It’s no secret that automakers frequently collaborate on everything from engines to entire cars. This cross-company sharing once led to almost identical, cookie-cutter machines. But today, manufacturers are providing even shared platforms with unique brand images. Take this 2001 Chrysler Sebring Coupe for example. It shares almost all of its major components with this Mitsubishi Eclipse Coupe. Yet while the Eclipse is a slick 20-something sport coupe, the Sebring is aimed at the more mature coupe buyer. But that still begs the question: Can this new pea from the same pod really be that much different?
Of course it can! And since we’re talking peas and pods here, horticulturally speaking, the all-new 2001 Chrysler Sebring coupe could be looked upon as a product of advanced genetic engineering. Although it is substantially less controversial than those “special” ears of corn we’ve been hearing about lately.
And better looking too! And that’s the one major area where the Chrysler Sebring Coupe differentiates itself clearly from its fraternal twin, the Mitsubishi Eclipse, as it lets you know right up front, with its signature facia boldly displaying the winged Chrysler crest, whose tree it grows on. The same can be said for its cab-forward, rounded wedged-shaped profile and its 300Mish-looking tail lamps and trunk rear deck. It’s a look that’s unmistakably Chrysler.
Under the skin, however, the Sebring’s mixed heritage is more evident. And more powerful! The standard offering is a Mitsubishi 2.4 liter, SOHC, 16-valve, I-4 that produces 150 horsepower and 158 pound-feet of torque. That’s up 15 horsepower over the 2.0 liter engine it replaces.
But our personal favorite is the optional Mitsubishi 3.0 liter, SOHC, 24-valve, V-6 that came in our Lxi tester. Now pumping out 200 horsepower and 205 pound-feet of torque, this smoother, more refined engine is a vast improvement over the 2.5 liter unit it replaces. It also puts out 37 horsepower more.
More good news is both engines can be coupled with either a 4-speed automatic, with or without the AutoStick manumatic option, or a 5-speed manual. Sadly, our V-6 tester came un-equipped, not only without the 5-speed that we found so enjoyable on the Eclipse, but without the AutoStick as well. With Halloween just around the corner, it was enough to call for a pox on the House of Chrysler.
But our less bewitching and more mature tester did manage a respectable run to 60 in 8.5 seconds, and a quarter mile pass of 16.4 seconds at 87 MPH. Our drivers loved the strong mid- range powerband, and noted the lack of buzziness that accompanied the previous engine, and how responsive the smooth shifting trans is to throttle inputs.
The LXi’s four-wheel disc brakes, with optional ABS, also got favorable kudos. Stable and controlled stops from 60 of 122 feet were 10% shorter than the Eclipse. Also, order ABS, and Chrysler throws in Traction Control to boot.
Well controlled is also how we describe the Sebring’s low speed slalom demeanor and general all around handling prowess. Understeer on turn ins is minimal until pushed hard. Then it quickly goes to oversteer, but does so with plenty of warning and in an easily correctable fashion. Despite the soft springs used on both the Sebring and Eclipse, our drivers like the well balanced chassis and solid feel. The only let down was steering, as we found the power assist couldn’t keep up with rapid side to side movements needed to negotiate the slalom.
Chrysler engineers have taken special care to see that the new MacPherson strut front suspension, with coil springs and a 17 mm stabilizer bar, and the multi-link, double wishbone rear with coil springs, will see you through whatever with a ride that keeps you feeling in command. The Eclipse uni-body was stretched nearly 3 inches for the Sebring and stiffened substantially, and the optional 17 inch wheels wrapped in 50 series Goodyear Eagles also enhance the Sebring’s handling and ride quality.
But, while the new Sebring is quieter, we found road noise still a distraction. Though, not enough to keep the seat behind the steering wheel from being a comfortable place to be. Our LXi came with the standard, manually adjusted, Travis cloth buckets. Leather is optional. The driver gets a seat height adjustment and a recliner memory function and faces a leather wrapped, 4-position tilt steering wheel.
The dash design, with its deeply recessed gauges, the hooded compass and external temperature readout, and, at the bottom of the center stack, the climate controls, was lifted from the Eclipse. The AM/FM/Cassette/CD player stereo with 3-band equalizer and 7 Infinity speakers, is all Chrysler. A four-disc, in-dash changer is optional.
While the back seat, best accessed from the passenger’s side where the seat folds and glides forward, benefits greatly from the added wheelbase with good leg room for two adults. Head room is not so generous however, especially for 6-footers. But the 60/40 split seat backs open the way up to a huge trunk with 16.3 cubic feet of cargo capacity.
And the 2001 Chrysler Sebring Coupe in LX trim can be yours for a very reasonable $19,355. LXi models start at $22,060. Our modestly optioned LXi tester totaled just $23,625. While the Coupe shares the Sebring name with a Sedan lineup, that’s about all they share. But while sharing a lot with the Eclipse, especially the fine powertrains, the Sebring Coupe still comes away as its own car. Indeed the 2001 Chrysler Sebring Coupe is a strong candidate for those seeking a sporty 2-door coupe without all the boy racer trappings.
And our friends at AMI Auto World Weekly agree, saying, “All told, the Sebrings are less appliance-like and definitely more enjoyable to drive and to ride in than their competitors.”
And if the Chrysler Sebring coupe is a result of a little genetic engineering, then we say bring it on. Although we’re still not quite so sure about that corn!
Engine: 3.0 Liter Sohc 24-valve V-6
Torque: 205 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 8.5 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 16.4 Seconds @ 87MPH
60-0 MPH: 122 Feet