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Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Avenger coupes: Mitsubishi Mopars

Also see: 2007-2010 Chrysler Sebring - 2007-2012 Dodge Avenger - 2001-2006 Sebring sedans - 2000 Chrysler Sebring Coupe review

2001 Dodge Stratus CoupeChrysler Sebring Coupes were built in Normal, Illinois. This assembly plant was once a joint venture between Mitsubishi Motors and Chrysler Corporation (Diamond Star), but Mitsubishi purchased the remaining interest in the plant from Chrysler. So Chrysler Sebrings were technically known as transplants, since they were eventually assembled under Mitsubishi management.

The other cars produced in this plant were sold under a variety of names. The similar Dodge Avenger (as of 2007, a sedan made by Chrysler itself) was also assembled in this plant, which continued to build the Mitsubishi Galant and related models after Chrysler coupe production stopped.

The Sebring coupe owed most of its underpinnings to the Mitsubishi Galant and to the Eclipse and Talon. Basically, the Sebring coupe was an Eclipse with wheelbase stretched to 103 inches. This allowed much more leg room and head room in the back seat. The dash was shared with the Eclipse/Talon. The engine options differed in that the high performance 4 cylinder available on the Eclipse/Talon was not available on the Sebring, but, instead, a 2.5 liter V6 was available. The optional V6 (standard on the LXi for most years; the four cylinder was briefly available on LXi) was built by Mitsubishi, and was based on the 3.0 engine originally used by Chrysler as the V6 option in their mini-vans.

The early four cylinder was manufactured by Chrysler, and was the same engine used in the Neon (DOHC version), with some effort devoted to reducing noise, and a little less power due to a tougher air path. Most of the road tests in the major car magazines indicated that the 4 cylinder accelerated a bit faster than the V6, but the V6 had an edge in smoothness. (The 4 cylinder, but not the V-6, was available with a five-speed manual transmission, similar to the Stratus situation).

Sebrings differed from Avengers in a few small ways in addition to the cosmetic differences. For example, the spring rates in the Sebring were more nearly tuned to a smooth ride, whereas the Avenger was set up for a slightly stiffer ride.

The Sebring convertible was built in Hermosillo, Mexico, in a plant supervised by Chrysler, and was not related to the coupe but to the Chrysler JA cars — the so called "cloud" cars (Stratus, Cirrus, and Breeze).

2000 to 2006

For 2000, the Dodge Avenger/Chrysler Sebring Coupe, Chyrsler's Mitsubishi Eclipsed takeoff, got a stand 2.5 liter V6 with automatic powertrain, a new silver color, and a fabric change on the Sport interior. There were barely any buyers for these cars; the Mitsubishi Eclipse was not a barnstormer, either.

In 2001, Chrysler changed the Avenger to make it the Stratus Coupe (though it shared little in common with the Stratus Sedan or Convertible). The Sebring was joined by the former Cirrus sedan, which became the Sebring sedan, though again the two models were completely different. The coupes had an updated 200 horsepower Mitsubishi engine as an option, with a 2.4 liter Mitsubishi engine as standard; the sedans had a 2.4 liter Chrysler engine standard with a 200 horsepower Chrysler engine optional.

2007-2010 Chrysler Sebring - 2007-2012 Dodge Avenger - 2001-2006 Sebring sedans - 2000 Chrysler Sebring Coupe review

1995 - 1996 Sales Literature

There were only a few changes in the Sebring for the model year 1996. The 1995 model year was short, since the car was introduced in April of 1995. The reason it had the 1995 model designation is that the Avenger had been introduced the previous fall, so dealers could not be selling 1995 Avengers alongside 1996 Sebrings. Legally, however, all Sebrings could have been called 1996 models.

The changes between 1995 and 1996 were as follows:

Horsepower of the V6 was increased from 155 to 163 hp. There were no externally visible changes in the engines between the 1995 and 1996 models, and Chrysler had been reluctant to reveal where the horsepower boost came from. (In other engines, power boosts came from smoothing the air path). Either the same engine was simply re-rated (that can happen) or perhaps there was some changes in the electronics that controlled fuel management.

The optional dash-mounted Infinity CD player included a cassette, and if the CD player was dealer installed in the trunk, the cassette unit included switches to control the trunk-mounted CD player

The universal garage door opener was built into the sun visor, and standard on the LXi model.

There were several color changes. Basically 1995 Char Gold Pearl Coat was replaced with Spanish Olive Pearl Coat and Medium Blue Metallic was replaced with Light Autumnwood Pearl Coat. The dark green changed slightly, from Deep Green Metallic to Polo Green Pearl Coat. The Pearl Coat designation was of interest, in that it indicates a color that "travels"--the technical term for a metallic paint that changes color depending on lighting conditions. All of the Sebring colors except Bright White, Black and Medium Gray were pearl coats for 1996. The Silver Mist Pearl Coat illustrated the phenomenon, and under some conditions, looked pure silver, but on other lighting conditions, had a blue tinge, while under still other color conditions, appeared gold.

Tom Binney, a Sebring owner (see owners' page) supplied the following information on the Sebring Pearl Coats.

"The Pearl effect is due to the use of Mearl Corporation's pigments in the newer cars. This is a product that tends to give a red/blue, red/green or other specific combination "Iridescent" effect to the paint similar to the "mother of pearl" effect. I've been in the paint related industry for 30 years and some of these special effects have been around for 20 years or so and are just starting to get into the commercial auto market. Wait until they start to use "Flip Flop" overcoat colors - you won't know what color to expect when you go back to the parking lot to get your car! They can create drastic color changes due to type of light and angle of reflection!"

Both the 1995 and 1996 Sebring sales brochures were of very high quality, nicer than the Dodge Avenger books. In a new model in the first year, it was expected that there were going to be some errors in the sales brochure that were later corrected in subsequent printings or in the subsequent model years. The 1995 Sebring book contained few errors that I have found. There did not appear to be a separate 1995 printing that corrected the errors, but the corrections do appear in the 1996 sales brochure. Many of the photos from the 1995 brochure were re-used in the 1996 brochure. Here are the significant differences (many are errors):

The V6 engine illustrated on page 8 of the 1995 brochure was different from the one actually used in the car in that there was no container with a yellow cap and other differences. The V6 engine used in the 1995 and 1996 models was correctly illustrated on pg. 10 of the 1996 brochure.

The photo on page 15 illustrating the cargo net in the 1995 brochure showed a Dodge Avenger, not a Sebring! This photo was corrected on pg.13 of the 1996 brochure.

Study carefully the Dark Green Metallic Sebring on pp. 20-21 of the 1995 brochure and compare that with the similar illustration of the Polo Green Pearl Coat illustrated on pp. 18-19 of the 1996 brochure, The illustrations are obviously the same photo, but magically the Polo Green has been lightened in the 1996 brochure.

Note the subtle interior changes between the 1995 and the 1996 brochures on pages 10 and 11 of the 1995 brochure versus the illustration on pages 8 and 9 of the 1996 brochure. The most obvious difference was that the 1995 car shows perforations in the leather, whereas the 1996 does not. My Sebring has a cloth interior, but, as I recall, the 1995 Sebrings I looked at did not have the perforations. I would be interested in hearing from 1995 Sebring owners, especially if there are some who have the leather interior with the perforations as illustrated in the 1995 brochure. Note also that the stereo dial has changed. This is probably correct in that the 1996 brochure illustrates the modifications made in the upgraded Infinity stereo. The shininess of the leather in the 1995 brochure appears to have been toned down in the 1996 illustration. There are other subtle changes in the dash button colors. All of this appears to have been done by retouching the original photo via computer.

A separate sales brochure was mailed out on request by dialing 1-800-4AChrysler. The 1995 version contained photos of the dark green model. A photo in this brochure showed a black ash tray cover (the one used in the Avenger) in the wood grained Sebring console. I have not seen this brochure for 1996, or determined if this error has been corrected.

Road Tests

Road tests of the Sebring coupe appear in the following magazines.

  • Car and Driver, June, 1995, pp. 83-87
  • Motor Trend, May, 1995, pp.120-121
  • Auto Week November 4, 1995 pp. 20-21 (Check out that owner's voice in Lexington, KY)

Mystery Sebrings

I was in New Orleans, Louisiana in early February, 1995, several weeks before the Sebring had been announced. Six Chrysler Sebrings drove up to the underground parking area of the hotel. All of them were in Deep green metallic, and, interestingly, all bore Louisiana manufacturer license plates. Why Louisiana was a great mystery. Apparently, the Sebrings were in New Orleans for a pre-show for the dealers. The cars were clearly labeled as Sebrings, and looked identical to the model that was introduced several weeks later, with one exception: the "grille" was not like the one that was introduced with the horizontal bands, but rather had a "honeycomb" appearance. Apparently, the grille texture was a "last minute" pre-production change, based on dealer comments.

Common Dodge Avenger / Chrysler Sebring problems

Avenger/Sebring door handle repair - step by step

I have received very little information from owners about problems with the car. The potentially most serious problem is a malfunction in a brake light sensor that has the effect of apparently keeping the brakes ever so slightly engaged when the car is going down the road. This is resulting in premature shoe wear. There is a Chrysler service bulletin out on this. The battery in mine said goodbye last weekend after 4,300 miles of ownership. The battery is no-name, but has a Magic Eye on it! The type number is 86. It's a weird size. Bottom line: I'm running ok on an ill-fitting temporary CarQuest battery, and the dealer has one on order, but it hasn't arrived yet. [Update: the battery has been replaced at the dealer: two bad cells, and no other problems] Another owner wrote of problems with the coil. Interestingly the J.D. Power initial quality survey showed a high defect rate, over 200 per car in the first six months of ownership, but the Consumer Reports data look quite good, well above average.

Allpar Webmaster note: Mr. Hernandez warns owners of models with the V6 engine to avoid deep puddles, since this engine is a "bottom-feeder" and can suck water into the intake, resulting in expensive rebuilding or replacement. (This is also a problem with many VW engines).

On the 1995-99 coupes, according to Jon, the lower ball joints on the front suspension have a recall that can be repeated infinitely. Chrysler has acknowledged that the lower ball joints wear prematurely and can cause severe loss of control to the vehicle if failure occurs while driving highway speeds.

1997 Avenger/Sebrings

The biggest news was the revised front and rear fascia. In fact, all of the plastic pieces below the belt line were changed somewhat. By far, the most controversial aspect of the new design was the new "grille." Larger and more prow shaped, the black area appeared to have pleats similar to the 1995-1996 design. The grille was integral with the lower fascia, instead of two separate pieces as in the 1995-96 design. The Chrysler 300 "cross hairs" design was gone. In its replacement was a Chrysler blue- ribbon logo with chrome wings that evoke Chrysler grille trim designs of the 30s and 40s. In fact, in looking over photos of the 1934 Chrysler Airflow and other Chryslers built prior to World War II, the new grille evoked images of a similar art deco design. Nouveau retro was in. I'm certain this wing design was used on Chryslers of that period, but if there is someone out there who can tell me exactly when and on what model it was first used, I would appreciate hearing from you. Both the grille and the winged emblem remained controversial, in my view. Air intake remained below the grill, but its shape has changed. Fog and parking lights appeared similar to the 1995-96 design.

Moving around the side of the car, the most apparent change was in the cladding, which featured a pair of raised ridges that extended the length of the car. These ridges started on the side of the front bumper cladding, went across the doors and to the side rear cladding behind the rear wheels. This cladding design was controversial. Whether or not it looked "better" than the older, cleaner, design is a matter of opinion.

The new standard wheels for the LXi appeared to be a ten-spoke design, quite different from the 1995-96 version. They were 17 inches in diameter, riding on a P215/50 HR17 tire, a change from the P205/55 HR16 used in 1995 and 1996.

The rear of the car had changed too. A curved convex panel where the license plate was now contained the Blue Ribbon Chrysler logo and Sebring label (Gold on the LXi). The rear bumper had changed too with the twin ridges extending around the rear of the car, and the bumper now accommodating the license plate. A new spoiler similar to the one used on the Dodge Avenger was standard on the LXi.

Despite the lack of sheet metal changes, the exterior was different from the 1995-96. Overall length was up to 191.1 inches, from 187.4 inches, probably because of the new prow-shaped grille. This was getting to be a big car! Curb weight was up 15 pounds on the LX (to 2,959) and 40 pounds (to 3,197) on the LXi. Overall width was down from 69.7 inches to 69.4 inches.

1997 Exterior Colors

New this year were Indy Red (brighter red than had been used on the 1995-96 Avenger), Paprika Pearl Coat, a bright orangish-rust metallic, and Pewter Blue metallic, a color that appeared to travel to Iris overtones. Gone were Light Autumnwood, Medium Gray Metallic and Spanish Olive Pearl Coats. The most important change was the total elimination of the two-tone cladding that was mandatory on some colors in previous years, but not used on others. These two-tone colors worked better on some colors (such as the Mercedes-like white and silver) than on others. .The LXi featured gold exterior badging, which I presume meant that the lettering on the rear was in gold on the LXi, but chrome on the base LX.

1997 Interior changes

The fake wood grain extended all the way up the dash to cover the plastic piece that enclosed the heater/AC controls. Not only that, the ashtray cover was wood grain instead of black. In addition, there was a new two-tone black and tan interior color combination. Basically, the portion of the dash at glove box level was tan, but the remainder of the dash was black. The tan trim also extended upward to the arm rests on the door panels. The interior was available in a butter tan color to match the dash and door treatment with carpet of the same color. This tan color was quite different from the brownstone available in previous years. The gray interior apparently remained all gray, with no two-toning.

1997 Equipment changes

Engine and transmission options remained unchanged. There was apparently a new door beam system called Dynamic Side Impact protection. The standard LX radio and cassette system had six speakers instead of four. The LXi standard system included 6 speakers, a 3-band equalizer and a combination cassette and CD unit. An automatic electrochromatic day-night mirror was standard on the LXi. The standard LX wheel covers were changed from 1996.

David Debertin's Chrysler Sebring

My Sebring is a 1995 LXi model, in solid silver mist. It has the gray cloth interior, and the standard set of LXi features.

Comments about Chrysler Sebrings should be sent to me, David Debertin.

The Internet Sebring Coupe Owner's Club

Go to The Sebring Coupe Owners' Photo Page - it has all the pictures you could want!

Go to The Sebring Coupe Owners' Page - this is essentially an open message-board with many, many messages from individuals, most of which have been individually answered by David Debertin. If you own a Sebring/Avenger or are considering one, it's an excellent resource.

Other Relevant Links

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