Chrysler 200: Making Do with What You Have.

Chrysler 200 (Front)

It’s no secret that Chrysler’s last entry into the midsize car market was quite simply a car best left to rental lots.  The last Sebring is a car that needs no introduction, because it does not deserve one (to be kind).  However, the Chrysler 200, its replacement, is made from the same pieces, but seems to be a much better whole.  So, what’s the story?

So ugly, children cried when they saw it. Shield your eyes!

The 200, despite riding on the old Sebring’s chassis, holds a host of improvements, including a brand-new body, interior, and engine.  Because the Sebring’s underpinnings certainly don’t help its case very much, Chrysler is very aggressive on the pricing for this new car.  In fact, for the money, it’s pretty much impossible to find a better-equipped car of its size.  Fully loaded, a 200 Limited with the new Pentastar V6 (more on that in a moment), navigation, leather, and hi-fi audio will cost no more than about $27K.  Hyundai’s value-packed Sonata and Kia’s Optima Turbo can’t even match that.  If anything, Chrysler’s on to something here.

Engine Overhead. The new V6 has made Ward's 10-Best Engines this year.

Because they know that the 200 may not have enough to compete with on paper, the price is low.  It’s an old marketing tool, but it seems to be working in Chrysler’s favor–the 200 has been constantly beating sales records for the brand, handily killing the dead Sebring’s sales figures on a monthly basis.  However, I don’t think price is its only virtue.  Anyone who saw the Super Bowl this year also probably saw Eminem’s ad for this new car.  The ad worked wonders and got the 200 off to a fast start with the American public, while the Sebring basically said, “Hey, Thrifty!  Buy me!”

It looks so much cleaner than its predecessor. Definitely a step in the right direction.

The interior also looks great, and the new Pentastar engine is one to definitely write home about.  While it’s the same size as the GM High Feature engine, it produces 283 horsepower out of the box.  Even though this car is FWD, it’s hard not to admit that the power output isn’t impressive, given Chrysler’s shoestring budget at the moment.  It’s a good selling point despite high gas prices.  All in all, I see this new 200 as a cheaper alternative to the big boys, since it’s got everything the others offer, but at a list price that’s quite a lot less.  As long as Chrysler can keep this car updated until the real replacement arrives for this segment (Memo: Hurry up with that dual-clutch automatic, please), they’ll be fine for the time.

I will be driving the 200 V6 within the week to see just how it is compared to the rest of the market.  Will it stack up?  Stay tuned.

-Al

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