While most of Chrysler's concept cars were actually previewed to journalists early, as they often now are, under special embargo agreements, the company kept one of its concepts, the 200C, as a true surprise this year.
The 200C Concept, which Chrysler says conceptualizes the "sedan of the future," is a plug-in EV with a now-familiar powertrain—at least to those who’ve kept tabs on Chrysler’s concept EVs of late. A 200-kW (268-horsepower) electric motor system is good for 40 miles or so, then a “range-extending” four-cylinder engine kicks in to provide continuous power for the electric system, with overall range in the vicinity of 400 miles.
Frank Klegon, executive VP of product development at the automaker, said in his presentation of the 200C that 80 percent of Americans drive less than 40 miles per day, so it’s possible that many owners of a vehicle such as this would seldom use a drop of gasoline, save for long road trips.
But the 200C’s body and interior are equally intriguing. The new sedan concept makes an about-face from the chunky, creased direction that its products have been taking, replacing it with a more organic, sleek look.
According to officials at the automaker, the 200C Concept is built on a shortened LX platform and has rear-wheel drive, yet hinting that they haven’t yet decided finalized the details officials said that the powertrain would also work for front-wheel drive. The 200C is sized at the small end of mid-size, which makes it more likely as a replacement for the Sebring than for the 300C.
The interior, which is dominated by soft edges and broad arcs, along with soft surfaces, also used to showcase the future of Chrysler’s uconnect in-car communications interface. Some of them look to be almost ready for introduction while others may be a few years away.
The Chrysler 200C Concept has a large touch-screen display in the center of the instrument panel, used to access an array of features and interface possibilities—which Chrysler is showcasing at the show in special interactive kiosks.
For starters, the uconnect system now offers more personalization, with audio tagging and the opportunity to purchase music from their vehicle, a “teen setting,” which limits speed and can warn the owner on parameters like driving style or distance from home, and the opportunity to do social networking from one's vehicle, seeing the location of friends' vehicles, messaging, and sharing music. A home/office link provides synchronization
Vehicle security is another aspect. The vehicle can be linked to a smart phone, which can then control vehicle locking and a number of other parameters, including disabling the vehicle if stolen. There's also the opportunity for an in-car video monitor.
Also of note is a new Passenger PC, a personal computer that slides out of the dash for the front passenger, allowing Internet tasks and access to the navigation system.
And speaking of the nav system, it now gets an update to allow you to see street view cameras, in real time, for checking traffic or conditions. Just don't try to drive by them. Real-time weather is also available, and like the dynamic rerouting already available from other automakers, the nav system can adjust a programmed route to avoid bottlenecks.
Details on these features are all slim, but with this announcement it's clear that Chrysler wants to cast wide with its uconnect range of services, with the security and services of OnStar but a friendly interface that takes the best from Ford's Sync. Whether these features are on the way next model year or in few years—and whether or not they’re on the way in Chrysler’s next mid-size sedan—they open up mind-boggling in-car possibilities.