Used Vehicle Review: Chrysler Sebring, 2001 2005 used car reviews chrysler
2003 Chrysler Sebring LXi sedan. Click image to enlarge

The mid-sized sedan field is vast, so in order to compete, manufacturers’ offerings in this class have to offer something the others don’t. While Chrysler’s Sebring will never be accused of being particularly unique, it did present itself as a classy-yet-affordable alternative to the Accords, Camrys and Tauruses that have traditionally been the leaders in the mid-sized sedan category.

The Sebring is the evolution of Chrysler Corporation’s “cloud cars” – the Dodge Stratus, Chrysler Cirrus and Plymouth Breeze – that were some of the company’s most popular models between 1995 and 2000. The 2001 redesign brought about a seriously streamlined lin-eup of cars: Plymouth disappeared after 1999, so there was no second-generation Breeze, and Canada didn’t get the second-generation Stratus. That left Chrysler to fly the corporation’s mid-sized sedan flag in Canada with the Sebring, which got its new name from the coupe and convertible that was sold alongside the first generation sedans.

A little confusing, perhaps, but it gets easier. For 2001, the Sebring line-up consisted of a sedan, coupe and convertible, but the streamlining continued when the Mitsubishi-based coupe was dropped for 2002, leaving just the sedan and droptop to wear the Sebring badge. The convertible is reasonably practical, with a useable back seat, though the folding roof cuts trunk space to about two-thirds of that in the sedan.

The 2001 Sebring took on a chunkier look than its first-generation cousins. It also got a new V6 engine – a 2.7 litre unit producing 200 horsepower – to replace the old 2.5 litre powerplant. The new car’s 2.4 litre, 150-hp four-banger was carried over from the previous generation car. A four-speed automatic was the only transmission choice for the sedan, but the short-lived coupe offered a manual transmission with the V6 engine.

Used Vehicle Review: Chrysler Sebring, 2001 2005 used car reviews chrysler
2001 Chrysler Sebring LXi sedan

Used Vehicle Review: Chrysler Sebring, 2001 2005 used car reviews chrysler
2001 Chrysler Sebring sedan

Used Vehicle Review: Chrysler Sebring, 2001 2005 used car reviews chrysler
2001 Chrysler Sebring LXi convertible

Used Vehicle Review: Chrysler Sebring, 2001 2005 used car reviews chrysler
2001 Chrysler Sebring LXi coupe
Click images to enlarge

Fuel economy is good at about 11.5 L/100 km (city) and 8 L/100 km (highway) for V6 models. Four-cylinder models are only marginally more efficient, at about 11 L/100 km (city) and 7.3 L/100 km (highway).

In U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash tests, the sedan got top marks for occupant protection in frontal impacts, but otherwise, the results are average, with the sedan scoring three stars each for front and rear occupant protection in side impacts. Convertibles scored three stars for driver and front passenger protection in frontal impacts, and three and four stars respectively for front and rear occupant protection in side impacts. The coupe scored four and four stars respectively in front impact tests, and three and five stars for side impact protection.

Chrysler has left well enough alone as far as the Sebring is concerned, with changes limited to a minor facelift and some details here and there since its introduction in 2001. Don’t expect any significant changes either, as the Sebring is due to be replaced possibly as soon as the 2006 model year, if you believe the rumours and such circulating around the internet.

But the lack of updates is excusable, as there’s never been a whole lot to fault the Sebring for as far as its role as a dependable sedan is concerned. While it’s not on Consumer Reports’ list of recommended used cars, the Sebring receives decent marks with a few trouble spots to look out for. These include brake and electrical system quirks on earlier (2001-2002) models. Reassuringly, the Sebring’s automatic transmission seems to hold up better than those used in some past Chrysler products, but CR notes more reported transmission problems for 2002 and 2003 models than in other years.

As with many domestic models, the Sebring has suffered from a high rate of depreciation, making it a good deal as a used car. A top-of-the-line 2005 Sebring Limited sedan is worth $20,925 today according to the Canadian Red Book, which is 73 per cent of its $28,855 M.S.R.P. The 2003 equivalent, the LXi sedan, is worth $14,950, or 54 per cent of its M.S.R.P. Convertible models have held on to more of their value. A 2005 Limited droptop is worth $33,325 (82 percent of its cost when new) and a 2003 Limited convertible is valued at $24,725 – 65 per cent of its M.S.R.P.

There’s not too much here to recommend against the Sebring as a used car. Reliability isn’t up to the Japanese manufacturers’ benchmark, but it’s far from bad in that regard. The availability of a convertible based on the same mechanicals as the sedan is a rarity in this class, and both offer handsome good looks that many other mid-sized sedans can’t match. Combine those aspects with low resale values, and the Sebrings comes out looking like a solid, stylish sedan with a dash of class.


On-line Resources

www.allpar.com – Count on this website as being your best bet for technical help and general information from fellow owners. Allpar.com covers the full range of Chrysler, Dodge and Plymouth vehicles, old and new, and the 2001-2005 Sebring shares a discussion forum with the Stratus, Cirrus and Breeze. Membership is free.

www.asog.net – A forum dedicated to the Sebring coupe, and its Dodge Avenger twin. Most of the technical info here is centred around the first generation cars, so second generation owners may want to look elsewhere for tech help.

www.sebringclub.net/board/ – A very simple forum dedicated to the Sebring convertible. It’s not the busiest forum, but a good place to discuss convertible-related questions with other droptop owners.

www.chryslerforum.com/ – With just 241 registered users, this site has the smallest membership of any listed here. Put simply, that means far less information than is available at other Sebring resources.


Recalls

Transport Canada Recall Number 2001051; Units affected: 595

2001: Certain vehicles were built with automatic transmission cooler hoses (in and out) that may not have met specific winner wall thickness requirements in the manufacturing process. Over time, these hoses may deteriorate and leak automatic transmission fluid. Should leaking transmission fluid contact a hot exhaust pipe, a fire could occur. Correction: Dealers will replace the hose assembly for the automatic transmission oil cooler.

Transport Canada Recall Number 2004393; Units affected: 976

2005: On certain vehicles, the left and right rear seat belt retractor and turning loop bolts may not have tightened properly. During a severe impact the seat belt may not properly restrain the occupant, which could increase the risk of injury. Correction: Dealers will tighten the affected fasteners.

Transport Canada Recall Number 2004430; Units affected: 1,512

2005: On certain vehicles, the right steering knuckle may have been damaged during the component manufacturing process. This could cause the steering knuckle to crack and separate from the upper control arm. A steering knuckle separation could result in a loss of vehicle directional control. Correction: Dealers will inspect the right steering knuckle. Any knuckles identified from casting cavity #2 will be replaced.

Transport Canada Recall Number 2001048; Units affected: 6

2001: On certain vehicles, the harness for the crankshaft position sensor could come in contact with a new protective shield causing a grounded circuit. Prolonged wiring harness contact with the heat shield will cause the wiring insulation to wear and eventually to ground out. This could cause the engine to die out, increasing the risk of a crash. Correction: Crank position sensor wiring harness will be rerouted.

Transport Canada Recall Number 2000296; Units affected: 160

2001: On certain vehicles, a fuel return hose may not contain the desired ozone protection which could result in the hose having a reduced life expectancy. Over time, the hose may deteriorate and leak fuel. Correction: Dealers will inspect the fuel return hose date code and replace the hose if required.

Transport Canada Recall Number 2000255; Units affected: 35

2001: Certain vehicles may have been built with a passenger side air bag module that may not retain the air bag door during a deployment. Although airbag performance is not affected by this condition, a separated air bag door could injure a vehicle occupant. Correction: Passenger side airbag module will be replaced.

Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.

For information on recalls, see Transport Canada’s web-site, www.tc.gc.ca, or the U.S. National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA)web-site, www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.