by Joe LaMuraglia
Historically, one of the largest market segments for vehicles in the U.S. has been the mid-size sedan segment. The vehicles that fall into this category are functional sedans that seat 5-6, don’t break the bank and appeal to a myriad of buyers. You could say it is the automotive sweet spot with sales reaching millions of units every year.
Chrysler, sadly, hasn’t had a decent entrant to this segment in many years. In fact, their aging Sebring sold only 90,000 units in 2005. Compare that to the Camry’s 426,990 units in the same period, and you understand our point. Chrysler knows that to keep sales on the upward swing and to give something for their owners to move into, they needed a competitive offering a notch below their much ballyhooed 300.
One way to make a mark as an underdog in this segment would be to jump in the ring with some attitude. You know, talk some trash, throw caution to the wind, be unique…“Bring It” to use a popular term. Well, it looks like Chrysler took that route. Rather than create another conservative sedan or a baby Chrysler 300, they shaped the new Sebring to look radically different from anything in their lineup; or anyone else’s lineup for that matter.
From the photos, it certainly is a polarizing vehicle. There is something that you can’t put your finger on, it just doesn’t look right. Well, I am here to say that the photos don’t do the vehicle justice. In person, it is an altogether different experience. Not that the design is going to be universally loved. On the contrary, there are items that certainly fall into the love-it-or-hate-it category. Rather, its stance, design and execution are much less radical in person than it appears in photos. To use a well-worn adjective, it is very “European looking” and to this writer, rather appealing. One thing is for sure, it is eons ahead of the vehicle it replaces.
From a dynamic point of view, it doesn’t disappoint either. With three drivetrain choices (a 4-cylinder and two 6-cylinders) matched with either a 4-speed or 6-speed automatic, you can equip the new Sebring to be very competitive. As a driving enthusiast, I was surprised by the 4-cylinder, 4-speed automatic combination. It is a refined engine and despite only having 4 speeds, it was smooth and quiet on our jaunt through the Southern California desert. This is a good thing as Chrysler expects upwards of 80% of their sales to be the 4-cylinder.
The new Sebring differentiates itself in ways other than just its styling. Chrysler didn’t hold back when it came to available features and packages available at what can be considered value pricing. The most unique aspect of their approach is the fact that you can get a fully-loaded Sebring Limited without being forced to upgrade to the 6-cylinder engine. For those customers that don’t care about performance and who put a high value on fuel efficiency but still want all the gadgets, this is very appealing.
Chrysler continues their feisty approach to the mid-size segment in the interior of the Sebring. In addition to an attractive design, they offer some unique technologies that alone make the Sebring worth considering if you are looking in this segment. Despite all the attention given to the available heated and cooled cupholder, the most noteworthy in my opinion is the MyGigTM entertainment system. To quote from their press kit “…..MyGig, a completely integrated Harman/Kardon audio, navigation, entertainment and hands-free communication system, controlled through voice commands and utilizing touch screen, with the capability of downloading photos and music to a 20 gigabyte hard drive from CD, DVD or USB memory device”. Whew, say that 10 times fast! It is one of the best sounding audio systems I’ve heard and at $1,700, it is a bargain. Some companies charge more than that for just navigation!
The Sebring won’t knock the Camry off its perch at the top of the sales charts but starting at $18,995, Chrysler-exclusive features like MyGig, and some styling attitude, it should create some commotion on the playground.
• Doesn’t look like any other sedan on the road
• Ability to get all the luxury items without paying for a V6
• Heated and cooled cup holder
• MyGig entertainment system
• Heated seats available in cloth as well as leather
• Heated and cooled cupholder is in wrong place. Should be in the “North” position.
• Strakes on the hood – matter of personal taste
• Still not as refined as its competitors
Chrysler is a gay-friendly company.
Read other Chrysler reviews by GayWheels.com’s writers