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2001 Sebring Coupe

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SAN FRANCISCO:  Once the bastion of old-fashioned, overweight, gas-guzzling behemoths, Chrysler now offers some of the leanest, handsomest vehicles built in America. The new Sebring Coupe continues Chrysler's new styling tradition into the 21st century.

According to DaimlerChrysler, consumer research shows that the Sebring name evokes a youthful attitude. The marketing folks liked the name so much that for 2001, they redesigned the Cirrus sedan and welcomed it into the Sebring family, which also includes America's favorite convertible for the last five years running. The coupe is different from the sedan and convertible, however, because it is built in Normal, Illinois alongside the Dodge Stratus Coupe and the Mitsubishi Eclipse.

It may share a platform with the mechanically styled Eclipse, but the new Sebring Coupe's look is pure Chrysler. From the low, oval grille, introduced on the full-size Concorde sedan to the high, chiseled taillights of the new classic 300M, the Sebring looks perfect. The soaring Chrysler wings are prominent on the nose and the word "CHRYSLER" graces the side, but surprisingly, there is no Chrysler badging on the highly visible tail section, just "Sebring" on the left and "LXi" on the right.

My Ruby Red Pearl Coat tester reminded me of a Jaguar XKE up front. The chrome trim around the side windows evokes the feeling of an upscale European car. Seventeen-inch alloy wheels add presence, and on my car, they were the optional chrome ones ($750) for extra sparkle.

The Sebring Coupe is the best kind of personal car, small enough to feel intimate, but spacious enough to provide room in back for adults when needed. A center shoulder belt and three child seat anchor points make it easy to bring the whole family along. If you plan to transport them frequently, however, the new Sebring sedan would be a wiser choice.

The new interior is lifted almost verbatim from the 2000 Eclipse. The character lines give it a forward tilt, with a turn-of-the-century motif of rounded surfaces with prominent edges. Behind a small-centered steering wheel lies a flat black dash, which, along with the lower doors, contrasts dramatically with the light gray upper doors, seats and ceiling. The instrument panel combines speedometer and tach into a center section, with the gas and temperature gauges mounted in separate binnacles. The air vents can be closed flat, a luxury trait. A small open bin below the dash is illuminated softly at night. Combined with the long windshield and prominent arching pillars over narrow windows, the effect is like a fighter pilot's cockpit, with everything within easy reach.

With the sporting Eclipse platform beneath it, it is no wonder that the new Sebring Coupe is fun to play with. Chrysler engineers tuned the suspension with a front strut tower brace, front and rear sway bars, and a rigid rear suspension tow link. Together with increased body rigidity (90 percent improvement in bending and 9 percent in torsion), these enhancements produce a stable and hunkered-down feeling. The assisted power steering feel lets the wheel communicate without becoming mushy, and the hydraulic clutch makes shifting the manual five-speed transmission a joy.

Those same engineers worked long hours to reduce undesirable noises and nurture good ones. The rigid body structure and single-piece body side construction help eliminate squeaks and rattles. The engine sounds have been refined using equal-length front exhaust pipes and resonators on the intake and exhaust systems, and dynamic dampers were added to the engine mounts to reduce noise during acceleration. Better body and door seals keep out undesirable sounds, too. All the smiling driver hears is a warm, throaty hum as the speed increases.

The two available engines are invigorated this year. The standard 2.4 liter four-cylinder generates 142 horsepower and 155 lb.-ft of torque, up from last year's standard 2.0-liter four. The real honey, though, is the optional

3.0-liter V6. Its 200 horsepower is 37 more than last year's 2.5-liter six, and with the responsive five-speed manual, it turns the Sebring into something of a rocket. You can actually feel yourself sinking back in your seat when the car accelerates. Mileage for the four with automatic is 21 city, 27 highway, and the six, equipped with a manual, is just behind it with 20 and 28 respectively. That's an easy choice - pick the V6 for fun.

The Sebring Coupe comes as either an LX or an LXi. For an extra $1,565, LXi buyers get body-colored mirrors, a digital compass / temperature display, the Infinity seven-speaker stereo with CD, four-wheel disk brakes, 17-inch wheels, and the option of adding leather seating, a Homelink remote control system, and the manual / automatic Autostick transmission.

All Sebring Coupes have the basic luxuries standard, such as air conditioning, power windows, power locks, power mirrors, intermittent wipers, cruise control, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.

My tester's paint showed some minor flaws, but otherwise I came away very impressed that this second-generation Sebring Coupe was so responsive, fully equipped, and well built for just $25,105. This price includes the leather interior group ($1,045), anti-lock brakes ($565), power sunroof ($685) and upgraded sound system with four-CD changer, too. Prices start at just $20,495 for the LX model and $22,060 for the LXi. By Steve Schaefer AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

Chrysler Home Page

Byline:  By Steve Schaefer AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
Column Name:   "Sebring evokes a youthful attitude"
Topic:  2001 Chrysler Sebring Coupe
Word Count:   929
Photo Caption:  2001 Chrysler Sebring Coupe
Photo Credits:  2001 Chrysler Internet Media
Series #:   2001 - 1

Download the Microsoft Word version here:   2001 Sebring Coupe

Download the original image file here:  2001 Sebring Coupe 12k

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