2011 Chrysler 200, AKA Sebring, Breaks Cover
Few new cars have been as unloved by retail consumers as has Chrysler’s Sebring. Showcasing the very worst of what Daimler felt Chrysler stood for: tacky hood strakes, overdone chrome, poor proportions, a plastic-heavy interior, and subpar powertrains, the third generation Sebring hit the new-car market with a thud, and proceeded to lose nearly every comparison test it found itself in. Chrysler still needed to keep its factories humming, though, and the smallest of the Detroit 3 found willing buyers of Sebrings at rental car lots across the country, almost certainly at deeply-discounted prices.
Chrysler’s Fiat overlords are well aware of the Sebring’s probems, which we were so gracious as to point out last month – heck, even Cerberus was aware of them. But in this case, the new management team has actually done something. Ding, dong, the Sebring’s dead. Say hello to the 2011 Chrysler 200, which is really just a heavily-revised Sebring. The 200 shares the Sebring’s hard points (doors, greenhouse, and wheelbase), but appears to have finally become the car that Chrysler should have introduced in 2007 instead of the Sebring that was bestowed upon us.
Taking a page from GM’s change-names-every-generation playbook (i.e., Cavalier begat the Cobalt, Cobalt begat the Cruze) in an attempt to confuse fool customers into disassociating the brand with previous lackluster efforts, the 200 takes its name from the Chrysler 200C EV concept that the company showed at the Detroit auto show in January 2009. The name is clearly an attempt to capitalize also upon the positive image that flagship 300C full-size sedan enjoys.
We haven’t yet seen the 200 in person, much less sat in it or driven it, but the changes appear to be substantive and credible. The 200 gets the new Pentastar V6 as the buy-up engine, good for an impressive 283 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque in the 200, revised suspension geometry (to hopefully help some of the suspension issues that we noted in our 2010 Sebring review of a few weeks ago), as well as a new interior and acoustic laminated windshield and front door glass for improved noise isolation.
The Sebring’s looks always bothered me, and considering their canvas, Chrysler’s designers have done a remarkable job turning the Sebring into the 200. While it’s not particularly distinctive in its appearance, the front and rear ends are much-improved over the Sebring. Of note, among the multitude of photos that Chrysler released of the 200, it did not provide any straight profile shots, nor did it provide any shots capturing the rear three-quarter view. Those would instantly reveal the 200’s Sebring-based roots. The front three-quarter shots are carefully angled to give the impression that this is a more extensive overhaul than it really is, but the long hood, short deck proportions of the Sebring are forced to remain, by necessity.
It’s hard to envision the 200 setting the sales charts on fire, but it is certainly a nicely-done piece of work considering what Chrysler’s design team had as its starting point. The 2011 Chrysler 200 is just a stopgap anyway, intended to slow the bleeding and generate some interest in the brand while it busily works on the next-generation midsize sedan, which will share architecture with any number of cars from across the Fiat empire.