2011 Chrysler 200: First Drive

The one vehicle in Chrysler's shrinking lineup in most need of a makeover is the Sebring midsize sedan. From day one of its last redesign in 2007, it never seriously challenged the class leaders. For 2011, the car has been overhauled and gets a new name: 200. But it’s not as “all-new” as it should be. The 200 arrives at dealerships in December.
 
The changes move the car in the right direction and make it competitive in certain areas for the first time. The car's platform, however, remains a limiting factor, preventing some of the changes this car still needs — especially on the inside.

Perhaps the biggest change for the better is the 200's retuned suspension, which yields vastly improved handling. The Sebring had always done ride comfort well — it offered some of the softest suspension tuning in the segment — but it wallowed around like a boat on the open sea whenever the road became winding. Not anymore. Body motions are well-controlled when cornering, and the car doesn't bob up and down when you hit dips in the road.
 
The suspension changes move the 200 closer to the midsize norm by making the ride a little firmer overall. Think Chevrolet Malibu.

A 173-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder remains the base engine, but the optional V-6 is Chrysler's new 283-hp, 3.6-liter V-6, which pairs with a six-speed automatic transmission.
 
Of all the cars I've driven that have been powered by this new engine, like the Dodge Charger sedan and Durango SUV, it's not surprising that it feels the most potent in — and best suited for — the 200, which weighs 3,559 pounds. That’s considerably less than the Dodge models. The car moves out well from a stop, and the transmission executes quick kickdowns when needed.

The Sebring was the poster child for Chrysler's recent disregard for cabin quality, but the 200’s interior has been revamped with a new dashboard that uses richer materials and features greater attention to detail in items such as the air vents and door trim inserts. The end result is cabin quality that should be reasonably competitive today, but it likely won’t hold up until a fully redesigned replacement arrives in 2013.
 
What's holding this car back? For one, the positioning of the front seats in relation to the rest of the cabin isn't great for taller people (I'm 6-foot-1). The seats themselves are pretty small, and I wasn't able to find a driving position I'd be happy with for a long interstate cruise.

Backseat space for adults is also underwhelming. The 200's backseat dimensions are smaller than the outgoing Sebring's, which didn't have a particularly roomy backseat in the first place. My knees were at the back of the front seat, and the cabin felt close in general.

The Sebring wasn't what you'd call a gracefully styled sedan, but Chrysler designers have revised the 200's exterior to make it a little more like one. The design is sleeker, and it introduces a new Chrysler wing badge that's more abstract than the current one. The 200's headlights resemble those from the 200C concept car of a little while ago, and they incorporate LED lightpipes that give them a high-tech look when it's dark.
 
There's still the stubby trunklid at the rear, along with the familiar arcing C-pillars, but the 200's revised tail loses much of the chunkiness its predecessor had thanks to new taillights and trim pieces. It's reminiscent of the Jaguar XF's rear, which isn't a bad thing at all.
 
While the changes are significant, they're somewhat exaggerated because the Sebring was so far behind the competition. Here's hoping Chrysler's next-generation midsize sedan addresses the issues that remain with the 200.

Comments 

MSS

I love Chrysler/Dodge, but the C pillars make me cringe!! I understand changing the roof would cost too much, but those are enough to bring back the memories of the Sebring!! From head on it looks great tho..

sheth

damning with faint praise. No surprise there.

K

Still looks like the pathetic Sebring from the rear quarter view.

Ken L.

With the current crop of competition on the market, this 200 is just like the Sebring...nothing special. Off to the rental lots you go!

Troy S.

I'm trying really hard to like Chrysler products but to be honest, this car screams cheap interior. In this day and age, this no longer works Chrysler.

The body looks dated despite the overhaul as well. It looks early 2000's dated.

What does this car actually have to attract customers? Retro?

MB

Can you say Audi 5 Quattro?

jett1000

I just can't get around the fact that CHRYSLER made the sebring/200 out of the mitsubishi Galant, which needs a redesign like theres no tomorrow.

Belly

This car is such an utter disappointment in regards to the exterior. I can't believe they kept the basic shape of the Sebring. What happened to the concept car that was actually stylish?

I agree that the rear end still looks too much like a Sebring and if Chrysler doesn't get with the program to design more fuel-efficient, eye-catching models, they will continually be last in place with the Big 3 automakers. It seems they have been sitting on their hands for MUCH too long.

Nice car indeed. But more improvement on the exterior part, it nice and simple. Just looking for stunning car exterior.

Post a Comment 

Please remember a few rules before posting comments:

  • If you don't want people to see your email address, simply type in the URL of your favorite website or leave the field empty.
  • Do not mention specific car dealers by name. Feel free to mention your city, state and brand.
  • Try to be civil to your fellow blog readers. This blog is not a fan or enthusiast forum, it is meant to help people during the car-buying process and during the time between purchases, so shoppers can keep a pulse on the market.
  • Stay on topic. We want to hear your opinions and thoughts, but please only comment about the specified topic in the blog post.
view posting rules

If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In

Search Results

KickingTires Search Results for

Search Kicking Tires

KickingTires iPhone App
Ask.cars.com