Upon taking delivery of this “all-new for 2011” Chrysler 200, I had feelings of deja vu. Haven’t we seen this shape before? Hrmmm… Block out the new front and rear fascia and… there it is… the Chrysler Sebring! Down to the faux c-pillar add-on that makes you think the rear side window extends further back than it really does. So, after all that commercial hype, with the dramatic 8-mile Eminem soundtrack and promises of all new and being reborn, all we get out of Detroit is a Sebring makeover? Don’t get me wrong, it’s a significant and commendable makeover, inside and out, but only significant because the Sebring was wrought with cheesy, early 1990’s styling to begin with. At least the 200 looks like a modern car.
The new rear end styling gets 9 out of 10 in my book. Really nice looking and with updated LED lighting guise that’s rightfully in-style these days. Very nicely done! The front fascia, I’ll give 7 out of 10. The 200 is a definite improvement over the Sebring in back, but something’s still not quite right up front. Maybe it’s the overly-prominent grille that doesn’t seem to flow well with the headlights. The headlights seem pasted on and they just don’t look anchored.
Interior styling is miles better than the Sebring. Materials have a quality feel to them and there are tasteful chrome accents that contrast nicely with the piano black trim. I was disappointed that the demo car didn’t come with a navigation system to test out. The simple HVAC controls are in rotary form and are very intuitive to use, which I liked.
So what didn’t I like?
The seats seemed inadequate, narrow, and too firm. And I’m a small size. I couldn’t imagine someone large driving this car around in comfort for any length of time. The steering wheel grip looks nice and fat, but it’s not a comfortable shape to wrap my hands around.
The 6-speed transmission was clueless at figuring out which gear it should downshift into and was laggardly slow at predicting my intentions. After a quick jab at the throttle, to change lanes in low-speed traffic, the car went nowhere, never completely down-shifted, and when I let off the gas, it slammed back into whatever gear it thought it should be in before the maneuver. It was pretty disappointing the whole time. The close-ratio gears made it good for 0-60 runs, but that was about it. I think this could be corrected with software improvements.
The climate controls were equally clueless, making the cabin either too hot or too cold. It didn’t acknowledge changes of a few degrees warmer or cooler and sometimes it stayed on heat when I asked for cool and vice-versa. The only way to get it to work right was to set it to max cool or max hot, wait for it to change to the extreme, and then make smaller adjustments. I found it very frustrating.
I wish Chrysler had saved their grand reveal campaign for a car that was truly all-new and not just a makeover and a new badge. But I think the makeover was significant enough for Detroit to prove that is has what it takes to do things the right way. Combine the styling improvements with a starting price of $19,245 for the LX 4-cyl or $23,495 for the Touring with the optional V6, and you have a compelling alternative to the imports.
If you are in the market for a mid-sized sedan, the 200 deserves a test drive. Detroit has come a long way and I‘m happy to report that the home-team is delivering much better products than they were a few years ago.
|Official website for Chrysler cars, trucks, minivans, and SUVs – www.chrysler.com|
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