2009 Chrysler Sebring Touring Sedan: Excitement in mid-size’s name and looks
By Mike Blake, Carlisle Events
Tuesday, May 05, 2009
The name Sebring evokes excitement in the automotive world, beginning with the 12-hour endurance race in Sebring, Florida that was begun in 1952, and which has been won by such legendary racing names as Mario Andretti, A. J. Foyt, Dan Gurney, Bruce McLaren, Briggs Cunningham, Juan Manuel Fangio, Jacky Ickx and Stirling Moss .
Exhilarating vehicles including Maserati Sebring 2-door convertibles and Austin-Healey Sebring Sprites carried the name in the automotive racing world in the 1960s, and Plymouth utilized the Sebring name as a trim line of its Satellite mid-size coupe in the 1970s.
The current incarnation of Sebring belongs to Chrysler, which introduced the Sebring coupe in 1995, replacing the Chrysler LeBaron – a convertible version made the scene a year later. Now in its third generation, and manufactured at its Sterling Heights, Michigan Assembly Plant, utilizing 74 percent of its parts from U.S and Canadian suppliers, the Sebring is Chrysler’s attempt to bring unique inspiration to the mid-size segment.
The current version of the marque can be defined by its uniquely grooved or scored hood. It’s one of those either you-love-it-or-hate-it looks, but it does stand alone in today’s car-design world. The six furrows run from the front of the hood to the windshield and create a wind-channel appearance. The hood then flows into the integrated headlamps down the vehicle's side, ending on the sculpted rear tail-lamps. According to the company’s design team, everything on Sebring is crafted in such a way as to capture the essence of movement.
Measuring 190.6 inches in length, 71.2 inches in width and 59.0 inches in height, the car is stable, with a relatively low center of gravity, on its 108.9-inch wheelbase. The long hood profile, chrome beltline molding and long roofline create an athletic stance, but this mid-size is built and priced for economy and not athletics.
Powered by a U.S.-built 2.4-liter 4-cylinder PZEV engine and coupled to a 4-speed automatic transmission, my Inferno Red Crystal Pearl test Sebring was EPA rated at 21 city miles and 30mpg on the highway. During seven days of testing in the tri-state area of Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia, the vehicle, tuned as one would drive it right off the lot achieved an average of 28.3mpg, with interstate travel making up about 70 percent of the 500 miles driven.
Performancewise, there was noticeable engine noise in the interior compartment, and perceptible hesitant acceleration, though handling was confident after the vehicle’s response. The engine’s 2.4-liter 4-cylinder inline set-up is good for 173hp and 166 lbs.-ft. of torque. That isn’t enough to win you a 12-hour race at Sebring, as it takes the sturdy 3310-lb. namesake a slow, but steady 10.3 to get from zero to 60mph (during my tests) and a snail-like 17.7 second to cover a quarter-mile. However, the 28mpg-plus average for this mid-size makes the lack of power worthwhile, and larger engines are optional – including a 3.5-liter V-6 that CAN turn Sebring into a fast vehicle worthy of the historic nameplate.
Independent MacPherson strut front suspension with coil spring over gas-charged shock absorbers and stabilizer bar, and the rear multi-link independent suspension with coil springs, link-type stabilizer bar, gas-charged shock absorbers and isolated rear suspension cradle smooth out potholes and road inconsistencies, while handling is surprisingly smooth for slow-speed turns, weaves and s-curve experiences. Even with a nicely alert power rack-and-pinion steering system, higher-speed maneuvers create some yaw, but the vehicle provides a comparably steady ride in its class.
Inside, the dark Gray cabin is filled with electronic niceties and driver/passenger comforts. The compartment measures a roomy 40.1 inches for headroom in front and 38.4 in row two; leg room is 42.4 and 37.6, with shoulder room comfortable at 56.4 in both rows.
The interior appearance is upscale, but cheap plastic inserts mar the steering wheel, a few balky sensor lights disturb the experience and the trunk needs to be closed tenderly as a slam won’t secure it.
Fashionable amenities include uconnect phone with Bluetooth® technology, SIRIUS Satellite Radio, stain repel fabric, heated/cooled front cup holder that may heat beverages to 140 degrees Fahrenheit or cool to nearly freezing at 35 degrees Fahrenheit, heated leather front seats, leather-wrap steering wheel, air conditioning, DVD/MP3 audio system with six speakers, driver information center and steering wheel mounted audio controls.
Safety matters are attended to with advanced multistage front air bags, supplemental front seat-mounted side air bags and side curtain front and rear bags, LATCH seats, tire pressure monitoring system, rear window defroster, anti-lock 4-wheel disc brakes, variable intermittent windshield wipers and rear door child protection locks.
Base priced at $21,810, my test vehicle bottom-lined at $24,990. Add-ons included $225 for the exterior paint; $1395 for an electronics package that included the heated seats, security alarm, heater/cooled cup holder and rear cargo organizer; $425 for electronic stability control and traction control; $395 for the 8-way power driver’s seat and a $795 destination charge.
The 2009 Sebring … it has an unmistakable look and an instantly memorable name and is priced aggressively for its segment and its capabilities.
Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.
Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.
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