2011 Chrysler 200 not bad, still needs work

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After the hubbub a couple weeks ago concerning a colleague who quit his job at the Detroit News over his Chrysler 200 review, I have to admit I was curious to get behind the wheel of this all-new American midsize sedan. In a quirk of fate, it ended up in my driveway one week later.

I have to tell you: It's not that bad.

My colleague called it "a dog" and implored readers to go buy a Toyota Camry instead. I wouldn't say either of those things. I will say, however, that the 200 is "fine" and that if you're looking at a Camry, the 200 is worth a test drive as well. But so are Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima -- and those two upstarts are clear winners in this traditionally vanilla segment.

So, what did Chrysler do right? They smoothed out some of the lines and gave the car formerly known as Sebring a much more up-scale feel. I love the taillights that wrap around the hind quarters and are filled with LED bulbs. The chiseled hoodlines, the dual exhaust, the chrome accents all combine to create a much improved profile.

The interior fit and finish has been glammed up, too. The black lacquer insert on the center stack of  the Limited test car ($24,495) was shiny and pretty, and the leather seats were plush and comfortable. I really like the Chrysler tech features included in the optional Media Center 730N package: Uconnect works seamlessly, Sirius Traffic was helpful and the navigation system itself was easy to use and understand.

 

The test vehicle was stacked with pretty much every option and still managed to stay under $30K with an as tested price of $28,505. Another point in this car's favor.

I have to say, where I hated pretty much everything about the Sebring -- such that I wouldn't even write the review -- I found a lot that I liked about the new 200.

But ... (Insert forlorn sigh).

I do have to admit I had hoped Chrysler would take this a little further. They changed the name, shook up the design a little and created a damn good commercial, but you can still see the Sebring in the new 200. The shape is still the same; the interior, while upscale, is still a little blah.

And the engine -- well, I less than loved it.

I had the 3.6-liter V-6 Pentastar engine that delivers 283 horsepower. That's a pretty nice number, but I have to say it felt more like 183 than 283. There just wasn't enough get-up-and-go for me. So, it was "fine," but not what I would expect from a brand that produces an icon like the Hemi. I hate to think what the 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine is like at 173 horespower.

Ride and handling was also "fine" -- nothing spectacular, but nothing particularly less than any other competitor in the vanilla field.

I'm hoping that this name switch will follow the route of the Ford 500: Change the name, make a few updates, then wow people with a complete and stunning redesign. Fingers crossed. Perhaps something a little closer to big bro 300? I'm just saying ...

Chicago-worthy rating: 6.5 to 7. I didn't not like the new 200. It has good value for the money (base price at $19K), and it has some nice up-level features without a huge premium. Ride and drive is OK. It's nothing special, but I wouldn't have a problem parallel parking it on a Chicago street during a blizzard either. So, while I couldn't give this car anything more than an 8 because I didn't love it, it certainly deserves a score higher than 5.

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  • Just curious what was the issue with the power? Do you think it was simply vehicle weight, or did it have something to do with how the transmission was tuned? From what I read from others I have to say Chrysler transmission worry me a little bit, and all I ever really hear is there is an 8spd on the way! I wonder how it feels on E85...

  • In reply to talipa2012:

    could definitely have something to do with the transmission and the weight combined. drove the camry last week with the v-6 and the power was smooth and seamless. big difference. 200 just somehow seemed clunky and slow. i was in the ltd model with the 6-speed AT, but can you imagine: chrysler still offers a base 4-speed AT!

  • In reply to jillciminillo:

    Oh I know it's pretty sad. Anything 4-spd makes me sad if its an auto it needs to at least be a 6-speed. I just feel like the transmission has been what a lot of people have harped on Chrysler about lately I really hope that 8-speed they have been tenaciously developing will be as good as everyone hopes.

    At least the 200 is better than its older brother the Sebring you are in currently as a rental!

  • In reply to talipa2012:

    LOL! too true. the 200 engine was just sad. but the interior, fit and finish and exterior styling ... so much better!

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