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2011 Chrysler 200 Limited: First Drive

Follow Marty

No more drama, please.

It's not just us making the request. It's the folks at Chrysler, too, we're sure. The last three years have played out in Auburn Hills like a season of ER, with divorce, a near-death experience or two, and a non-stop triage running in the background. 

There are signs the storyline is changing. The car surgeons are still in the weeds, but at the post-Cerberus, post-bankruptcy Chrysler, healthy patients like the new Dodge Durango and Jeep Grand Cherokee are now checking out with good prognoses.

Delicate trauma cases like the Chrysler Sebring sedan have required a little more intensive care, however. The Sebring launched in 2007 to unhappy reviews for its overwrought styling, low-buck interiors and stiff ride. A walk-back of its more effusive sheetmetal ribs after two years hardly stopped the bleeding. Fleet sales saved it from total disaster, but just barely.

Now that it's extensively reskinned, with a new drivetrain horned into place, Chrysler's decided the Sebring name deserves a good, deep burial. It's easier to start over than to rehab a brand, which is why the resulting 2011 Chrysler 200 wears numbers, not letters, on its rear-door flags.

Most of what's new in the 2011 200 connects directly with your eyeballs and your fingertips. All the old Sebring surface scars are gone. With every body panel altered except the roof and the doors, the 200 lets your eyeballs relax, finally, to absorb all the well-underplayed details and the slight but very effective changes. Compare the old Sebring's nose and grille to the 200's, and you'll be down with the difference between boughetto and bourgeois. The shared pieces are way more obvious when you compare the sideviews, since the doors are the same, spiffed up only with what appears to be a late-in-the-program "200" decal, stuck to a black sail panel.

Inside, the 200 proves our theory that private equity doesn't know a damn about car design. That regime was responsible for the Sebring's underfunded cabin, which has been swapped out for a richly detailed environment. The 200 dash is a great mix of tight, low-gloss plastic that gives to the touch, and thin metallic highlights that ring the major driver-control areas simply and subtly. (Rounded analog clock? Check.) Just one or two unwelcome relics reconnect the 200 to the Sebring from the inside out--namely, the green fluorescent displays on the lower corners of the gauges, for gear selections and trip functions. They're unappealing, and sit almost out of sight for taller drivers.


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Comments (4)
  1. Marty, as much as Cerberus deserves plenty of blame for Chrysler's troubles, they were not at all responsible for the last Sebring. The Sebring debuted in 2007 at right about the time that Cerberus was closing the deal to buy Cerberus.
    The Sebring was entirely the result of the cost cutting imposed by Dieter Zetsche and Wolfgang Bernhard.
     
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    Bad stuff?

  2. I'm sorry, not delivering something closer to the 200 concept will be a disaster. The car they are planning is nothing more than a smoothed out version of the Sebring, Yuk!
     
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    Bad stuff?

  3. Fiat has put better quality into a better version of the Sebring,but they missed the boat.Why didn't they just build the Chrysler 200 Concept that they showed at Detroit auto show in 2009. That car was exciting and had class and distinct bold styling that put it competitively into the luxury car class. Chryslers originally competed with Lincolns and Cadillacs, they were high end cars, not meant to compete with Camrys and Fusions and Malibus. If Fiat wants to make it back into the luxury four door sedan market with panache then just build the car they designed in 2009 and put it on the road and put some excitement back into Chrysler's main car.
     
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    Bad stuff?

  4. My husband and I have read everything about this car, but can't find one. We will drive to Detroit to get one. Where are they at? I love Chrysler cars. Sorry things have gone bad in America for now. This car sounds like a great car for the price. Thanks. I just want to FIND ONE !!!!!
     
    Post Reply
    +1
    Bad stuff?

 

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