Lets begin with the Chrysler Sebring, as this is what makes this story so impressive. I was not too impressed with the Sebring, and to be totally honest, it was one of the worst new cars I’d driven. It’s design had improved from the last generation, however the build quality suffered and the driving feel of the car was numb and unconnected to say the least. However, with Chrysler’s bankruptcy, Chrysler had no choice but to start improving the products they built in order to lure back customers, wary of buying from a failed manufacturer. Good news is, Chryslers already been making huge steps forward with several models under the Dodge, Ram, and Jeep logos. Well now its Chryslers time to reap the benefits of the hard work being done back in Detroit, and the first to get the treatment is the Sebring, now dubbed the 200.
Though my time was short in the 200, a quick rip up the Lucas valley in California, past Skywalker ranch and on to the pacific coast was enough time for me to be shocked by the massive improvements Chrysler has made.
Like so many of Chrysler’s brands, the massive step up in interior quality and design is one of the largest determining factors to the quality of these new products. The sea of grey hard plastic in the Sebring has been replaced with warm, soft touch materials that compliment a much more conservative and modern interior design. While the Sebring’s interior was something one had to endure, the 200’s rivals that of higher-end import brands such as VW, even knocking on the door of luxury brands. Interaction with instruments and controls is also enhanced as Chrysler really has sweated the little details. Buttons and dials have a good solid feel and the whole environment is much more pleasant.
Next is the powertrain. The darling of Chryslers new powerplants is the new Pentastar 3.6L V-6, which, thanks to its increase in power and fuel efficiency, is being shoved into just about everything built under the Chrysler name. Here in the 200, the Pentastar is rated at 283 hp and 260 lb-ft, making it the most powerful mid-sized sedan on the market. The base 200 will receives the standard 2.4L inline four cylinder that comes equipped with 173 hp and 166 lb-ft. While I did not get the chance to drive the four-cylinder, which I expect to be a little weak given the size and weight of the car, the Pentastar has no such problems plodding over the coastal range with little effort, while getting good fuel mileage, as the V-6 needed little urging.
So, how does the new car drive? This was another weak point as the Sebring lacked grip and any real handling performance. Well Chrysler’s got all their bases covered, and even though the 200 development was hasty to say the least, it is a well-connected vehicle. While the mid-size sedan market is not known for high performance handling, the 200’s upgrading suspension mated with a lower ride height does go a long way in giving the driver confidence and good communication with the car.
With my shortage of time in the car, the most obvious advances garnered the majority of my attention, so my only real quibble with the car is its “big car” feel and steering response that could be a little more direct. Other than that, the 200 has marked the coming of age for Chrysler, impressing me with just about every feature including a segment leading starting price of $19.995. With so many segment leading features and a lower price tag, the 200, and I suspect the soon to be released 300 should be game changing vehicles, ushering in the new era of post bankruptcy Chrysler.
Base Price (MSRP): $19,995
Price as Tested: $27,995
Type: 5-passenger Mid-size Sedan
Layout: Front-Engine Front Wheel Drive
Engine: 2.4L I-4 and 3.6L V-6
Horsepower: I-4 173, V-6 283
Torque: I-4 166, V-6 260
Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic
Brakes: Four-wheel discs
Fuel Economy (L/100km): I-4 L - 9.9L city, 6.7L highway
V-6 – 11.0L city, 6.8L highway