By on July 10, 2006

sebring2.jpgSometimes the photos don’t do a car justice. This is one of those times: the 2007 Chrysler Sebring is even uglier in the metal than it is in the photos. Hunting for a parking space last week, I had the bad luck to come upon a parked black 2007 Sebring in full production trim. Chrysler’s PR flacks gush that the new sedan is a “strikingly beautiful design” that’s “poised to inspire.”  They got the second part right. Chrysler fans are warned to look away as I share the fruits of my inspiration.

With the new Sebring, Chrysler’s designers have taken the art deco design cues that have made the Crossfire sports car such a rousing success (most depart dealer lots within a year of arriving) and transferred them onto the most cursed proportions in recent memory.  A rotund proboscis attached to a huge front overhang leads into a sweeping arched roofline that terminates in an abbreviated rear deck.  The Saturn ION employs similar proportions, as will the 2007 Nissan Sentra.  But Chrysler’s rendition is the worst of a bad bunch. 

Compare the Sebring to the 2003 Airflite concept that supposedly inspired it.  You know those made-for-TV movies that were supposedly “inspired by a true story?”  It’s the same deal: shared details, totally different result.  On the Airflite, the car’s nose is more chiseled and much less bulbous, the front wheel opening doesn’t crowd the front door opening and the roofline has more sweep and less arch.  The Airflite is strikingly beautiful.  The Sebring is an Airflite that’s totally let itself go.

airflite453.jpg Returning to the nose; round contours and huge, droopy headlights suggest a theme originally intended for a minivan, but later stretched for sedan duty.  As on the Crossfire, Chrysler’s stamped a half dozen grooves into the hood.  Perhaps they’re there for the dozen or so people who have lusted after a Crossfire, but did not buy one because they needed a back seat for the kiddies.

The doors are the best part of the design— by default.  As on the Pacifica, a deep undercut character line breaks up tall body sides. On the Crossfire, a character line that begins similarly performs a complicated transition from a concave to a convex surface. No awe-inspiring gymnastics here; just reasonably clean body sides whose sheerness conflicts with the blobby front fenders and amorphous rear lamps.

side.jpgSometimes when a car is designed, the designers and the engineers work at cross-purposes.  Bad proportions are one clue.  The window outline is another.  When the engineers fail to deliver the window outline the designers desire, the designers often “cheat”; they’ll tack on a black bit of trim to make it appear that the windows extend further than they do. It’s a nasty little trick that never works well: the automotive equivalent of heavy eye makeup. Then again, I once told a [long gone] girlfriend she might look better without so much eye makeup. When she stopped putting it on I realized why she'd been using so much. It’s like that with the new Sebring.

On a black car, like the one I saw, the black trim triangle disappears into the body. And, what do you know, my eyes wanted it back. Man, that’s one fat, ugly C-pillar.  Even if the window opening were as large as the designers wanted, the result still wouldn’t have looked good. The Sebring is only a couple inches taller than the Airflite, but those two inches, when combined with a seven-inch wheelbase reduction and a more conventionally-raked windshield, are passion killers. Like a pilot attempting an emergency landing on a short, alpine airstrip, the sweeping roofline must come down too far, too fast.  Seems the designers had given up on a graceful landing. They just wanted to land.

sebring34.jpg

The Sebring’s designers apparently ran out of any ideas, good or otherwise, once they reached the Sebring’s literal end. The sedan’s large tail lamps could be from any one of the innocuously styled, utterly forgettable sedans of the late aero period. Their shapelessness bears some kinship to the droopy headlights, but none to the rear quarters in which they are embedded.

Overall, the Sebring appears to be the outcome of a “just get it done” mentality. It isn’t hard to guess the source of such a mentality: DaimlerChrysler ended its decades-old partnership with Mitsubishi, the provider of the new Sebring’s platform, during the sedan’s development. Designers and engineers often have trouble negotiating the compromises demanded by art, science, budgets and regulations.

Spreading the effort across two companies that were increasingly at odds must have exponentially compounded this difficulty. It’s a shame the divorce didn’t come sooner. Because it did not, we have the 2007 Sebring, a car so hard on the eyes it might single-handedly destroy Chrysler’s lingering reputation as a design leader.

[Michael Karesh operates www.truedelta.com, a vehicle reliability and price comparison website.] 

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49 Comments on “Design Study: Chrysler Sebring...”


  • avatar
    Hutton

    One wonders why Chrysler wouldn't take the wildly succesful design theme of the 300C and run with it across all their models.  Instead, they've taken questionable details from one of their least popular cars, and pasted them onto an even more questionable shape.  It makes no sense.  A scaled down version of the 300 design language could have been a gaurunteed hit. My other problem with this car is its another example of car companies putting out weak approximations of concept designs, getting some of the details, but none of the feeling.  Usually first on the chopping block are any unique or quirky touches that might actually cause somebody to fall in love with their car. 

  • avatar
    Hutton

    One wonders why Chrysler wouldn't take the wildly succesful design theme of the 300C and run with it across all their models.  Instead, they've taken questionable details from one of their least popular cars, and pasted them onto an even more questionable shape.  It makes no sense.  A scaled down version of the 300 design language could have been a gaurunteed hit. My other problem with this car is its another example of car companies putting out weak approximations of concept designs, getting some of the details, but none of the feeling.  Usually first on the chopping block are any unique or quirky touches that might actually cause somebody to fall in love with their car.

  • avatar
    Hutton

    One wonders why Chrysler wouldn’t take the wildly succesful design theme of the 300C and run with it across all their models. Instead, they’ve taken questionable details from one of their least popular cars, and pasted them onto an even more questionable shape. It makes no sense. A scaled down version of the 300 design language could have been a gaurunteed hit.

    My other problem with this car is its another example of car companies putting out weak approximations of concept designs, getting some of the details, but none of the feeling. Usually first on the chopping block are any unique or quirky touches that might actually cause somebody to fall in love with their car.

  • avatar
    WhateverJustCrashIt

    Is it me, or does this thing look like a hyundai sonata thats come into a lot of money and elected for a lot of plastic surgery? Sad thing is Chrysler just made me realize that comparing it to a hyundai is an insult to the hyundai. The Sebring's design make me want to run to Chrysler's competition.

  • avatar
    WhateverJustCrashIt

    The sebring looks to me like a hyundai sonata that just came into money and opted for a lot of plastic surgery from disreputable sources in brazil. Actualy, calling the sebring a failed sonata is an insult to hyundai. Worse, Chryslers latest offering actualy makes me run to the competition.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    Wow, even the clear portions of the taillights (body mount vs. trunk mount) don't blend in with each other.  And I thought the Dynasty was an ugly Mopar. 

  • avatar

    You nailed it, Michael.  This is one ugly car.  Not even $3000 in the glove box could redeem it in my eyes.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Saturn Ion — a very good call Mr. Karesh. And, sadly, another half-baked, unloveable American mid-sizer to be spat upon my Camrys and Accords.

  • avatar
    Rizo

    the front of the new Sebring looks like the Mercedes C-class (the same way the crossfire looks kind of like the older Mercedes SL) and the back of it looks like a 2000 Toyota Corolla.

    Shame on you Chrysler.

  • avatar
    Glenn

    Call it “kizmet” since Daimler-Chrysler were so unsupportive of their “partner” Mitsubishi during Mitu’s financial crisis – what goes around, comes around, folks.

    Sharing platforms makes sense when you are going to stay partners, does not make any sense if you are not.

    Ironically, we may see a day when Mitsubishi (which was bailed out by its old parents, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Mitsubishi Bank) is in better financial health than DCX – simply because the customers are going to RUN AWAY from this absolutely horrid POS of a car. The prior Chrysler mid-sized cars were bloody awful, this is just plain “Aztek” ugly – and probably shares the bloody awful V6 engine from the prior generation Sebring. At leat the four cylinder engine (Hyundai design) should be good….. but literally anything would be better than the Neon-archetecture fours that Chrysler used to build. (This, coming from an ex-Neon owner and someone who will never buy another GM, Ford or DCX vehicle).

  • avatar

    Rizo,

    You nailed it. I was just noticing this morning that while many cars have similar tail lamps, the Corolla’s are virtually identical.

    As the review says, if you think it looks bad in the photos (and not everyone does) wait till you see the car in the metal.

    Being part of the team that created this car was most likely a very unpleasant experience. No one could have looked at the Airflite or even the LXs and then felt good about this one.

  • avatar
    BarryO

    Wonder if it still burns E85. Not that it makes a difference…

  • avatar
    Johnny Canada

    Damn. Chris Bangle really gets around.

  • avatar
    Rizo

    Quote:

    “Inspired by the 2003 Chrysler Airflite concept vehicle that was revealed at the Geneva motor show, Trevor Creed, Senior Vice President – Design noted: “Sleek and sophisticated, the Chrysler Sebring’s overall surfacing and details reflect the Chrysler brand’s four attributes: expressive, refined, athletic and passionate, Sebring’s elegant styling provides a clear alternative to European and Japanese competition.?”

    As Paul Graham puts is so beautifully:

    “A similar problem explains why American cars are so ugly. I call it the design paradox. You might think that you could make your products beautiful just by hiring a great designer to design them. But if you yourself don’t have good taste, how are you going to recognize a good designer? By definition you can’t tell from his portfolio. And you can’t go by the awards he’s won or the jobs he’s had, because in design, as in most fields, those tend to be driven by fashion and schmoozing, with actual ability a distant third. There’s no way around it: you can’t manage a process intended to produce beautiful things without knowing what beautiful is. American cars are ugly because American car companies are run by people with bad taste.”

    (somehow I couldn’t post the links to post references to the actual articles)

  • avatar
    Rizo

    What? now my post is showing up? what’s up with that? (I’m new to the site)

  • avatar

    There’s enough ugliness there for a whole college course worth of material. I particularly (dis)like the way the doors look like they were cut out by the fire department after someone forgot to put some in.

    I thought a Sebring was once a kinda cool convertible that was so popular you couldn’t spit without hitting one. The marketing dept. must take the blame for dragging the name this low.

  • avatar

    Marketing had nothing to do with it. I also don’t doubt the taste of the designers. That’s rarely the problem. Same guy who did the Aztek did the current Corvette.

    It’s a matter of management and engineering. Even management usually knows what is ugly, but they’ve gotten good at convincing themselves that whatever is doable for the leasts amount of money is beautiful.

    As the editorial says, it couldn’t have helped that the Mitsu-DCX relationship was coming apart at the seams at the time the car was developed.

  • avatar
    o_fizzle

    This design is really unfortunate. Things were looking pretty good for Chrysler’s design dept after the release of the 300C, but this is obviously a huge step back. The design reminds me of one of those Chinese SsangYong ripoffs.

    Damn, just when I though American automotive design was improving.

  • avatar
    dean

    It is very rare that I don’t find cars better looking in the metal than in photos. The 2D nature of photography often fails to capture the play of light on a three-dimensional surface and often renders a stunning vehicle merely average looking.

    It is with great anticipation then, that I look forward to seeing that rare exception, a vehicle so hideously conceived that photographs make it look better. I can’t wait to see this thing for real.

    The irony is I’ll probably like it! Not.

  • avatar
    dolo54

    whoa nelly! that is making my eyes hurt! i always thought the crossfire was hideous – but that takes the worst parts of the crossfire and multiplies them exponentially. somebody should point out the new camry as another design catastrophe. it is pretty godawful as well.

  • avatar
    chanman

    The outline reminds me a bit of old M-B’s, but the rest of the car, bleagh…

    Also, the shape of the rear windows reminds me of the Calibre.

    Still, that is one ugly car.

  • avatar
    dolo54

    so this is what they were going for eh? http://www.conceptcarz.com/view/photo/37558,6933,0,0/photo.aspx

    too bad, that is a really nice looking concept.

  • avatar
    IronEagle

    What a briliant way to sell more 300s. At least it has that new space-age fabric right?

  • avatar
    philbailey

    A camel is a race horse designed by a committee.
    No one had the guts to say “but, sir, he’s not wearing any clothes”.

  • avatar

    It’s marketing who spend millions to research car names, and they obviously thought there was money in the ‘Sebring’ name. If they’d have called it the ‘Chrysler Warthog’ then this editorial would never have existed because we’d all expect it to be ugly. You can still sell ugly cars if you market them correctly; just look at the PT cruiser.

  • avatar
    Frank Williams

    If they’d called it the “Warthog” it would have been an insult to all A-10 Warthogs.

  • avatar
    Turbokat

    It so happens that beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder. I absolutely abhorr the insipid design of Camrys, Hondas and Nissans and have no desire to own one…..ever! If Chrysler can, in fact, be faulted for design blunders, the 300, to me is a perfect example. The 300 looks like a cross between its late ’40’s ancestor and a sherman tank. While the sebring does seem like an attempt to copy the Asian design, it still manages to retain that Chrysler look.
    Everyone seems to be so taken with Asian based machinery, they’d have totally embraced the Sebring if it had a Toyota, Honda or Nissan nameplate.
    I too have read the story of The Emperor’s New Clothes.

  • avatar

    If a Honda, Toyota, or Nissan is ugly, I say so. In fact, there are quite a few people out there quite unhappy with me because I called the Honda Fit ugly.

    I actually don’t mind the new Camry, though the front end is a bit bulbous. Perhaps because the previous one was so hideous in most trims, my expectations were very low.

    Conversely, I expect a lot from Chrysler in terms of design. Tom Gale, where are you?

  • avatar

    HEY, IT WORKS!

    Now I can’t remember what I wanted to type…great.

    Regardless…how they got to that monster from the quite interesting Airflite Concept is beyond me. Although, I don’t exactly hate the front end, save for the lame hood. The rear half of the car is atrocious.

  • avatar
    Chadillac

    Devil’s in the details. Looks very similar to the Airflite, yet utterly hideous.
    Examples of total screw ups that throw the look off:

    Headlights: Look at the link dolo54 provided. The headlighst are larger at center, smaller on the outside. Opposite on the Sebring. Took gorgeous headlights and killed them.
    Taillights: Same story. What was wrong with the concept’s lights, guys?
    Rear Deck: Did the concept have a rear deck? No….[Well, not much of one]
    Windshield: Way too steeply raked for the design. Refer back to the upright windshield on the Airflite
    Front Doors: Hmm, don’t remember those being right up at the wheels on the Airflite.
    Vents: I really liked those vents on the concept. But alas…

    If they had spent a little more time and money and not cut corners, I would be drooling over this right now. But as it stands, I’ll probably not set foot in one unless its on a rental car lot.

  • avatar
    Lesley

    Well. We have the Canadian press launch for it next week… thanks for building up anticipation!

  • avatar

    All or nearly all of you are criticizing the car based on the photos. The car in the photos looks great compared to the one I’ve now seen twice on the road. Black is probably the worst color for the car. Why did they paint the initial cars black?

    The front end would look just fine…on a minivan.

    The press is going to roast this thing alive. Just wanted to get my two cents into the ring first…

  • avatar
    mistercopacetic

    Is there any practical purpose in having grooves in the hood? Some cars have a “spine” which I heard helps the hood crush safely in a crash. I’m guessing that’s mistaken.

  • avatar
    o_fizzle

    I agree with the poster who said that the new Camry is ugly. I think the Camry looked much better in pictures than in person. It has many unsightly bulges all around making the car look bigger and uglier than it should. I detest the protruding taillights (on the new Lexus IS too).

    However, this Sebring is in a completely different class of fugliness. If it looks this horrid in pictures, I hate to think what it will look like in person.

  • avatar

    Grooves or a raised spine help stiffen the hood, so if someone sits on it it won’t dent as easily.

    If you open the hood and look at the flange running its length on each side you’ll see a few detents. Those are to control how the hood buckles in a crash so it won’t get pushed through the windshield.

  • avatar
    vallux06

    I heard, in Germany it will be marketed as the “Chrysler Ungalant”. Lol.
    It looks a lot like the (Mitsubishi) mother!!! Another FWD that tries too hard to look like an RWD.

  • avatar
    Superstition6

    Okay, it’s not an attractive car. But it would be a beautiful car, parked next to a new Audi Q7! The Q7 is offered by the same Volks who gave the world the styling of the Ur-Quattro and Coup?? GT? Was ist in Ingolstadt geschehen?

  • avatar
    mastermik

    there is no car in the world that would look this car look better. even if you parked next to an aztec, they would just looked equally ugly. the Q7 is not attractive but its decent for an SUV. WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY CHRYSLER?? … they were doing so well with the 300… the magnum… the charger… even the caliber is decent (even thoguh they say its anything but cute). anyone wanna bet this car will be redesigned in 3 years?

  • avatar

    Nah, they’ll let it soldier on in rental fleets for at least six. The front end will probably get minor revisions in two or three. Probably take out the grooves and change the headlights.

  • avatar
    Ingvar

    DCX can not compete head-on with their competitors, so they are playing the “being different” card with all the money they have available at stake. People will not buy the Sebring because it is a “better” car than a Toyota Camry, but because it is different from the Camry. It is the same strategy that Saab and Citroen used to have. It is not about “keeping up with the jonses”, but feeling different and unique for the same money as the Jonses. In that sense, the design doesn’t need to be beautiful or even make sense. It is enough if it is different, or preferred if quirky, eccentric or even ugly. Making change, being different is what it is all about.

    And Chrysler did definitly read that TPS report.

  • avatar
    CB6499

    You guys kill me, toyota doesn’t have any decent looking vehicles. Now that dcx has a somewhat european looking vehicle that will be a strong competitor in the midsize segment, you still trash it. This vehicle is much more appealing than any midsize car that Toyota and or Honda has on the road. This will be a hot seller and we will win another JD Power award for the high level of quality that Local 1700 is known for.

  • avatar

    There’s little if anything European about the look of this car. Different I might grant if the Saturn ION and Nissan Sentra didn’t have similar shapes.

    I thought the first-gen Sebring was a very attractive car. It had other weaknesses, the Mitsubishi V6 among them.

  • avatar
    Hutton

    CB6499,
    This car vs. a Honda or a Toyota…. hmm, a that’s an interesting contest. Ugly vs. Boring. Everybody loses.

  • avatar

    That pretty much sums it up.

  • avatar
    admin

    Rizo and Ronin
    As an FYI, if you post a comment that has more than one link in it, the comment will be held for moderation. We do that to keep comment spammers from filling up the comments with junk. If you post a comment that has multiple links in it, please be patient. If it is a comment and not spam, we’ll approve it and let it through.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    You know what? The Accord is not boring. More over, it is quite handsome, AND proportioned correctly.

    As Koresh correctly pointed out, the front wheel openings are too close to the doors. I will add: this is by far the very worst part of the car. Just… astonishingly bad — microcars have proportions like that — but, they look “cute” because the rest of the vehicle is within that scale. This sad sucker is out of tune.

    A woeful misfire by a company that should know better.

  • avatar
    TeeKay

    Why? Why must such a venerable name of a track be monopolized by such a sh*tty product? Why? Is there no justice?

  • avatar
    courtstone

    Thank you Jonny, the Accord is quite attractive. Worse yet, Chrysler actually expects this Sebring to compete with the Camry/Accord. And just think how well they designed the 300c…

  • avatar
    IgorSmirnov

    While I actually like the new Sebring, I’ve got to say that the hood looks like a ribbed condom…you know the Durex HerPleasure kind?


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