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The Carchive: The Chrysler Sebring Coupe

Chris Haining February 12, 2014 Cars You Should Know, The Carchive 19 Comments

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Welcome to Wednesday’s visit to The Carchive, the feature where we look at how some of the history of motoring’s more overlooked gems (or horrors) were marketed, and whether they lived up to their own maker’s hype and hope.

And what on Earth has happened that this series should find itself scraping the bottom of the barrel so drastically that the Chrysler Sebring Coupe should turn up? Well, let’s trip back an unbelievable sixteen years and try and work out why it is that I’ve liked these things since I first saw one.

“The rush of the open road, the cut and thrust of traffic- That’s Sebring Turf”

I have no real idea what that means.

I’ve never driven one of these things. Chances are I never will, and surveying the brochure right now it doesn’t look like I’m missing out on one of life’s most enriching experiences. But as a wide-eyed, easily impressed 17 year old in ’98 none of this meant anything to me at all. Put simply, back then I was driving a Triumph Acclaim. On a visit to the USA any American car was exotic, including the Alamo Lumina we had for that fortnight. The Sebring also happenned to be, to my eyes, rather good looking.

I should add a caveat here; I’m talking about the Sebring Coupe after the ’97 facelift. For no entirely obvious reason, the later machine is infinitely more attractive to me. It’s amazing how much difference a reprofiled grille and pair of round auxiliary lamps can have on a shape which has been around for a while. Actually, I had also previously admired the Dodge Avenger since it was first released, but the Sebring was somehow utterly invisible to me until that facelifted car came out. Weird.

So, I picked this brochure up when I was 17, and got to reading.

“Sebring’s got plenty of what sports coupes oughta have- responsiveness”.

Well, I wouldn’t know about that, but the existence of double wishbone suspension implied a certain sportiness, not just at the front but at the back as well, and there were sway bars and stabilizers and all those kinds of well-meaning things, so it was probably great. It certainly looked like it should have been.

“The one sport coupe that makes enthusiastic driving easy, and daily commutes luxurious”

Back then, my idea of what made for a luxury car would have involved leather, wood and lots of little buttons connected to many electrical features. And there they were, in this glossy pamphlet. There were power windows of course, but an automatic electrochromatic rearview day/night mirror with a compass feature? Wow.

The dashboard didn’t look especially imaginative, but looked well enough organised and all those features were there. And of course, very few of my car brochures up to that point showed the steering wheel on the left hand side. How exciting.

“Sebring Coupe soars, so we gave it wings”

 And there was the promise of power, too, from a 2.5 litre V6 engine, with 163hp. That was BIG power to me. In ’98 I was driving around in a 70hp Triumph. There was a 2.0 litre four cylinder available, too, but that was of no real interest in a luxurious, sporty coupe.

And it was all going so well, right up until I look at the little information panel on the right hand side of the brochure, right underneath the bit where it states “Not recommended” under “maximum towing capacity”. Referring to the 2.5 litre SOHC SMPi V6 engine. It’s there, note #2; “Built by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation”.

And then, suddenly, the gloss evaporated. It really shouldn’t have mattered to me, but somehow I was deeply bothered by the fact that I had reached America, home of the Hemi, the Slant-Six and Air-Grabber induction, at a time when Chrysler were using engines that were hardly any different to those in the triple-diamond badged cars I had left the other side of the Atlantic.

I was still learning about the world of cars. I still am, to be honest, and I now know and appreciate that the very survival of the domestic car industry of America and England alike owes a lot to taking foreign ideas on board and sharing technologies and ways of thinking. Chrysler and Mitsubishi were in a deep relationship throughout the nineties, just as Mazda and Ford and Toyota with General Motors.

Of course, in 1998 I didn’t realise that was the case. I was appalled when I first saw a Vauxhall Astra with a Pontiac badge on it and then felt bilious when I found it was actually a Korean Daewoo. Looking back now, though, and acknowledging that all these seemingly unholy relationships helped to secure the longevity of those legendary American brands I had admired from afar, then I’m glad things happened the way they did.

(Disclaimer: All images are of original manufacturer publicity material, photographed by me. Copyright remains property of Chrysler corporation, or probably Fiat now. Please feel free to use the comments area to tell us whether the Sebring was actually any good. Thanks)

  • Manic_King

    Nah, Avenger is 400% better looking.

    <img src=";

    • I'm with Rusty on this one. The Avenger has the face of a stock photography model: pleasing but forgettable.

  • craigsu

    Ah, the Sebring. A car so bad Chrysler renamed it the 200 in 2011. No matter how much it looks like the 300 now I still don't want one.

    I also love how Wikipedia writes, "Not to be confused with Maserati Sebring."

    <img src="; width="600">

    No worries there.

  • JayP2112

    A roadtrip game my son and I played: "Car names based on tracks they've never driven."
    Sebring was #1

    • Frere P.

      At least one Sebring has made it onto a track–The 24 Hours Of LeMons South Fall 2009–Work Release Racing, Chrysler Sebring finished 14th oa with a Best lap: 1:05.244

      • JayP2112

        LeMons puts a twist in the game.

        We will have to do some research.

        • Eric Rood

          Definitely wasn't a looker. It took me forever to figure out what the hell it was from pictures.

          <img src="; width="600">

          • Eric Rood

            This photo, in particular, confused me entirely for a great many reasons.

            <img src="; width="600">

      • Rover1

        So they can't even come last properly?

  • Devin

    My uncle had a pre-facelift model, and the grille on that was rubber inserts, which looked super cheesy. So that explains why you didn't like the older one.

  • Well the coupe was based of the Mitsubishi Eclipse platform. The convertible was based off the Chrysler Cirrus platform, two similar but really different cars. You need to find a nice Sebring coupe and throw every bit of Mitsubish Fast and Furious tuning possible at it.
    So remember, Coupe = bad car, Convertible = horrible car.

    • "Coupe = bad car, Convertible = horrible car"

      That's true for so many models.

  • Dad had a '97 Coupe, every bit as horrible as it seems. It was slow, hard riding, wheels that refused to seal to the tires anymore and a turning circle the queen mary would be proud of. I can't come up with a single desireable feature.

    He sold it and got a nice 2009 4cyl., 5 speed Accord Coupe. HUGE improvement.

  • M44Power

    That shifter looks like it was taken directly from the Lexus SC400. Since the SC only predates the Sebring by a few years, the same Chinese supplier probably did them both…

    • smokyburnout

      <img src="; width="600"/>
      It's actually a Mitsubishi part (the mirror with the compass is possibly the only part of that interior that didn't come straight out of an Eclipse), but Toyota had a very similar part in their bin at the time
      <img src="; width="600"/>

  • Maymar

    They are quite handsome cars – the new grille, wheels, and side cladding actually sort of suit them. One of the last personal luxury coupes (in a manner of speaking), which helps explained why it never really caught on (and why the contemporary Avenger seems more right). That said, a friend of mine found a 2nd gen Sebring coupe with the V6 and stick at our local auto auction. That'd be a sort of fun beater.

  • Jay_Ramey

    ::blink blink:: I think it's been years since I've seen one….

  • CoastieLenn

    I owned a burgundy '99 LXi coupe and loved it. Its not going to win any drag races- even with the V6 thanks to its paultry 160hp and 4 speed slushbox, but it was a very competent highway cruiser.

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