The Fiat/Chrysler design and engineering teams have created a new midsize car called the Chrysler 200 as the replacement for the outgoing Chrysler Sebring.
As its name signifies, the Chrysler 200 falls just under the larger Chrysler 300 in size and price, as Chrysler renews its entire product line in order to be more competitive in the marketplace.
The front-wheel-drive Chrysler 200 seats five. It competes with the Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Malibu, Nissan Altima, and Toyota Camry in America's largest market segment, the midsize sedans (collectively 1.6 million sales per year).
The outgoing Sebring was singularly unsuccessful everywhere except in rental fleets, so to improve sales Chrysler made the 200 look much bolder and sportier than previous Sebring models. The doors and center portion of the steel body have been retained to save costs, but the rest of the car has been restyled and improved inside, outside and underneath in a much more sporty and luxurious fashion.
It's a thorough overhaul and Chrysler has done an impressive job of reworking an existing product.
Underneath, nearly everything has been stiffened, reinforced, or otherwise made stronger so that the four corner suspension systems can operate independently and accurately and provide a much better ride, quicker steering, and more responsive handling. There's a redone suspension and an improved braking system. Under its new management, Chrysler accomplished all the changes to make the old Sebring into the new 200 in less than one calendar year, a remarkable achievement all by itself.
More visibly are a new grille, hood, front fenders, headlamps, driving lamps, bumper and air intakes up front, with new chrome mirrors and door handles, new LED taillamps, new 17- and 18-inch wheels, and new exhaust system outlets at the rear.
The Chrysler 200 comes standard with a 173-horsepower, 2.4-liter double-overhead-cam 16-valve four-cylinder engine with variable valve timing that gives it more flexibility in delivering low-rpm torque (160 foot-pounds) and high-rpm horsepower while delivering good fuel economy.
A new 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine is optional, generating 283 horsepower and 270 foot-pounds of torque, with two automatic transmission choices (and no manual transmission).
Chrysler says the four-cylinder version will get 31 mpg on the highway, and the V6 is expected to get 29 mpg Highway.
The base Chrysler 200 LX comes with more standard equipment than the previous Sebring did and the price has been dropped. The LX is designed for companies or families who want basic transportation and good value. Most buyers will opt for the Touring and Limited models and they will be making the correct choice.
After driving both the V6 and four-cylinder versions of the Chrysler 200, we came away impressed with the improvement it represents over the outgoing Sebring. The new 200 is much prettier. The car is more refined than before throughout. It's much quieter underway. The cabin is more modern and the materials are more luxurious in appearance and to the touch. Performance from the V6 is excellent, and the handling is sharp.
The new Chrysler 200 Convertible arrives spring 2011. We expect the Chrysler 200 convertible to be a big improvement over the Sebring convertible, and, if so, it will be very popular. The Sebring, bad as it was, was once the best-selling convertible in the country, and offered both soft-top and steel hardtop versions.
We're also expecting an S version of the 200, with the V6 engine and 6-speed automatic standard, its own front and rear appearance, its own interior design, and an S instrument panel package. Chrysler will also offer the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine combined with a fuel-saving double dry clutch automatic transmission.
The 2011 Chrysler 200 comes in LX, Touring, and Limited models. The Chrysler 200 LX ($19,245) is a base model with the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, 4-speed automatic transmission, steel wheels, and cloth upholstery. There are no options.
The Chrysler 200 Touring ($21,245) upgrades with a 6-speed automatic, 17-inch alloy wheels, eight-way power seats, satellite radio, automatic temperature control, automatic headlights.
The Chrysler 200 Limited ($23,745) upgrades from the Touring content with heated leather seats, a new touch-control AM/FM/CD satellite radio with a 30-gigabyte hard drive for music storage and record/rewind/replay capability of up to 44 minutes of satellite radio programming, music tracking, UConnect Bluetooth connectivity, 18-inch wheels and tires, fog lights.
The V6 engine is optional ($1,795) for Touring and Limited models.
Options include a sunroof ($845), a cold weather group consisting of heated front seats and remote starting ($385), two different sound system upgrades, one including CD/DVD/MP3 and HDD music storage ($300), and one that adds Garmin navigation (Touring only), something the Sebring did not offer. There's a six-speaker Boston Acoustics upgrade ($475), the UConnect voice-operated phone system, remote starting, a block heater for cold climates ($95), and a smoker's package. (All New Car Test Drive prices are Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices, which do not include destination charge and may change at any time without notice.)
Safety equipment on the Chrysler 200 includes front, side and roof curtain air bags, and ABS disc brakes with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist, traction control, and electronic stability control, in addition to the mandated tire-pressure monitor.