2011 Chrysler 200
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    2011 Chrysler 200 Expert Review:Autoblog

    Sebring Replacement Gets A Seat At The Big Kids Table – Barely

    2011 Chrysler 200 Limited

    2011 Chrysler 200 - Click above for high-res image gallery

    You don't have to take a trip to Egypt to know what the pyramid of Gisa looks like. It's an amazing feat of engineering, the construction of which continues to confound scientists to this day. But while Gisa is a true world wonder, Egypt is also home to many structures that were never completed. Half-built pyramids, obelisks that were intricately cut out of solid bedrock only to be left un-hoisted and 1,000-ton rocks that were dragged by hand for miles and left sitting unused. Why would anyone go through all that effort without finishing what they started?

    We've long asked the same question about the Chrysler Sebring. Engineers took the time to come up with all the components needed to craft a new sedan for Chrysler, yet the steering, chassis and engines were woefully unfinished works. When looking at the Sebring, it's like designers threw darts at a wall to find the right sketch, and the same lack of completeness could be felt on the inside, where rubbery materials materials were assembled with the precision of a sofa cushion fort.

    Luckily for Chrysler, the Sebring and those unfinished Egyptian objects have one more thing in common: They're both consigned to history. Chrysler's designers and engineers have worked together to right the wrongs of the Sebring, and those efforts have led to the newly named 2011 Chrysler 200. We spent a week with a nicely equipped Limited model to see if Chrysler's mulligan can go toe-to-toe with its peers in a very competitive mid-size sedan segment. Continue reading...



    That Chrysler decided to change the name of the Sebring to the 200 should come as no surprise. The new naming structure makes sense given that the sedan's big brother is the 300, but the badge swap goes further than that. The Sebring was a train wreck of epic proportions, as then-owner Daimler cut budgets and rushed timelines to deliver a cost-competitive offering in the segment. What Chrysler got was a cheap, hot mess that needed massive discounts to be moved, mainly to rental fleets. Imagine working the counter at Avis and telling people that they're stuck with a Sebring. Talk about an easy sell to "upgrade" to a full-size Kia Amanti.

    The 200 is still based on the Sebring architecture, but Chrysler claims to have made major changes to the steering, suspension, interior and exterior designs. Chrysler even added a new 3.6-liter "Pentastar" V6 that produces a best-in-class 283 horsepower. And while we still see a heavy dose of Sebring in every 200 we encounter, particularly the profile, the new sedan is at least slightly more handsome than its predecessor. The folks at Chrysler's marketing arm have taken notice as well, as the 200's Super Bowl commercial, which featured Eminem trolling the streets of Downtown Detroit, was the most talked-about spot that any Detroit automaker has crafted in years.

    2011 Chrysler 200 front view2011 Chrysler 200 rear view

    Our $28,505 Limited tester (a base 200 costs $19,245) came exceptionally well loaded with standard features, including 18-inch aluminum wheels, leather seating surfaces, an eight-way power driver's seat, remote start, heated front seats and side mirrors and Uconnect Voice Command with Bluetooth. Among the other options added to the spec sheet were the $895 6.5-inch navigation screen with 30GB hard drive, Sirius Satellite radio and traffic and an $845 power moonroof.

    When it comes to mid-size sedans, an attractive exterior isn't always part of the recipe for success. Unfortunately for Chrysler, the Sebring was the malignant tumor of automotive design: lumpy, bulbous, rough around the edges and in need of immediate surgery. But that's the canvas on which Chrysler designers had to paint a reborn sedan, and the results are a solid effort that doesn't quite let us forget about the S-word.

    2011 Chrysler 200 headlight2011 Chrysler 200 grille2011 Chrysler 200 wheel detail2011 Chrysler 200 taillight

    The metal forward of the A-pillars is new, which means the straked hood, smallish and under-defined grille and retro headlight assemblies were cast aside. In their stead are classy LED daylight running lamps, a new chrome grille and a more masculine hood. Engineers also widened the track and lowered the 200 just a touch, which gives the sedan a slight air of aggressiveness. The rear end was updated as well, with a more stylized fascia cribbed from Jaguar that includes a tasteful chrome strip connecting modern-looking LED taillamps.

    But while the changes to the 200 represent a substantial improvement, the one area that didn't receive attention brings back the not-too-pleasant memories of the Sebring. The bulging greenhouse from the Sebring carries over to the 200, and we couldn't be any less pleased. It's the part of the car that makes even non-enthusiasts say 'that looks like a Sebring.'

    Chrysler seems to get that the 200's greenhouse is its Achilles heel, as all of the original press shots of the sedan were taken at angles that minimize the roofline at all costs. There were no profile shots, and even the three-quarter views are so-skewed they almost look like head-on photos. Even that now-famous Super Bowl commercial never shows the 200's profile. And it's two minutes long.

    2011 Chrysler 200 interior

    Just when we think we can't past that bulbous roofline, we step inside the 200's overhauled cabin. Before getting behind the wheel the difference is plain to see, with rich-looking materials, more attractive color combinations and a steering wheel as fat as they come. The cheap plastic has been swapped out for far cushier, higher end materials, while contrasting white stitching gives the cabin more class. Even the seats are changed for 2011, and our leather-wrapped thrones were plenty comfortable with a reasonable amount of bolstering.

    Further improvements come on the tech front, as Chrysler has ditched the lousy stalk-based cruise control setup in favor of attractive, back-lit buttons on the steering wheel that are very easy to see and use. The biggest news, though, is reserved for Chrysler's Uconnect. Though not as feature-packed as Ford's Sync, Chrysler's infotainment system just works, and without all the brain-drain we've endured in other mid-size offerings. The 6.5-inch screen looks deceptively similar to the Sebring's nav, but this system is far snappier when called upon, showing us that the hardware behind the liquid crystal curtain is all-new. You can also store up to 30 GB of data on the vehicle's hard drive, but we were more than happy to stick with our iPod connected through the back-lit USB port towards the bottom of the center stack.

    Not everything is perfect within the 200's cabin, though. The back seats aren't as roomy as those in the Toyota Camry or Chevrolet Malibu, and the 13.6-cubic-foot trunk lags behind the competition. Also, the 200 is a bit wider than the competition, yet front hip room is worse than Camry, Malibu or the Ford Fusion, while rear hip room bests only the Chevy.


    The 200's interior is now competitive in the mid-size sedan segment, but how does she drive? First and foremost, our tester came armed with Chrysler's new 3.6-liter Pentastar V6, which packs 283 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 260 pound-feet of torque at 4,400 rpm, and is mated to a six-speed automatic with a manual shift option. The combination of the V6 and the automatic yields solid refinement that's fine for the vast majority of drivers, though Honda and Toyota deliver smoother options. There were times we felt we had to work the 3.6-liter engine a bit hard to get our kicks, but overall this 3,559-pound sedan can scoot. Torque steer rarely rears its head unless you really get on the go-pedal, especially on wet pavement or with a fair amount of lock dialed into the wheel.

    The last-generation six-cylinder in the Sebring was a testament to cost-cutting, but it was a crown jewel when compared to the car's atrocious ride and handling. The steering wheel was loosey-goosey, bumps felt like chasms and the chassis needed a double-dose of Prozac to calm the hell down. Most of those injustices were righted for 2011, starting with a lot more confidence coming from the wheel itself. Steering is no longer feather-light, with solid resistance that, while numb, is nevertheless reasonably accurate.

    2011 Chrysler 200 engine

    The 200's chassis is no longer the 'float like a butterfly' setup we detested om the Sebring. When hitting the curves, for example, the tallish 200 looks like a sedan that is just begging to exhibit body roll, but it doesn't. It could be the Goodyear P225/50R18 BSW All Season Touring Tires, or it could be the re-tuned suspension. It's likely both. But that's not to say that the 200's underpinnings are firm or crisp on the handling front; they're just not nearly as bad as before. We still felt a bit of vagueness where we'd like communication, and the stiffer chassis felt awkwardly synthetic.

    On the fuel economy front, the 200 manages 19 miles per gallon in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. That's right about where the V6 Camry is, but it can't hold a candle to the 34 miles per gallon from the Hyundai Sonata Turbo. We managed 24.7 mpg during our time, which is right about where we expected. On the safety front, the 200 also manages a score of "Good" from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, earning it a Top Safety Pick award.

    2011 Chrysler 200 rear 3/4 view

    The Chrysler 200 is just about everything the Sebring should have been back in 2007, with a vastly superior interior, improved looks and a far better V6 under hood. But beating the Sebring is like clobbering the underweight, glasses-wearing math whiz on his way to chess practice. So where does the 200 fall in comparison to its current competition?

    That's a different story. While the 200's cabin can stack up against nearly any in the segment and the new Pentastar V6 is certainly competitive with the other mid-size sedans, those are easily the 200's best attributes. When it comes to looks, refinement and especially reputation, the 200 still isn't near the top of the mid-size food chain. But in a segment with heavyweights like the Camry, Accord, Altima, Sonata and Fusion, at least the 200 can finally pop a squat at the big kids table, but it's still sitting on an unpadded folding chair and using plastic cutlery. It's nice to see Chrysler finish what it started, even it was five years too late.

    Sebring Successor Goes A Long Way to Address Old Ails

    2011 Chrysler 200

    2011 Chrysler 200 - Click above for high-res image gallery

    Chrysler isn't into mincing words about the company's recent past. After years of corporate and product neglect, those at the helm of the smallest of the Big Three know that the company has a long way to go to regain buyer confidence. While a rash of new and revised models are hitting Jeep and Dodge show rooms over the next few months, it's clear that the company is beginning to gain momentum under the guidance of Fiat. But the models under the Silver Wing seem to be staring down the barrel of a more uncertain future. With plenty of product overlap with Dodge and a lack of any real brand cohesiveness, Chrysler has yet to yield any clear indication of progress away from the dark days of the company's past. As a result, buyers are having a hard time knowing what to make of the company or where it's headed.

    Still, after Chrysler emerged from Chapter 11, it was clear that wherever the carmaker was going, the Sebring wasn't coming along for the ride. After a long, degrading life of rental car service and all out neglect from designers and engineers alike, the Sebring had mutated into a car that was a few leagues behind the competition, even when the third-generation bowed in 2007. To that end, Chrysler sent the Sebring name to the burn pile by revealing the 200 – a small sedan that rides on the same bones as its ill-fated predecessor but wears new sheet metal and a revised interior along with a slew of significantly reworked mechanical components. The result is the vehicle that Chrysler should have built in the first place – a competent economy cruiser with plenty of content even at lower trim levels. Is it enough to banish thoughts of the Sebring from our minds? We hopped behind the wheel to find out.

    Continue reading...



    Photos copyright ©2010 Drew Phillips / AOL



    One of the unfortunate realities of adolescence is that the teacher's pet always gets away with more than the mischievous child in the class. Once you've landed yourself on the troublemaker list, you're doomed to have to work twice as hard as your goody-two-shoes counterpart, which is exactly where the 200 finds itself right now. For years, the motoring press delighted in nothing more than condemning the vehicle's predecessor, so the 200 now has some serious ground to cover to prove itself a viable competitor in its segment. Part of that effort rests on the four-door's new exterior. Chrysler's designers did as much as they could to give the 200 its own personality by adding details like sculpted headlights with projection lenses and LED accents, and removing design elements like the odd striations on the old Sebring's hood.

    In fact, everything from the A-pillar forward is all new. The front fascia is a much more mature design with subtle brightwork nestled down low and an attractive grille with blades that mirror the design of the new Silver Wing emblem. From the front, the look is, dare we say, attractive, though still a bit too anonymous.

    2011 Chrysler 200 side view2011 Chrysler 200 front view2011 Chrysler 200 rear view

    That same level of handsomeness is carried around the rear of the 200, too, with sharp LED tail lamps, a cleaner rear fascia thanks to the license-plate bezel that's been moved to the vehicle's trunk lid, and small strips of shiny up top and down low. And if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the 200's rear end is paying the Jaguar XF quite a compliment.

    Unfortunately, the 200 is hobbled by having the same roofline and side profile as its less-than-loved predecessor. That makes parallels between the two all but unavoidable. Additionally, while Chrysler did a smart thing by keeping the rear of the vehicle free of any badges other than the new Silver Wing, designers took the odd step of sticking unattractive chrome 200 emblems on the C pillars. Hopefully those issues will be ironed out once Chrysler gets the chance to rework the 200 from the ground up.

    2011 Chrysler 200 headlight2011 Chrysler 200 badge2011 Chrysler 200 wheel detail2011 Chrysler 200 taillight

    But for all of the tweaks to the vehicle's exterior, it's the interior that's been given the biggest revision. The harsh, Rubbermaid-style plastics of the Sebring have been nearly banished completely in favor of high-quality leather seats and soft-touch materials on the dash and door panels. The change is downright amazing and makes the 200 a perfectly acceptable contender instead of an also-ran.

    That's not to say that every last element of the ghost of Sebring past has been exorcised. Oddly enough, Chrysler chose to continue to use both the same shifter and hand-brake lever as the old machine. With chunky, cheap-feeling plastics and visible injection-molding seams, these pieces feel out of place given the classed-up guise of the rest of the cabin. Swap those two pieces for nicer hardware, though, and you'd have a cabin that's a few light years ahead of its predecessor.

    2011 Chrysler 200 interior2011 Chrysler 200 front seats2011 Chrysler 200 gauges2011 Chrysler 200 analog clock

    Chrysler says that its engineers and designers left no stone unturned on the mechanicals of the 200. The biggest change comes from the fact that buyers can now have their 200 with the company's excellent Pentastar V6 under the hood. With 283 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, the engine makes all the difference in the vehicle's drivability. While the old 2.4-liter four-cylinder is still around, it's gotten no more smooth, powerful nor fuel-efficient. In fact, with the new six-speed automatic transmission, the V6 consumes just 29 mpg highway while the four-cylinder comes in at 31 mpg in the same cycle. We'll trade 2 mpg for over 100 additional horsepower any day of the week.

    Technically, the bottom-rung 200 comes with the same four-speed automatic gearbox as the 2010 Sebring, though Chrysler says that option will make up just 5 percent of the total mix. We're guessing that the four-cylinder, four-speed combo is built for one thing and one thing only – rental car duty. Meanwhile, an optional six-speed automatic will take care of shifting duties for both the 2.4-liter and 3.6-liter engines, though eventually Chrysler says it plans to unveil an optional six-speed dual-clutch transaxle just for the four-cylinder. We're hoping that the new transmission will make that engine both more livable and fuel-efficient when it debuts soon.

    2011 Chrysler 200 engine

    But Chrysler didn't just plop a new V6 under the hood and call it day. The company's engineers also took the time to give the vehicle's suspension a good going-through. As a result, the 200 sits nearly half an inch lower in the front and a quarter of an inch lower in the rear to help put the vehicle's center of gravity closer to the ground and improve handling. In addition, of the vehicle's 30 suspension bushings, 26 were re-engineered to provide a firmer ride and more feedback along with larger roll bars and stiffer springs and dampers. Throw in a steering rack with a quicker ratio, and you've got the essentials of a thoroughly-revised ride.

    Our tester came with the potent 283-horsepower Pentastar V6 under the hood. With an extra 50 horsepower and 2 mpg highway over the outgoing 3.5-liter V6, the engine is exactly what the doctor ordered for the 200. Not surprisingly, there is some torque-steer under hard acceleration, but it's not nearly as much you'd expect. The power is always controllable without feeling like the steering wheel is going to wrestle its way out of your hands. With all of that extra grunt on tap, the sedan has the pep it needs to best traffic on the interstate, giving the whole vehicle a much more confident feeling. It's more than we expected.

    2011 Chrysler 200 emblem2011 Chrysler 200 side mirror2011 Chrysler 200 emblem2011 Chrysler 200 exhaust system

    Shifts from the six-speed automatic are smooth, though the logic isn't as quick as we'd like. We noticed a bit of a delay between the time that our foot went for the floor and when the gearbox actually began dropping cogs, but saw a similar action across the entire Chrysler line. Even so, the gearbox is a wonder of technology compared to the old four-speed disaster. We have to wonder why Chrysler is even bothering to offer the old tech in base trim.

    Suspension-wise, the 200 is more sorted than the Sebring it replaces, but the engineers still have a good bit of work ahead of them. Handling is far from confident, with a cushy ride that still has plenty of slop compared to competitive metal. Even with those new bushings, stiffer springs and larger sway bars, the 200 delivers a good amount of body roll with a detached steering feel. We have to wonder, however, if buyers will even care given the now-nice interior and decent slew of standard equipment depending on trim level.

    2011 Chrysler 200 rear 3/4 view

    Chrysler also made some waves about how much quieter the interior of the 200 is supposed to be compared to the Sebring, though we noticed plenty of road and wind noise during our stint behind the wheel. More than once we found ourselves wondering if the front windows were open at the top, especially at interstate speeds.

    Of course, it's easy to start digging at the details in the 200, but it pays to remember that this sedan carries a base MSRP of $19,995 with destination. Even in Limited trim, with that beefy V6 under the hood, the 200 will only set you back $24,495, complete with heated leather seats, the stylish 18-inch wheels of our tester and a 30-gig hard drive-based stereo. That means for all of its foibles, the 200 is a good value instead of just a cheap car. For us, that's the most impressive change of all for Chrysler's small sedan.



    Photos copyright ©2010 Drew Phillips / AOL

    New midsize sedan gets new name.

    Introduction

    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. 

    Lineup

    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. 

    Walkaround

    The new Chrysler 200 looks like a sedan version of the 2011 Town & Country minivan, with many of the same visual cues in the grille, headlamps, air intakes and front bumper. 

    Chrysler 200 is much sleeker and more rounded at the nose, but carries about the same aerodynamic drag coefficient as the outgoing Sebring, even though the front end has been lowered 12 millimeters and the rear end six millimeters. 

    At the rear, there's a cross-car chrome bar between the new LED taillamps and another chrome bar down between the exhaust outlets that serve to widen the look of the car. All Chrysler models will have a new wing logo in brushed metal and blue paint to replace the old traditional wing logo and signify the birth of yet another version of Chrysler. 

    The roof and doors of the Chrysler 200 came from the Sebring, but the entire nose, decklid, rear fascia, interior and chassis have been replaced with better and more modern stuff, the new car has very large, fully integrated halogen headlamp units that flow around the front corner into the fender, creating a line that goes up over the heavily bulging front fender like other Chryslers and then all the way to the rear of the car through the centerline of the body. 

    Interestingly, there is no decklid badging on any of the 200s to indicate which model is which. Alloy wheels distinguish the Touring model from the base LX, which comes with steel wheels and wheel covers. The Touring is distinguished by different wheels by its slightly larger alloy wheels, fog lights, and chrome trim, though options on the Touring can obfuscate these observations. 

    Interior

    The Chrysler 200 instrument panel, seat trim, door panels and door pockets have all been redesigned for more comfort and utility. The instrument panel, center stack, switches and controls have all been redone for the 2011 models. 

    Although the seat coverings have been redesigned for a more luxurious feel and appearance, the interior cube is the same as the outgoing Sebring, just over 100 cubic feet. 

    As for storage, the rated cargo capacity of the Chrysler 200 is 13.6 cubic feet. 

    The instrument panel contains the usual three-round-gauge package, and is much more pleasing to the eye after the 2011 redesign, with gray-on-gray graphics and white accent lighting that is brilliantly legible at night when the display remains gray on gray. The center portion of the instrument panel has also been modernized and treated to just enough chrome accents, as has the console and shifter portion lower down than before. On some models, it is possible to have two USB ports, which can be quite handy for phone and laptop charging. The cheap rental-car interior has been banished forever. 

    The three-spoke steering wheel has a nice, thick leather-wrapped rim and a thickly padded three-sided hub flanked by redundant switches for the sound system on the left and the cruise control system on the right. 

    All the materials in the seats, door trim panels, headliner and instrument panel are softer, more luxurious and more pleasing to the eye, and the seats feel much more supportive and long-drive comfortable than before. 

    Driving Impression

    The standard engine for the new Chrysler 200 is the 173-horsepower, 166 foot-pounds 2.4-liter world engine that Chrysler shares with two other car companies. Three old V6 engines, the 3.3, the 3.8, and the 4.0-liter, have been retired and replaced by the new corporate 3.6-liter Pentastar V6, which puts out 283 horsepower and 260 foot-pounds of torque, coupled to a 6-speed automatic transmission. With the four-cylinder, there is a new three-point engine mounting system that transmits far less vibration into the cabin. 

    To make the car handle better, the engineers widened the rear track one inch, and retuned nearly every piece, part and system in the front and rear suspensions. They revalved all the shock absorbers, stiffened the front springs by 15 percent, added a rear stabilizer bar where there was none on the previous model, and stiffened the front and rear subframe mounts by 400 and 70 percent, respectively, and the front subframe about 200 percent vertically. The tires have been upgraded to the new quiet-running Michelin Primacy and upsized from 215 to 225 size. The 200 has much-improved noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) behavior, with a new acoustic windshield, laminated side glass, reshaped mirrors, and a retuned exhaust system. 

    We spent some time in a four-cylinder, 6-speed automatic Touring model and were very impressed with its overall behavior, acceleration, road noise, but we spent the majority of our seat time in a Limited V6 version. 

    We were genuinely surprised by the new and much higher handling limits of the Chrysler 200 chassis. With 26 of the 30 suspension and subframe bushing replaced, upgraded springs, shock absorbers, stabilizer bars and tires, the 200 took to some of our favorite Northern California driving roads like a cheetah chasing down a gazelle, changing pace, shifting its weight, gripping the ground, and staying on its line. 

    The 283-horsepower V6 engine is a brand new design that will power many future products, and in this application, coupled to the 6-speed but working manually in third and fourth gears through the mountain two-laners, it showed class-leading power and acceleration, not something we ever have said about the Sebring's old engines. It generates almost 1.3 horsepower per cubic inch, and has every one of the latest technologies except for direct fuel injection. Chrysler says the new V6 generates more than 90 percent of its peak torque from 1600 up to 6400 rpm, and our mountain driving showed that it always had plenty of torque coming off of slow corners. The engine has a nice, powerful growl when it's working, and you can't hear it when it's not. 

    At highway cruising speeds, there is some wind and tire noise (the price you pay for aggressive, sticky Goodyear tires), but it's not objectionable. 

    Summary

    We were genuinely surprised and pleased at the advancements made in the transition from Sebring to 200. It's prettier by far, the interior is more modern and the materials more luxurious, the cabin is quieter, the engine performance in the V6 is excellent, and the crisp, sharp handling was the biggest and most pleasant surprise of all, although a highway mileage rating of 29 mpg was a nice surprise, too. 

    Jim McCraw filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com after his test drive of the Chrysler 200 around Napa Valley, California. 

    Model Lineup

    Chrysler 200 LX ($19,245), Touring ($21,245), Limited ($23,745). 

    Assembled In

    Sterling Heights, Michigan. 

    Options As Tested

    3.6-liter V6 engine ($1,795); sunroof ($845). 

    Model Tested

    Chrysler 200 Limited ($24,745). 

    *The data and content on this web site is subject to change without notice. Neither AOL nor any of its data or content providers shall be liable for errors in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.

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