2011 Chrysler 200: A Sebring Follow-Up for Families

September 14, 2010

The news that Chrysler plans to introduce its replacement for the mid-size Sebring sedan – and call it the 2011 Chrysler 200 – should come as no surprise to watchers of the company. But even though the automaker bills the 200 as all-new, it isn’t an all-new platform or reflective of Fiat’s overhaul of Chrysler. There wasn’t enough time for that. What the 200 really is, then, is a new and renamed Sebring.

And that’s not all bad.

Consider what Chrysler says the new 200 brings to the highly competitive mid-size sedan segment. In a press release, Chrysleer touts the craftsmanship, spirited driving experinece, innovative technology, “abundance of standard safety features,” and an “extraordinary level of standard content.” Furthermore, they state that “virtually” every system is either new or upgraded for 2011.

Of course, they’re going to say that. It’s called marketing. What really counts is whether they deliver.

Let’s look at some specifics, or what the company now says about the 2011 Chrysler 200. Expect more details as the 200 gets closer to introduction.

New exterior styling

Looks count a lot. After all, what you see is your first impression. If you don’t like the styling of a sedan in this segment, there are plenty of alternatives. So, a first glance – at the photos Chrysler has released – shows a slightly different look at new front and rear fascia and fenders, new grille with new Chrysler brand winged badge, new projector headlamps and fog lights, and new LED taillamps.

There’s also a new rear decklid and exterior mirrors and LED center high-mounted stop light (CHMSL) – but you can’t really see them, since no full profile or full head-on or rearview photos are yet available.

So, the jury may be out on how well Chrysler has executed exterior styling. It does look a bit different, but is it enough to win over consumers?

Performance and handling

Next to styling, what matters to families is whether the sedan that hauls them around can get out of its own way. It should also handle well and get respectable, if not class-leading, fuel economy. What do we know about the 2011 Chrysler 200?

The company says 200 features a new powertrain lineup with two engines. The base engine will be the 2.4-liter in-line four mated to either a four-speed or six-speed automatic transmission. Most families seeking sportier performance will opt for the new Pentastar 283-hp V-6 with standard six-speed automatic. That’s more horsepower than the 263-hp 3.5-liter V-6 in the Ford Fusion Sport or the optional 271-hp V-6 in the Honda Accord.

Improved ride and handling is promised as a result of stiffer body mounts and softer ride rate. Improved suspension geometry and a raised roll center, new rear sway bar, new tires, and improvements to reduce noise, vibration and harshness should also help.

What’s new inside?

We’ll have to take Chrysler’s word for it, since no photos are available to show it off, but the company says the 2011 Chrysler 200 has an all-new instrument panel. If you’re driving a mid-size sedan a lot, this is something that matters. Proper placement (and functionality) of gauges is important. Styling, while subjective, also counts.

And let’s not forget the seats. Consumers don’t like hard or unforgiving seats, whatever the price range. According to the company, the 200 has upgraded seats with more material in the cushions and new spring geometry to make them more comfortable. There’s also new leather and cloth seating material. So far, so good.

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