Pros: Looks great, comfortable ride, faster and quieter than earlier editions.
Cons: Handling on turns could be better. Interior could match exterior more.
A driver's experience of the 2001 Chrysler Sebring sedan (LXi) depends so much on the prevailing environment at the time. Once upon a time, I had the opportunity to rent a Sebring (albeit a 2000 version) in Miami, and boy did I ever regret it. The traffic was unbearable on the busy I-95 stretch and the auto tranny the car came with was a real pain in the you-know-where especially when weaving through traffic at a safe speed of course. So when the opportunity presented itself for me to have a weekend with the Sebring sedan (LXi- SOHC 200hp 3.0 litter V6, supplying 205 ft. lbs. of torque at 4500 rpm) in calmer St. Pete, FL driving conditions, I wasn't exactly sure what to expect. However, I was pleasantly surprised this time around. The difference? Well, almost everything.
The 2001 Sebring on the outside sports a sleek yet flashy image on the outside with its trademark cab-forward design and high-low front/back configuration. The front end too has the stylish touch of the 50s or 60s Ferrari with a grille theme. The interior has pretty much been modelled after the Mitsubishi Eclipse, but is equipped with much nicer dimensions especially for rear seat room. The control panels and driver's seat area are perhaps a little on the bland side and the term elegant simplicity comes to mind here. It could help though if they could do away with the Eclipse's settings and have some designed control panels that would fit more with the sporty elegance that the rest of the car portrays.
The seating has that pilot's cockpit feel that the Eclipse also had, but on a larger scale so tall people such as myself can appreciate the feeling as well. There is adequate legroom at the front for myself (and I'm 6'2). The back is a bit of a tighter squeeze for me than say, the Toyota Camry, but still not bad. For better or worse though, looking at the Sebring from the side with its doors open, it seems to be as roomy as a Chrysler 300M ... until you get in!
In any case, if you haven't already guessed by now, I have always been utterly in love with the appearance of the Sebring but the refinement and the quality of finish has never been quite been there, until now that is.
Looks aren't everything though. This was one area I was previously sorely disappointed in especially when considering cars of this class and price range. However the 2001 model has shown a marked improvement over earlier versions. The new V6 is larger, with 2.7-liter displacement versus the 2.5 litres of the previous Sebring convertible. This adds a good 30-35 Horsepower, which, take it from me, can well mean the difference between being stuck behind a 26-wheeler for an hour on the I-95 and cruising along on the passing lane at a comfortable speed. Acceleration is still not "par excellence" but quite adequate. I would have appreciated the LXi coupe more, I think, because it possesses a 3L V6.
Fuel economy is also impressively better than before in spite of the more powerful engine. The stiffened suspension however didn't do the job, and potholes on the roads are quite pronounced, and rather surprising considering the calibre of the rest of the car. Other than that, handling was smooth and crisp, and accurate to the touch. Indeed, it was quite typical of other American bigger cars such as the Intrepid or even Chrysler's own 300M in that slow turns and highway driving can be done with the utmost comfort. One of my friends who owns a Sebring tells me however that sharp corners need to be negotiated with extreme caution because of an understeer problem and that difference in performance can be highlighted by undertaking the same test with a BMW 325 series sedan. NHTSA tests have indicated that in terms of safety, the Sebring is above average. Its warranty is also decent (Basic: 3 years/36000 miles, Powertrain: 5 years/60,000 miles. Braking is about average. Go with the ABS brakes. Traction control is unfortunately not available and I think that is one ingredient that should be a must in future models. The biggest improvement though in my opinion has been the reduction in noise levels. The 2001 edition has a markedly less sound output that earlier versions.
For a car that sells at just over twenty grand, the 2001 Chrysler Sebring Sedan is a great deal. Where else can you find a 200 Horsepower V6 engine, 192 Torque at 4300 RPM plus 37 inches of rear legroom and a stylish finish to match, at that price. In terms of price, the Sebring handily out-performs the Mazda 626, Ford Mustang, Hyundai Elantra, Honda Civic and Volkswagen Cabrio. In terms of performance, the Sebring is a few thousand cheaper than the similarly equipped Toyota Camry Solara or the Honda Prelude. My gripe with earlier versions of the Sebring was its noise and handling, and at least 1 2/3 of these issues appear to have been taken care of very nicely. All in all, I highly recommend the 2001 Sebring as a sporty yet comfortable car to drive in. Given a choice, I would prefer a Honda Prelude, but if I wanted to save a few thousand and get something just as good without just a bit of the zip, this is the car I would buy. Take it out for a test drive and see what I mean!