2001 Chrysler Sebring Coupe LXi
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Redesigned for 2001, the Mitsubishi-built Chrysler Sebring Coupe offers two new more powerful engines, new styling, more safety features, and improved handling. Four cylinder Sebring Coupe LX models start at $27,685 and V6 LXi models at $30,095.



Roomy coupe impresses with performance

When introduced in 1995, the Chrysler Sebring coupe and its Dodge equivalent, the Avenger, ranked as the roomiest two-door coupes on the market. While most two-door coupes will seat four passengers with limited rear headroom and legroom, the Sebring and Avenger offered a three-person rear seat with adequate rear legroom and headroom. The roomy coupes also offered a very capable fully independent suspension that provided above-average handling.

Their weak link was their powertrains – the available 2.0 litre four cylinder engine and 2.5 litre V6 engines really didn’t have enough punch for a sporty, mid-sized coupe. (The 2.0 litre engine was discontinued in 2000).

Among the changes to the redesigned 2001 Sebring Coupe (the Avenger is no longer offered) are two new, more powerful engines. The Sebring Coupe LX offers a new 2.4 litre four cylinder engine which replaces the 2.0 litre four cylinder engine. Horsepower is up from 140 to 142 and the new four cylinder engine offers balance shafts for smoother operation. Top-of-the-line Sebring Coupe LXi models have a new 3.0 litre V6 engine which replaces the 2.5 litre V6 – horsepower has increased from 163 to 200, a significant 23% improvement.

Four cylinder LX models now have a standard four-speed automatic transmission while LXi models have a new standard five-speed manual transmission (previously unavailable), and a newly-available optional four-speed automatic AutoStick transmission. The AutoStick allows the option of manual, clutchless shifting.

In addition to these changes, the 2001 Sebring Coupe offers revised exterior and interior styling, a stronger body structure, suspension improvements, and added safety features.

Like all other 2001 Chryslers, it comes with a new 5 year/100,000 km powertrain warranty as well as the standard 3 year/60,000 km warranty.


Styling is all in the family

2001 Chrysler Sebring Coupe LXi
Click image to enlarge

The Sebring Coupe’s new front-end styling resembles the European-influenced styling of other Sebring models, the Sebring sedan (formerly the Cirrus) and the Sebring convertible. At the rear, the restyled Sebring Coupe looks a lot like the Chrysler 300M performance sedan. Overall dimensions haven’t changed much since last year.

“When designing the all-new coupe, we wanted to create a European luxury image that looks refined from all angles,” said John Herlitz, Senior Vice President of Design at the vehicle’s introduction. “The Sebring coupe is still spacious with exceptional packaging, but now has a more distinctive Chrysler brand design.”

Though I can see the logic of making all three Sebring models look similar, I often wonder if this detracts from the car’s individuality. Anyway, the ‘all-in-the-family’ Sebring styling is a little deceiving since the Sebring Coupe is actually built by the Japanese auto company Mitsubishi in Normal, Illinois. Chrysler has been sharing Mitsubishi vehicles and engines in North America for at least fifteen years – the Dodge Colt, Plymouth Laser, and Dodge Stealth were all Mitsubishi-built vehicles. DaimlerChrysler recently acquired a minority portion of Mitsubishi, so we’ll probably see more sharing of Mitsubishi products.


Bold new interior design

My test car was a fully-equipped LXi V6 model with a manual transmission. Its redesigned dashboard has an aggressive, in-your-face design, marked by four round air vents with shutter-like openings, a tachometer/speedometer cluster and two pod-like openings for the fuel and coolant gauges. LXi models have a separate LCD readout for outside temperature and a compass on top of the dashboard.

2001 Chrysler Sebring LXi dash
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The monotone colour of the dashboard gets some relief from the artificial wood trim on the console and doors, however the clear plastic finish on the wood trim is too shiny. My car had leather seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a leather-wrapped shift knob – but no seat heaters for the leather seats.

The uplevel Infinity seven speaker stereo system in the LXi features an in-dash four-disc CD player with clear, detailed sound. For 2001, the audio system and heater/ventilation controls in the centre dash area have been repositioned for easier reach and are simpler to operate – however I found that the red liquid crystal display for the radio is impossible to see when the Sun shines on its shiny plastic surface.

There’s a power outlet on the centre console and two cupholders on the console – the cupholders are designed to hold a standard coffee mug but they are too deep for an ordinary small, paper or styrofoam cup. The centre armrest can be folded up for easier gear changing, and it has a storage area for tapes and CD’s – but overall, interior storage space is limited.

The front sport seats have new side bolstering which extends further upwards for better lateral support during cornering. I found these seats wide and comfortable on long drives. The gear shift knob is well located for reach.

As before, the Sebring Coupe has a comparatively roomy five passenger interior when compared with other two-door coupes – Chrysler claims the Sebring coupe has most rear leg room and hip room in its class. To make it easier to get in and out of the rear seats, the right front passenger seat automatically slides forward when the backrest is folded.

There are three rear seatbelts, and outboard rear passengers have cupholders in the armrests, but there are no rear head restraints. Lockable 60/40 split folding rear seatbacks are standard.
The Sebring has a really big trunk: 16.3 cubic feet. One complaint: the vertical height of the trunk opening from the bumper to the read deck is rather narrow.

The 2001 Sebring coupe is equipped with next-generation driver and front passenger air bags, a new rear centre shoulder belt. LX models have standard front disc/rear drum brakes and LXi models have four wheel disc brakes, however ABS and traction control are optional.


Driving impressions

The Sebring Coupe LXi offers a surprisingly high level of performance and sophistication. The new 3.0 litre SOHC V6 engine is wonderfully responsive and reaches its rev limit quickly and easily. This engine has enough torque to invoke wheelspin from a standing start, but torque-steer is minimal – traction control is available as an option on the LXi V6 model but only as part of an option package with anti-lock brakes.

At idle, the engine is so smooth, you can hardly tell it is running. When accelerating, the engine emits a sporty, high-performance exhaust note, but on the freeway it has a low, pleasant burble. It’s a good combination – not too loud when accelerating, and not too quiet at highway speeds.

0 to 100 km/h goes by in about 8.2 seconds, not really quick, but respectable. Off-the-line acceleration is very quick, and the V6 Coupe is very responsive around town – where most of your driving is done. On the highway, the engine revs at just 2,300 rpm at 100 km/h in fifth gear – a nice, relaxed cruising gear.

Fuel consumption, according to Transport Canada figures, is reasonable for a V6-engined sporty car: 11.6 l/100 km (24 mpg) in the city and 7.7 l/100 km (37 mpg) on the highway. And it uses Regular unleaded fuel.

The coupe’s body structure feels very tight and adds to the cars sporty feel, crisp handling and low NVH characteristics. 2001 Sebring coupes have increased bending rigidity by 90%, and offer a new front strut tower brace and redesigned front and rear sway bars.

The standard five-speed manual transmission (available for the first time with the V6 engine) has short, notchy throws which I found a pleasure to operate. The clutch engages smoothly but clutch pedal effort is a bit stiff. LXi models are available with an optional AutoStick automatic transmission with manual mode. I wasn’t able to test this transmission, but I believe this is a Mitsubishi transmission, not a Chrysler one.

Four cylinder LX models come with a standard four-speed automatic transmission – a manual is not offered this year.

Outward visibility to the front and sides is good, but the Sebring’s wedge-shaped profile gets progressively higher towards the rear of the car and hinders rear visibility – backing up must be done with caution.

The Sebring’s handling is exceptionally good for a mid-sized front-wheel-drive car – it remains flat and stable during high-speed maneuvers and has high cornering limits. Its wide track, fully independent suspension (front MacPherson struts/rear multi-link) and low-profile P215/50HR-17 inch all-season performance tires contribute to its above-average grip and stability, but I also credit the car’s stiffer, stronger body structure. The ride is firm, but not harsh, and for a sporty car, the Sebring Coupe has a very comfortable highway ride.

The standard variable-assist speed-sensitive power steering has quick turn-in and a responsive feel, but LXi models have a wide turning circle. While LX models with 16 inch tires have an acceptable 11.0 metre (36.1 cu. ft.) turning circle, LXi models with 17 inch tires have a 12.4 metre (40.7 ft.) turning circle – over four feet wider!

LXi models have standard four-wheel disc brakes (LX models have disc/drum brakes), but for some reason, anti-lock brakes are optional on both models. They should be standard on the LXi.


Prices and features

For a base price of $27,685, the Sebring Coupe LX model includes the 2.4 litre four cylinder engine and four-speed automatic transmission, air conditioning, AM/FM/cassette with six speakers, cloth front bucket seats and centre console with floor shifter, 60/40 split folding seatbacks, cruise control, tilt steering wheel, tachometer, variable intermittent wipers, power windows, power mirrors, remote keyless entry, power door locks, front fog lamps, and 205/55HR-16 inch all-season performance tires.

Sebring Coupe LXi models, for $30,095, add the 3.0 litre V6 engine, standard five-speed manual transmission, four-wheel-disc brakes, 17 inch tires and alloy wheels, Infinity premium stereo with in-dash four-disc CD player, height-adjustable driver’s seat, and compass/outside temperature display.

Competitors for the LXi include the Chevrolet Monte Carlo, Ford Mustang, Mercury Cougar, Oldsmobile Alero, Pontiac Grand Am, and Chevrolet Camaro. Competitors for the four cylinder LX model may include the Acura Integra/RSX, Toyota Celica, Hyundai Tiburon, and Saturn SC2.
Sebring coupes are manufactured by Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing of America in Normal, Illinois.


Technical Data:

2001 Chrysler Sebring Coupe LXi
Base price (LX) $27,685
Price as tested (LXi) $30,095
Type two-door, five passenger mid-size coupe
Layout transverse front engine/front-wheel-drive
Engine 3.0 litre V6, SOHC, 24 valves
Horsepower 200 @ 5500 rpm
Torque 205 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
Transmission 5-speed manual (4 speed automatic AutoStick)
Curb weight 1444 kg (3183 lb.)
Wheelbase 2878 mm (113.3 in.)
Length 4808 mm (189.3 in.)
Width 1997 mm (78.6 in.)
Height 1749 mm (68.9 in.)
Cargo volume 462 litres (16.3 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 11.6 l/100 km (24 mpg)
  Hwy: 7.7 l/100 km (37 mpg)
Warranty 3 yrs/60,000 km
Powertrain warranty 5 yrs/100,000 km

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