PALM SPRINGS, Calif. -- The 2007 Sebring arrives in Chrysler showrooms at the right time. The Chrysler group is desperate for a few good cars to offset its dependence on slow-selling pickups and SUVs. The Sebring is Chrysler's midrange sedan entry, the company's bid to lure customers out of their Toyota Camrys and Honda Accords.
The basics: The Sebring is built on Chrysler's JS platform, which shares a lot of components with the smaller Dodge Caliber car and Jeep Compass crossover. Chrysler will offer three engines. Significantly, the smallest engine, the 2.4-liter four-cylinder world engine, will be offered in the top-of-the-line Limited trim package. Chrysler reasons that many customers will want a stylish, feature-laden car that doesn't cost too much and doesn't guzzle gasoline. The car will be built at Chrysler's Sterling Heights, Mich., plant.
Notable features: The Sebring is the first Chrysler group vehicle to offer the company's MyGIG system. MyGIG has a 20-gigabyte hard drive with room for as many as 1,600 songs and can store addresses and photos. The navigation system will be stored on the hard drive instead of a disc. There's also an electronic cupholder that will heat or cool beverages.
What the company says: "The 2007 Chrysler Sebring brings our winning formula to the mid-size car market."
Design: The Sebring was inspired by the 2003 Chrysler Airflite concept shown at the Geneva auto show, taking the Airflite's hatchback lines into sedan form. The Sebring has Chrysler's egg crate grille, taken from the 300, and the signature grooves on the hood.
Shortcomings and compromises: The Sebring faces extremely stiff competition. Chrysler has no realistic expectation of catching the Toyota Camry or Honda Accord in the near term. Perhaps the Pontiac G6, Chevrolet Impala, Ford Fusion or Mercury Milan are more reasonable targets. Chrysler touts the Sebring's bold styling and its 300 DNA, but the 300 set itself apart from the pack with rear-wheel drive. The Sebring is a conventional front-driver, just like its competitors.
The market: As if competing with the Camry and Accord weren't enough, the Sebring must fend off competitors such as the Saturn Aura, Hyundai Sonata and Nissan Altima.
The skinny: Without a brilliant marketing strategy, it will be all too easy for the Sebring to fade into rental fleet anonymity.
You may e-mail Bradford Wernle at [email protected]