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As Chrysler pulls itself back into post-bankruptcy shape, it's going through a lumpy transition phase. It has some stellar brand-new products, like the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango. There are some carryover vehicles with clear sell-by dates stamped on their sides--cars like the Dodge Caliber hatchback.
Then there are the cars in the middle--the ones eventually lined up for replacement, but needing a delicate round of surgery to keep them viable for a few more years while Chrysler and Fiat finish integrating their global product plan.
The 2011 Chrysler 200 and 200 Convertible fit that category. They're the official replacements for the Sebring, which launched in 2007 to unhappy reviews for its overwrought styling, low-buck interiors and stiff ride. Even though Chrysler toned down the Sebring's rib-happy hood, only fleet sales kept it from being a total disaster.
For the new model year, Chrysler's reskinned and renamed that car, and with its new V-6 drivetrain included, it's earned its new nameplate. The 2011 Chrysler 200 is undoubtedly healthier after its emergency surgery. Its V-6 gives it best-in-class output, and designers have found some lovely workarounds to its unchangeable hard points.
It's still unlikely to trip up the Subaru Legacy, Ford Fusion, the Hyundai Sonata or the Kia Optima on its way out of recovery, but the Chrysler 200 shows signs of healing over the old Sebring's rental-car stigma. Acceleration's much more brisk with the V-6, and the nose job and complete cabin overhaul remove the worst blemishes from the old Sebring's profile. The 200 sedan isn't quite as well equipped as other, newer competitors, and the Convertible still flexes its body more than it does its muscles, but Chrysler's mid-size duo are no longer in the ICU.