Test Drive: 2001 Chrysler Sebring LXi car test drives chrysler
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The 2001 Sebring sedan is based on the old Cirrus platform, but DaimlerChrysler has added many refinements and improvements. Principal among them is a new 2.7 litre V6 in the Sebring LXi, replacing the former Mitsubishi 2.5 litre V6 in the Cirrus.



Top-of-the-line Sebring offers good value for budget conscious buyers

When Chrysler Corporation introduced the Plymouth Breeze, Dodge Stratus and Chrysler Cirrus in 1995, the trio quickly gained a reputation as value leaders in the mid-size family sedan segment. Whether a buyer was looking for an entry level sedan or a well-equipped car, they could find a model among these corporate cousins that fit the budget, but delivered plenty of standard features.

Well things have changed. Chrysler Corporation is now DaimlerChrysler, the Plymouth division is gone and Dodge is basically trucks and vans. And the Cirrus, the top-of-the-line Chrysler version of the thrifty threesome was discontinued in 2000.

In its place DaimlerChrysler has introduced a new four door sedan under the Sebring nameplate. Other models in the Sebring family include the two door coupe and convertible which were also re-designed for 2001. Other than a family look, the Mitsubishi-built Sebring coupe shares almost nothing with the sedan and convertible which are 100 per cent DaimlerChrysler.

Even though much has changed in the last six years, one thing has thankfully remained the same. The Chrysler Sebring sedan continues the legacy of the Breeze, Stratus and Cirrus for providing exceedingly good value to budget conscious buyers.

Test Drive: 2001 Chrysler Sebring LXi car test drives chrysler
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At the entry level is the Sebring LX. Standard features on this $23,240 sedan include a 2.4-liter four-cylinder DOHC 16-valve engine, four-speed automatic transmission, front and rear independent suspension, four-wheel disc brakes, 15-inch wheels with chrome wheel covers and all-season tires, air conditioning, AM/FM stereo cassette with premium sound, tilt steering column, power windows, locks, outside mirrors and trunk release, 60/40 split-folding rear seat, cruise control, variable intermittent windshield wipers and headlamp off delay.

The Sebring LXi adds a 2.7-liter DOHC V-6 engine, 16-inch aluminum, fog lamps, eight-way power driver’s seat, leather-trimmed seats with center rear folding armrest, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, remote illuminated keyless entry, trip computer including compass and outside temperature readings, AM/FM CD premium sound radio, dual illuminated visor vanity mirrors, front reading lights, rear assist handles and chrome inside door handles.

Test Drive: 2001 Chrysler Sebring LXi car test drives chrysler
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If you stopped there, the bill would come to $27,195. But our LXi tester included every available option – supplemental side airbag curtain, “ABS plus” brakes, an upgraded sound system with in-dash 4-CD changer, power sunroof, and a “luxury group” that added six premium speakers with a 120 watt amplifier, security group (central locking doors, alarm and immobilizer), electroluminescent gauges, Homelink transceiver, cargo net and manual shifting “Autostick” transmission shifter. Total price � $30,600.

Test Drive: 2001 Chrysler Sebring LXi car test drives chrysler
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That’s a big jump from $23,240, but compared to similarly equipped mid-sized sedans, like the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Ford Taurus or Mazda 626 for example, the Sebring is very competitive across the option range.

The 2001 Sebring sedan is based on the old Cirrus platform, but DaimlerChrysler has added many refinements and improvements. Principal among them is a new 2.7 litre V6 in the Sebring LXi, replacing the former Mitsubishi 2.5 litre V6 in the Cirrus.

At 200 horsepower, the double overhead cam, four valve per cylinder 2.7 litre V-6 has 32 more horsepower and 32 lb-ft more torque than the old engine. It is also more efficient than the 2.5 providing roughly equivalent gas consumption for the additional power.

Acceleration from a standing stop is decent, but not stunning � 9.4 seconds from 0 – 100 km/h according to the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada � while passing power, according to my seat-of-the-pants impression, is very good.

Test Drive: 2001 Chrysler Sebring LXi car test drives chrysler
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Overall, I found the engine to be smooth and quiet on the highway and responsive around town. When pushed, the engine comes to life with a muted roar that was not at all unpleasant. The optional AutoStick automatic transmission, which allows the driver to shift manually without a clutch, also gives the driver greater control over the shift points. Peak horsepower is achieved at 5900 rpm and torque at 4300 rpm. By shifting within this relatively high and narrow power band, a more spirited level of performance was achieved. Unfortunately, the AutoStick shifter is only available as part of the luxury equipment group.

One reason for the quiet operation is the effort DaimlerChrysler has taken to reduce noise and vibration in the 2001 Sebring sedan. Foam injected into the body provides better sound insulation, while the shape of the body, the design of the hood, cowl screen, mirrors and wipers, the use of thicker window glass, and a much stiffer body � a 13 percent reduction in torsional rigidity and a 33 percent reduction in bending rigidity � contribute to a very quiet cabin.

Test Drive: 2001 Chrysler Sebring LXi car test drives chrysler
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The added rigidity of the body was also noticeable in ride comfort. The Sebring’s soft, pliant ride smoothed out even the worst sections of highway 417 between Ottawa and Montreal (finally under re-construction, thank you). Yet the ride is not big car comfy in the traditional American sense. The Sebring’s fully independent suspension – short long-arm (SLA) front suspension system and rear multi-link – contributes to a refined ride and handling. Rebound springs added to the shocks also keep the ride both comfortable and firm.

While set up for cruising in comfort, the Sebring also accounts well in the handling department. Even when pushed to its cornering limits, the car never felt unstable. Although there was evident understeer, cornering was flat and predictable.

Test Drive: 2001 Chrysler Sebring LXi car test drives chrysler
What made my 10 days with the Sebring LXi particularly enjoyable were the interior appointments. The leather covered front buckets provide generous seating room. All controls, buttons, door handles and other bits feel solid and substantial. I particularly liked the large clock-like white faced gauges that changed to a soft luminescent blue at night.

And the audio system – AM/FM/Cassette/CD with 4-CD in-dash changer, 120 watt amplifier and six speakers – is one of the best I’ve heard this year. While the CD changer is awkwardly located at the bottom of the centre stack, there is nothing awkward about the sound, which is particularly well-suited to the Sebring cabin. I’ve listened to the same system in Chrysler’s very upscale Town and Country Limited and it didn’t sound nearly as good as in the Sebring LXi.

The Sebring has a large interior relative to its overall size. There is plenty of room, both front and back for four adults. While a fifth passenger might feel a bit squeezed, leg room won’t be the problem. Head room is good too, even with power sun roof (at 6′ 3″, I’m a good judge of head room).

The trunk is huge – 453 litres or 16 cu. ft. – and cargo carrying capacity is significant with the 60/40 folding rear seat, but the high trunk lid obscures rear visibility.

Standard safety features include a rear center lap/shoulder belt, multi-stage front air bags to reduce occupant air bag exposure in lower speed crashes, and front seat belt pretensioners and load-limiters. Driving safety is enhanced by an all-new headlamp system that is 25 percent brighter and optional “ABS plus”, a software system that senses braking in turns and controls yaw in full and partial braking situations, as well as with split surfaces. Also optional are side air bag curtains, which provide protection to both the front and rear outboard occupants.

The Chrysler Sebring sedan takes its styling cues from the larger members of the Chrysler family, specifically the Intrepid and the 300M. The similarity is symbolic. Changes have been happening at DaimlerChrylser. There are fewer competing divisions, fewer competing brands, fewer competing styles. In the same way that Volvos or BMWs or Mercedes Benz’ share a family resemblance, there is now no mistaking a Chrysler car for being anything other than a Chrysler.

But the Chrysler look is not the only distinguishing feature of Chrysler cars. Equally important is the perception that a Chrysler delivers high value for money. And in this respect, the Chrysler Sebring sedan stays true to Chrysler tradition.

Technical Data:

2001 Chrysler Sebring LXi
Base price $27,195 (LXi)
Price as tested $30,600
Freight $795
Type 4-door, 5 passenger sedan
Layout transverse front engine/front-wheel-drive
Engine 2.7 litre V6, DOHC, 24 valve
Horsepower 200 @ 5900 rpm
Torque 192 @ 4300 rpm
Transmission 4-speed automatic AutoStick
Curb weight 1504 kg (3316 lb.)
Wheelbase 2743 mm (108.0 in.)
Length 4844 mm (190.7 in.)
Width 1793 mm (70.6 in.)
Height 1394 mm (54.9 in.)
Cargo Capacity 453 litres (16.0 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 11.9 l/100 km (24 mpg)
  Highway: 7.8 l/100 km (36 mpg)
Warranty 3 yrs/60,000 km
Powertrain warranty 5 yrs/100,000 km