Striking at the heart of the competition
By Lou Ann Hammond, Fri, 23 Jun 2006 08:00:00 PDT
Jun 22, 2006 Chrysler Proving Grounds, Chelsea, MI - Chrysler Group President and CEO Tom LaSorda and more than 200 blue-shirt, khaki pant Chrysler Group employees introduced the 2007 Chrysler Sebring mid-sized sedan at Chrysler's Proving Grounds. The new Sebring will be available in dealerships in the fourth quarter of 2006.
Chrysler's comeback started with the mega-award-winning large Chrysler 300C sedan. Earlier this year Dodge introduced the compact Caliber and, according to LaSorda, the Caliber sits on the lot only 11 days before someone buys it. Chrysler is hoping for the same effect with the Sebring. The old Sebring was long in the tooth and sales had hit their high back in 2004. It was time for a redux.
The 2007 Chrysler Sebring has an elegant and sophisticated design. Supposedly, the design was inspired by the 2003 Chrysler Airflite concept vehicle that was revealed at the Geneva motor show, but if you were to soften the exterior of the 300C and build a bigger Chrysler Crossfire, combine the two you would have the new 2007 Chrysler Sebring. On a side view you can see a little bit of Lexus in the form, but overall the Sebring offers an exterior design from the European and Asian competition.
Versatility and technology were what LaSorda emphasized in his unveil; playing to the SUV owner, the driver's seat is mounted about 2.5 inches higher than the current Sebring's seat, giving you command-of-the-road seating. The rear seat has a 60/40 fold-flat and the front passenger seat folds flat as well. The way-cool item, a first on a car in this segment, is the heated/cooled front cupholder for keeping cool beverages cool and hotbeverages hot. The cupholder can heat beverages up to 140 degrees F or cool them to nearly freezing at 35 degrees F. That seems a bit hot to me and I can't help wondering how Chrysler is going to keep that cupholder from burning someone's fingers.
Another item for the technoids is a 20 gigabyte hard disc drive that includes Music Juke Box for organizing music and pictures to the hard drive Universal Serial Bus (USB) provides both MP3 connectivity and downloading of WMA, MP3 and JPEG files onto the hard drive.
According to Chrysler, all Chrysler Sebring models will feature a two-tone interior color theme of dark and lighter shades of Pastel Slate Gray or Pastel Pebble Beige. The Chrysler Sebring Limited model also features an exclusive two-tone Cream and Pebble Beige interior with leather seats. The Chrysler Sebring Limited's available upscale accent materials and finishes include Tortoise Shell, Satin Silver, Alloy Silver and Chrome.
The 2007 Chrysler Sebring is available in the United States in three models: Chrysler Sebring, Chrysler Sebring Touring and Chrysler Sebring Limited. Three engine options are also available in the United States market for the 2007 Chrysler Sebring: the new 2.4-liter four-cylinder World Engine, a 2.7-liter V-6 engine and a 3.5-liter V-6 engine coupled with a new six-speed automatic.
Sebring's standard 2.4-liter World Engine is mated to a four-speed automatic transaxle that provides a 13 percent increase in horsepower (172 horsepower vs. 150 horsepower) and 4 percent improvement in fuel economy compared with the 2.4-liter engine it replaces. Estimated EPA mpg is 23 city and 31 highway. The new engine is built in the state-of-the art Global Engine Manufacturing Assembly (GEMA) plant in Dundee, Mich.
The optional 2.7-liter V-6 engine produces 190 horsepower and 190 lb.-ft. of torque, providing more low-end torque (at an rpm 850 lower) compared with the 2.7-liter engine it replaces. The 2.7-liter is the only engine that will be a flex-fuel vehicle, an engine that can take 100 percent unleaded regular gasoline or E85, 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. The estimated EPA mpg for gasoline for this engine is 22 city and 29 highway. The E85 mpg was not quoted, but it is about 25-30 percent less.
The top engine that is optional is a 3.5-liter V-6 engines that produce 235 horsepower and 232 lb.-ft. of torque coupled with a new six-speed automatic transaxle that comes standard with Auto Stick. The estimated EPA mpg for the 3.5-liter engine is 19 city and 28 highway. The 2.7-liter V-6 engine and the 3.5-liter V-6 engines are built at the Kenosha Engine Plant in Kenosha, Wis.
For the first time in the mid-size car segment, the Chrysler Group also will offer a state-of-the-art 2.0-liter turbo diesel engine on the Chrysler Sebring for key diesel markets outside North America. The diesel engine will deliver excellent performance and fuel economy, with an estimated 140 horsepower DIN (103 kW) and 236 lb.-ft. (320 Nm) of torque.
Production will be at the assembly plant in Sterling Heights, MI and will start in the third quarter of 2006. The 2007 Chrysler Sebring will be available in U.S. dealerships in the fourth quarter of 2006 and in global markets in the first half of 2007. LaSorda would not give a definite price, but said the vehicles would be priced below the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry with similar equipment. The 2006 Sebring started around $20,000, while the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry both start around $18,000.
Chrysler expects this design to appeal to Americans that are 35-55- year-old buyers who are married and have a median income of approximately $65,000. Fifty-five percent are female, and 60 percent are college educated. Many have small families with one or two children. These mid-size car buyers are down-to-earth and conservative, yet open-minded, self-confident and have a passion for life. Middle and upper-middle class, their lives are active, and they have a true sense of style. Their self image is grounded in their accomplishments and future prospects. Chrysler Sebring's elegant and sophisticated design, packaged with interior craftsmanship and essential levels of reliability, meets the needs of customers who want more than just practicality in this competitive segment.
Since 1990, Chrysler brand sales have jumped 251 percent. No other American automotive brand has grown as much during the same time frame. Sales have been lagging, but Chrysler still has eight vehicles to launch before the rest of the year.