2011 Chrysler 200 replaces Sebring

The most dramatic of Chrysler’s 2011 overhauls

Published: November 30, 2010, 5:00 PM

2011 Chrysler 200

SONOMA, CA –"It doesn’t matter if you get knocked down; it’s whether you get back up." Chrysler Canada President and CEO Reid Bigland used this Vince Lombardi quote to describe the situation at the new Chrysler.

"In June 2009 we had a 6.6% share of the market, now it is 13% and Chrysler production to date in 2010 is up 92%," Bigland SAID. He added that such a recovery is more difficult than it would have been at other times in the history of the industry with 20 manufacturers currently putting more than 250 vehicles in the market.

Despite bankruptcy and a dearth of new product over the past 18 months Chrysler is still number three in sales in Canada, ahead of Toyota, Honda and Hyundai. It is bringing 16 new or heavily redesigned vehicles to market in the next year, eight of them before the end of 2010.

These first eight all boast more value, improved fuel efficiency, all-new interiors, redesigned exteriors and improvements in, ride, handling and NVH (noise, vibration and harshness).

We start here with one of the two that has undergone the most dramatic change – the Chrysler 200 – which is so completely altered it deserved and got a new name.

The Chrysler Sebring was an also-ran in the tough family car segment, almost invisible. The company sold only 80 Sebrings and its sibling Dodge Avenger last month across the entire country.

Bigland says Chrysler is going to tackle this portion of the market aggressively. "We’ve got nothing to lose," he said here in unveiling the Sebring’s replacement and new pricing - $19,995.

The 2011 Chrysler 200 LX comes with ABS, power windows, locks and heated mirrors, remote keyless entry, air conditioning, 17-inch wheels and tilt & telescope steering wheel.

That is one big part of this aggressive comeback – value. Not only is the price tag lower, it is attached to a vehicle that has been transformed. While the exterior styling changes are relatively minor, the interior is totally new and gone from no-class to world class. That part anyone can see or feel in an instant. Dealers would be wise to park a 2010 Sebring in the showroom next to the new 200. And make sure they have a Sebring available for test drives along with the new 200 because as dramatic as the interior change is, the driving dynamics are even more improved. It is hard to believe this is the same basic chassis.

Klaus Busse, the lanky German in charge of interior design for the Chrysler Group said the inside of the 200 started as a sketch on a piece of scrap paper a year ago. "At that point we had done what we thought possible under the circumstances; put band-aids on the much-criticized interior. But the new management said that was not good enough, they demanded a better interior and we were only too happy to get the go-ahead, to bring that sketch to production," he said.

The difference is enormous from the sweeping, single-piece instrument panel and premium soft-touch materials to the fit and finish. But as indicated above it goes far beyond the visual.

The 200 comes standard with a 2.4-litre global four-cylinder engine and four-speed automatic. But it comes to life with the new silky-smooth and near-silent 283-horsepower Pentastar V-6, paired with that six-speed gearbox. Acceleration times from rest to 100 kilometres per hour come in under seven seconds.

On top of that virtually every component in the suspension has been revised, retuned or replaced. The steering has been similarly upgraded. The results are driving dynamics that could not have been imagined when at the wheel of the Sebring – but familiar to someone driving a high-end German sedan. Nice job!