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Full Road Test
The Sebring is a rival for the Ford Mondeo, VW Passat, Honda Accord and Toyota Avensis in a shrinking segment of the market. Unlike the aforementioned fleet machines this is intended as an unusual, lower-volume alternative which Chrysler UK reckons will appeal to retired, sixty-plus males in Britain. But despite the greying target audience this large saloon betrays more youthful American roots by coming fully loaded with the latest gizmos. The only trim level available - called Limited, perversely - includes a custom-built stereo, a 20GB hard drive for storing MP3s and an iPod/USB plug-in. That's before we get to more traditional extras like traction control, air conditioning, heated seats and whopping 18 inch alloy wheels. So to say the Sebring comes well-equipped is an understatement. It also makes a pretty bold visual statement with a jutting front bumper and sporty bonnet strakes similar to those found on the Crossfire (Chrysler's soon-to-be-discontinued sports coupe).
There, I'm afraid, is where the good stuff stops. There is a 2.0 litre diesel, a 2.0 litre petrol and a 2.3 litre petrol engine on offer but, despite the sporty pretence, the Sebring isn't great to drive with any of them under the bonnet. The biggest seller will be the only oil-burner available, the 2.0 litre CRD diesel, whose engine is sourced from the Volkswagen Passat. But unlike the Passat, where the 138bhp engine feels smooth and linear, here it struggles to cope with the Sebring's weight and sounds strained, complaining loudly when you try to press on.
Underwhelming motors are one thing, but without doubt the Sebring's biggest problem is its fidgety ride. It refuses to settle and finds crests and bumps in the road when your eyes would tell you there were none. There's also far too much wind and engine noise and over-the-shoulder visibility is poor. Along twisty stretches the Sebring's lack of chassis sophistication becomes all to obvious - it can't compete with key rivals, most notably the well set-up Ford Mondeo - and a weird blend of stiff suspension and poor body control makes spirited driving seem, well, inappropriate really.
The Sebring also disappoints when stationary, its low-rent cabin plastics (though they are an improvement on Chrysler's of the past) and cheap, shiny leather seats failing to convey an impression of class. But on the positive side, all the controls are intelligently laid out, making this a straightforward car to drive.
Chrysler also has a poor record in the JD Power customer satisfaction survey, and residuals on a big car like this will probably be poor - despite the sub-£20k price tag. It might represent an intriguing choice, but the Sebring falls well short of the standards set by its European competition, and fails to compensate in other directions despite its generous equipment and individual styling, not least because it isn't cheap.