30 Minutes with the 2007 Chrysler Sebring

I took the 2007 Chrysler Sebring sedan for a quick spin last week. Give Chrysler this: you'll never mistake it for anything else on the road. For all it's trying, however, it lacks the presence of either the Saturn Aura, which I found literally turns heads wherever it goes, or the Ford Fusion, which, for all the bitching we do about The Blue Oval here at Autoblog, is a smart-looking American sedan. With the Sebring, you stand there taking it all in, trying to form an opinion. At the end, I felt a mix of indifference and disappointment.

The problem that the Sebring arriving in showrooms has (in my opinion, at least) is that in the interest of being visually distinctive, it has far too much going on. For example, I personally like the Chrysler Crossfire's styling (here I stand, ready to catch your javelins). On that car, the hood ribs work well. On the Sebring, however, they're simply busy. The same goes for the rub strips on each side of the car, which add an unnecessary, distracting line to the profile view. The real shame is that this car can look very good. The SEMA Sebring, with its lowered suspension, mesh grille, larger wheel/tire package and deleted hood ribs and rub strips, is an aggressive-looking winner. At the very least, Chrysler should make the SRT version (assuming they plan on doing one) a clone of its SEMA car.

Follow the jump for more ruminations on the new Sebring.

The Sebring I drove was a silver 2.4L model with the Touring package. That meant it had two-tone leather seating, 17" alloys, a nice-sounding AM/FM/CD/Sirius radio, and a power sunroof. Inside, the seats (front and back) were comfortable, the steering wheel rim nice and meaty, and the controls easy to locate and use. The white-faced gauges were attractive to look at, and I liked the nifty driver information display in the gauge cluster that lets you check your radio station/track info without having to look down and away at the radio itself.

Unfortunately, the rest of the cabin was a sea of bland light gray and silver plastics that lacked both warmth and a premium feel. This could possibly be remedied somewhat by opting for an exterior color in which the khaki/greystone interior is available. Short of that, however, I actually found myself thinking, "I like my Grand Cherokee's interior better." The problem there is that I own a '99. If I find a 7-year-old interior preferable to one that was just created as part of a vehicle's full redesign, that's an issue.

How does it drive? The 2.4L World Engine's 170 hp is perfectly adequate, offering enough power and responsiveness for the kind of everyday driving the average person does. It also snags the car a 24 city/32 highway EPA fuel economy rating, which may be an attractive carrot to some shoppers. The ride itself was comfortable and quiet during my short drive, but the quick route I took was about as vanilla as you could get, with no significant curves and no highway travel. We won't be able to give you proper feedback until we get a Sebring in the Autoblog Garage.

The car I drove stickered for $23K and change – not bad, considering the level of equipment it had, plus the fact that dealers are offering cash back through the end of the month if you trade in a competing vehicle. But for the roughly same money, you can get into a more powerful V6 Sonata with a similar feature set and attractive styling, illustrating the bloodsport-like nature of this midsize sedan segment.

Personally, I wouldn't put the Sebring ahead of either of its domestic competitors if I was the person doing the shopping. Factor in the Japanese and Korean entrants in this class, and it runs into more trouble. I really wanted to like the Sebring better, but at the end of the day, I can't envision myself ever spending my own money on one, which just about says it all.

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