Review: 2006 Chrysler Sebring

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The Sebring scored well in government crash tests, with the sedan earning a five-star rating in the NHTSA frontal test. All Sebrings have driver and front-passenger airbags, but you'll have to pay for additional safety features, such as side curtain airbags (optional on all sedans) and anti-lock brakes and traction control (optional on all Sebring sedans except the TSi, where they're standard equipment).

The base convertible has disc/drum brake configuration, whereas the GTC, Touring, and Limited tout more desirable discs all around. ABS and traction control are standard on the Limited, and ABS is optional on the other three convertible trims. Side airbags are unavailable in the convertibles.

Essentially, Sebrings have either an inline-four or a V-6 mated to a four-speed automatic transmission. The base sedans are fitted with a 2.4-liter/150-hp DOHC four-cylinder engine that makes solid power, but doesn't seem too happy about its work. Touring, Limited, and TSi models get a small-displacement 2.7-liter V-6 engine that makes 200 horsepower and 190 lb-ft of torque. The TSi gets the four-speed driver-interactive AutoStick transmission. The problem is that Toyota, Honda, and Nissan all have V-6 engines that are more powerful, more willing, and smoother.

The convertible has a similar powertrain hierarchy: the base model has the four, while the other three have the V-6 as standard. The Limited, however, is available with the AutoStick transmission.

The Sebring sedan is a pleasant car to drive, but it's underpowered relative to its Japanese competition, whether you choose the four- or six-cylinder engine. The powerplants also want for smoothness, sounding quite coarse at the top of their rev ranges. And while the four-speed transmissions are smooth shifting, they aren't quite up to par with a Honda automatic.

The sedans ride nicely, though, with a bit more body movement than the current norm, as they ultimately lack the subtle refinement of the Japanese sales leaders. The one exception is the TSi. With its sport suspension, standard anti-lock brakes, and AutoStick transmission, the TSi is the eye-opener of the range, instilling more immediate dynamic response from the Sebring than expected, leaving us wanting more engine. It's quite entertaining to drive, though the rear wing may be a bit much for some buyers over 18 years old.

The convertible, however, does a much better job of fulfilling its mission, aided by limited competition at its price point. It isn't a rocket ship, nor is it a back-road champ--despite a so-called sport suspension on the GTC--but it is a very pleasing open tourer for full-size adults.

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