Lamest Classics: The Chrysler Sebring Coupe

The letters “DSM” have a certain amount of cachet — and a bit of a mixed reputation — in car enthusiast circles. They were fast, they were often broken, and after they appeared in that one movie, poorly modified versions seemed to be everywhere.

In 1995, the now-infamous Chrysler Sebring was brand new, and it was an entirely different vehicle than the car that smeared the name of the famous (but very remote and shadeless) Florida racetrack. The Sebring sedans and convertibles that carried on for far too long weren’t available until 1996, and they were kin to Chrysler’s new “cloud cars.”

But the Sebring Coupe (and its brother, the Dodge Avenger) was Chrysler’s penultimate step to ridding itself of the by then very old K car platform that had brought it out of bankruptcy. It did so by leveraging its Diamond Star Motors friend, Mitsubishi, to build a mid-size coupe based on the Galant sedan — itself a version of the Eclipse platform.

(In case you’re wondering, don’t worry. The LeBaron is coming.)

Somebody loves them.

The current Wikipedia page on the Sebring Coupe is a fanboy’s manifesto. There are uncited claims of slalom superiority, some nebulous statement about it handling well on “long curves,” and how the LXi trim even had a rear sway bar. This suggests that it was also available without one — a sad statement about a semi-lux coupe, even if I can’t independently verify it.

I used to own a 1991 Ford Escort. It wasn’t even a nice one. It had no stereo, no air conditioning, no power steering. But goddammit, it had sway bars front and rear. (Pro tip: Don’t Google “nice escort” unless you’re looking for sexy ladies in France.)

This Diamond Star Motors vehicle didn’t use the hot Japanese 4-cylinder of its siblings. Instead, it got a 2-liter engine shared with the Dodge Neon, but in one of the stranger details of the 420A engine, the cylinder head flows in the opposite direction of the Neon’s — the intake manifold is on the firewall side.

Weirdness aside, the 4-cylinder is lame. Who cares about that measly engine when there’s a V6, right? Well…

The V6 sucks.

The optional 2.5-liter V6 didn’t make much more horsepower. It was a small-bore version of Mitsubishi’s 6G72, available only in this Chrysler and its relatives. Since the V6 was only available with an automatic transmission — a real deficit at the time, even if autoboxes are much better today — car magazines got the same or better zero-to-60 times with a 4-cylinder and a manual transmission.

Though it came with a legit 710 cap, so that’s cool.

Why would you even buy one of these when you could get an Eagle Talon for $1,000 less? Or hell, you could get an all-wheel-drive Talon with that crank-walking 210-horsepower 4G63 turbo engine for $19,800 — just $771 more than the V6 Sebring.

Adjusted for inflation, it comes to around $33,000 today. That’s WRX STI money, though a couple of grand short of a V8 Dodge Challenger.

Sure, the Talon doesn’t have much room for the rear passengers or as much cargo space, but why are you buying a mid-size coupe anyway? Get over yourself and buy a doofy Thunderbird if you want an ugly and slow personal-luxury vehicle.

And that’s the rub of it: The Sebring Coupe excelled at mediocrity. It’s too small to be properly luxurious. It’s too slow to be sporty. It’s too Chrysler to be reliable.

Almost in testament to the car’s blandness, the Sebring Coupe was assembled in a city called Normal, Illinois.

Yes, Normal is a real place. I’ve been there. In Microsoft Flight Simulator for Windows 95, where the default starting point was Meigs Field. That made Body Mass Index (BMI) airport one of the nearest stops outside of Chicago, so if I was exceptionally bored, I’d try to fly there.

I also drove through Normal probably a couple of times. Like many other semitropolises in corn country, the city is friends with its neighbor, so they’re often referred to as a pair: Bloomington-Normal. Champaign-Urbana. The never-formalized pairing of my alma mater’s home and its sister city, Dekalb-Sycamore. And others that aren’t in Illinois, like Minneapolis-St. Paul, and whatever, who cares.

Get on your favorite internet classifieds and find yourself some of that bulbous Midwestern booty. It might take a lot of searching and patience; I haven’t found one for sale yet. Once you’ve scored that sweet deal and made it legal, take it to the import car shows and tell people it’s a DSM. They won’t believe you, but that’s not important. You know the truth: This thing is a bona fide Lame Classic. Maybe even the lamest.

The Sebring Coupe gets a 9 on the Lamestain Index.

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18 responses to “Lamest Classics: The Chrysler Sebring Coupe”

  1. roguetoaster Avatar

    FS95 reference, a Nice low key bit of humor, and a call to hunt for something I would never buy. This is why I come to Hooniverse.

    Found one:

    1. Alan Cesar Avatar
      Alan Cesar

      I knew it! I remember seeing those slack-jawed lower air scoops *everywhere*. I thought that was these cars, but I couldn’t find a photo to confirm.

      1. roguetoaster Avatar

        Pretty sure the Ford Contour does this too, at least both of the SVT ones I’ve had did.

      2. Vairship Avatar

        Too bad you couldn’t fly to BMI airport with a proper airline. Will you bmibaby?

    2. Smaglik Avatar

      And amazingly, the ad is still live 6 days later…

  2. Sjalabais Avatar

    The utter blandness of this view, like a random car in an architect’s drawing, is absolutely fantastic. That is the kind of thing i seriously like, but this being a Chrysler, you’d have to gut it completely and either put something interesting in it – [insert standard Hellcat reference] – or just put it on something that works forever. Does a Camry fit under there?

    I am assuming this is the same platform that later brought us the GAZ Siber?

    1. Alan Cesar Avatar
      Alan Cesar

      A ’92-’96 Camry has a wheelbase about half an inch longer than the Sebring Coupe, and they had a 3-liter V6. So yeah, you could probably make that work.

    2. nanoop Avatar

      I actually like the idea of the Chrysler design (I’ve read the article, so I don’t like the car itself). I miss long lines without wrinkles, but ugly front fascias are not a recent trend I see.

    3. Monkey10is Avatar

      As an [EU-based] architect: We are typically inserting generic Audi/Mercedes/BMW or Aston Martin shaped volumes into our renders — so maybe this foreshadows the death of the generic ‘Euro-lux-coupe’ model?

    4. ptschett Avatar

      If I remember correctly…
      -Avenger/Stratus coupe and Sebring coupe were always on a variant of the Mitsubishi platform that underpinned the Eclipse, Galant, etc. that came from the same manufacturing plant;
      -Stratus/Avenger sedan and Cirrus/Sebring/200 sedan were always on a Chrysler platform till 200 went to the FCA CUSW platform (and the 2001-06 sedan’s tooling and design were what was transferred to GAZ to build the Siber);
      -the Sebring/200 convertible always was based on the Chrysler sedans.

  3. Tomsk Avatar

    The Eclipse/Talon/Galant parts interchangeability is pretty much the only interesting thing about the Sebring. At least the Avenger (or at least purpose-built machines designed to look like it) had some motorsports pedigree.

  4. Shingo Avatar

    Michael Scott like.

  5. SlowJoeCrow Avatar

    Based on my limited experience with the Sebring sedans anybody wanting a bland FWD sedan based coupe made in the US would have been far better served with a Kentucky built Camry or an Ohio built Accord. While the Camry Coupe was a little dumpy looking the Solara and Accord were inoffensively attractive and far more durable. Even so I’m glad people collect and preserve stinkers as well as roses, just like the people who resist the temptation to turn stripper Pontiac Tempests into GTOs

  6. Maymar Avatar

    Confession time – I like the ’98 refresh on the Sebring coupe. Not like it’s a fantastic car, but it’s sort of generically handsome, if spiritually a predecessor to the bland non-turbo Eclipses that were soon to follow. Also, since it is still a DSM, I assume many of the good parts are relatively easy swaps. Something that looks like it was at an airport rental counter in the late 90’s but drives like a Fast and Furious extra would be worth at least a few lulz.

    1. Monkey10is Avatar

      The subtle lulz are extra valuable if you intend to rob a bank and get away in something subtly un-memorable.

  7. ptschett Avatar

    Get over yourself and buy a doofy Thunderbird if you want an ugly and slow personal-luxury vehicle.
    I always slightly preferred the Cougar (at least for ’89-’95; the ’96 refresh as found on my Ford was unkind to the Mercury), but:

  8. salguod Avatar

    Take a close look at the Sebring coupe and an Eclipse of the era.

    The door shape, the door handle, the a pillar and the front fender are nearly identical. In fact, under that lower door cladding is the same side sculpting of the Eclipse. I think the dash is largely the same but with wood trim on the Chrysler.

    My dad had a red post refresh Sebring. It looked good, but was generally a mediocre car at best. It also had a cruise ship like turning radius. Just parking in the grocery store required a 3 point turn at times.

    It replaced a LeBaron coupe. Thankfully he replaced the Sebring with a 2009 Accord coupe with a 5 speed.

  9. Rolls Royce Avatar
    Rolls Royce

    No one can prove car companies are smart.
    The 2002 Sebring hardtop conv. has 3.5 v6 250 hp.
    Dependable motor no valve piston interference but may have trans. issues if driven hard and some electrics issues are on google

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