drive, the 2007 Chrysler Sebring rides on a
stretched and widened version of the
Dodge Caliber platform, which is
also the basis for the next Sebring convertible. Overall length
remains the same as last year's Sebring, but the car is now taller,
and rides on a wider track and slightly longer wheelbase.
This opens up considerably more headroom and legroom, now on par
with most competitors in this class, and backseat passengers can
easily slide their feet under the front chairs. We're told
DaimlerChrysler chairman Dieter Zetsche was adamant about
increasing headroom in the new Sebring — likely because he
banged his melon getting into the old car, which had as much
cranial clearance as a Little Tikes pedal car.
Still, the '07 Sebring remains narrow for a midsize sedan,
resulting in about an inch less hip- and shoulder room front and
rear than any of its rivals. Trunk volume measures just 13.6 cubic
feet, a low number for this segment.
Sparsely equipped and hastily furnished, previous-generation
Sebrings felt like rental cars on the inside. Chrysler addressed
both issues during the redesign, although materials quality still
won't threaten the import-brand leaders.
Chrysler will sell the new Sebring in base, Touring and Limited
trim levels. If you go for a base Sebring, you won't do without
anything important, as all models come with ABS, a tire-pressure
monitor, 16-inch steel wheels, front-seat side airbags, full-length
head curtain airbags, air-conditioning, a CD player, an input jack
for MP3 players and cruise control. Finding a comfortable driving
position isn't hard either, now that there's a tilt-and-telescoping
Touring models get 17-inch alloy wheels, upgraded interior trim
and lighting, and a lengthier options list, while the Limited adds
single-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, Boston
Acoustics speakers and, in a nod to the
300C, tortoise-shell interior
An extensive options list includes everything from predictable
extras like stability control, satellite radio and remote start to
more unusual stuff like front cupholders that can warm your latte
or chill your cola, and a Harman Kardon-designed, hard drive-based
navigation and audio system with real-time traffic rerouting and
20GB of MP3 file storage.
No matter which trim level you select, a 2.4-liter inline
four-cylinder engine is standard. Also used in the Caliber and
Jeep Compass, the engine makes
173 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 166 pound-feet of torque at 4400
rpm. It comes only with a four-speed automatic transmission. Thusly
equipped, the Sebring earns a 24 mpg city, 32 mpg EPA rating.
Unfortunately, the mileage isn't good enough to justify the
2.4-liter's lethargic response and coarse power delivery. It's no
match for the standard four-cylinder engines in the Camry, Accord
Nissan Altima. Plus, the Camry and
Accord have more sophisticated five-speed automatics (in addition
to offering manual gearboxes), while the Altima has a continuously
A better choice for most buyers is the carryover 2.7-liter,
twin-cam V6 optional on the Sebring Touring. Its 189-hp rating may
look feeble next to last year's even 200, but engineers retuned it
to provide more torque at lower rpm — 191 lb-ft at 4000 rpm
compared to 190 lb-ft at 4850 rpm on the '06 Sebring.
Although you're still forced to get friendly with a four-speed
automatic, the small V6 is infinitely more livable in everyday
traffic situations. It's not as smooth as we'd like, but its 22/30
mileage rating is respectable.
The 3.5-liter SOHC V6, available only on the Sebring Limited, is
far and away the best engine in the lineup. Rated for 235 hp at
6400 rpm and 232 lb-ft of torque, this V6 is light on off-the-line
pull but plenty satisfying once it revs up. It also earns you the
right to have a six-speed automatic, which likely accounts for the
Limited's 19/28 fuel economy estimate with this engine option.
Upshifts happen at redline under full throttle, but downshifts take
a little longer than they should whether you're in "D" or the
autostick manual mode.
Chrysler claims a 7.7-second 0-60-mph time with the 3.5-liter
— slower than a V6-equipped Camry, but right on target with
the V6 Accord,
Ford Fusion and
Chevrolet Malibu SS.
Fine ride, average handling
Ride quality is vastly improved, thanks to the Sebring's
stiffer structure and a new front strut/rear multilink suspension
with increased travel. Commuters will find it acceptably smooth for
this class, and the sedan feels stable at high speeds.
In corners, the '07 Sebring doesn't feel quite so solid, as soft
suspension tuning and minimal feedback from the power-assisted
rack-and-pinion steering curb its entertainment potential. Limited
models equipped with the 3.5-liter V6 feel crisper and more
energetic, thanks to firmer springs and shocks and lower-profile
18-inch tires. If we had it our way, this would be the standard
setup on all Sebrings.
More problematic is the Chrysler's lack of serious braking
hardware. If you get the four-cylinder engine, you're stuck with
rear drum brakes, and on mountain roads, they cook faster than the
trick new cupholders. Sebring V6 models upgrade to four-wheel
discs, which perform better but lack pedal progression.
Radical it isn't, but the '07 Sebring does meet the minimum
requirements for a midsize family sedan. It starts at a comfortable
$19,000, tops out just over $30 grand and can deliver 30 mpg on the
But look past the numbers and the fancy electronics (as cool as
it is to rip CDs from the driver seat), and the 2007 Chrysler
Sebring is an ordinary car with middling performance credentials.
It's too safe a bet from a car company that's better off taking
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which
selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this