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Chrysler Sebring dares to be different

December 08, 2006|by MALCOLM GUNN / Wheelbase Communications

It's new and it's definitely different.

DaimlerChrysler has once again shunned convention by creating a new sedan with rule-breaking looks. The mid-size 2007 Sebring is as much a surprise to the senses as its full-size Chrysler 300 stablemate was when it arrived for the 2005 season.

The question is, will Chrysler hit another one out of the park in its second time at bat?

The inspiration for the '07 Sebring's sheet metal comes from a variety of sources. The front clip and the hood appear inspired by the company's Crossfire two-seat sports car, while the side view is reminiscent of the Dodge division's compact Caliber. It's only when the rear end comes into focus that you'll find a slight relationship with the outgoing model.

Taken in total, this mosaic of shapes moves the Sebring far apart from the regulation cookie-cutter styling that proliferates the sedan ranks. This is a ruggedly handsome vehicle as opposed to being delicately pretty.

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More stylistic inspiration can be found on the inside, where a clean, contemporary dashboard and control panel greets front-seat passengers. The passenger's seat can also be folded flat for extra storage space (except on base versions), or for use as a work station for your laptop computer. Additionally, the rear 60/40 split-bench seat can be lowered to produce more cargo room.

The new Sebring beats the old model for spaciousness, primarily due to a roofline that is nearly 5 inches taller not to mention a slightly wider cabin. Overall length remains virtually identical, but the shorter rear deck translates into a slight decrease in trunk capacity.

For 2007, Sebring comes out swinging with a trio of available powerplants that take you from thrifty to downright peppy.

The base engine, regardless of trim level, is a 173-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder that's connected to a four-speed automatic transmission.

The mid-level Touring can be optioned with a 189-horsepower 2.7-liter V-6.

The range-topping Limited model can be had with a new-for-'07 3.5-liter V-6 that puts out 235 horses and transmits its torque to the front wheels by way of a six-speed automatic transmission.

Base Sebrings arrive with a goodly assortment of basic equipment including air conditioning, tilt/telescoping steering wheel and front-impact, side-impact and side-curtain air bags.

Head for the Touring edition and the list expands to encompass fancier interior trim with bright LED lighting, premium cloth-covered seats and 17-inch alloy wheels.

Move up to the Limited and you're treated to climate control, Chrysler 300C-inspired tortoiseshell-style steering-wheel trim, leather seats with eight-way power controls for the driver, premium sound system with satellite radio and a tire-pressure monitor that displays the inflation level at each corner.

Sebring purchasers have a great deal of latitude when it comes to piling on the options. Among the more interesting are dual beverage holders built into the floor console that can be set to warm or cool specific drinks, with a temperature range from 35 F on the chilly side to 135 F on the hot side. Then there's the MyGIG Multimedia Infotainment System that includes a touch screen or voice commands to operate both the entertainment and communications systems as well as a 20-gigabyte hard drive for storing music and photos.

Other extra-cost content includes a rear-seat DVD entertainment unit, six-disc CD changer, power sunroof, traction and stability control and 18-inch wheels in aluminum or chrome finish.

Without a doubt, DaimlerChrysler has taken a bit of a gamble with the Sebring's edgy styling that, for some buyers, could take some getting used to. Not to be overlooked, however, is the degree of comfort, practicality and performance that separates the Sebring from the rest of the sedan pack, as well as a $19,000 base price that definitely helps to make it an attractive choice.

Copyright 2006, Wheelbase Communications

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