Chrysler Sebring: A slice of pure American cheese |

Chrysler Sebring: A slice of pure American cheese

Andy Stonehouse
Daily Auto Writer
2009 Chrysler Sebring Limited

If you’d like a fairly clear indication of where your future tax dollars went as part of the mysterious American auto industry buyout-one that will definitely leave you scratching your head-you need look no further than the venerable Chrysler Sebring.

Many of you have owned (or, more likely, rented) variations of this vehicle over the years, preferably the moderately decent convertible version.

Many of you have also watched “Home Improvement,” without thinking too much about it, or eaten an entire bag of Cool Ranch Doritos, or visited relatives in Indianapolis. Sebring is the automotive equivalent, a very basic, unobtrusive, staid, sedate and fantastically middle-of-the-road machine.

I will not go quite as far as Motor Trend magazine, which declared the Sebring “the reason Chrysler went bankrupt” in the first place, but … well, you gotta wonder. Calling it a “gross domestic product” is also a little mean, but not totally untrue.

Truthfully-and this can be said, I guess, for many of the vehicles I profile-the Sebring is not probably top of mind when it comes to high country car-buyers. In Indiana, Ohio or Illinois, it may be a different story.

The most positive comment I got while rolling around town in the ’09 version of the car was some glowing praise about the paint job, the Deep Water Pearl Blue that glimmered and shimmered. Beyond that, the Sebring is not a head-turner; it’s just a basic sedan, and one that’s not impressively inexpensive.

In its basic iteration, power is provided by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder, cranking out a slightly anemic 173 horsepower. Mated with a decidedly old-school four-speed automatic transmission, takeoffs are restrained and raw power, especially when trying to pass, a limited commodity. Handling is also marginally precarious, with blase feel and rubbery inputs.

A slight concession to the austere output is decent mileage, as much as 30 mpg on the highway; if so desired, a faster but equally tuned version of the Sebring is also available with an optional 3.5-liter V-6, upping the output to 235 horses and dropping the mileage to 26 on the road.

Design is not patently offensive-the undulating indentations on the hood aren’t too ridiculous, and there is a modicum of chrome-y bling (such as the Midwesterner-approved door handles)-but there’s just a lot of “bleh.”

Inside, you’ll find a Caliber-inspired, hard plastic console with extremely fake tortoiseshell trim, a gaudy preponderance of painted silver plastic trim and some nasty, exposed bolts on the floor. You do get Sirius satellite radio and a decent-sounding set of Boston Acoustics speakers, plus a super-fancy heated/cooled single beverage holder, but that’s about the extent of it.

In short, benign at best. To the vehicle’s credit, however, the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety gave the new Sebring and its sister, the Dodge Avenger, the 2009 Top Safety Pick rating, based on a mix of pre-tensioning seat belts, side-curtain air bags and electronic stability control.

In the meantime, let us hope that the Chrysler deal helps fast-track the appearance of the tiny but very cool new Fiat 500s, as a possible antidote to the pasteurized goodness that is products such as the Sebring.

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