You'll Like The 2011 Chrysler 200 If...
If you're looking for a mid-size sedan with a lavish interior, a powerful V6 engine and a decidedly European driving attitude, the 2011 Chrysler 200 deserves a nice, long test drive.
You May Not Like The 2011 Chrysler 200 If...
Those looking for a roomy rear seat may find more to like from cars like the Nissan Altima or even the larger Hyundai Sonata. The 200's base price may look appealing, but start to add on options and the price tag quickly pushes past the $25,000 mark.
Chrysler needs to be a player in the crowded but lucrative mid-size sedan market and with no budget from which to build an all-new model, a major overhaul of its existing player was the company's best option. Although its Sebring roots can plainly be seen in the 200's profile, the new car excels over its predecessor in the areas of acceleration, handling, and interior fit and finish.
If ever there was a case of turning a sow's ear into a silk purse, it's the new 200's interior. Gone are any shades of gray, replaced by deep blacks, rich browns and muted beige tones. The new dash is covered in a single soft touch face, broken only by the hooded instrument cluster and the touch-screen entertainment center. Similarly, the door panels are covered in soft padding and feature layered overlapping panels to create an interior that looks custom made. Chrysler has added plenty of sound deadening material and the effort pays off, as we were easily able to hold a normal conversation at highway speeds, a definite plus for frequent Bluetooth users. About the only drawback we could find is the 200s smallish rear seat. With two six-foot drivers up front, there is almost no leg room in the rear, and the fixed rear head restraints are angled a bit too far forward for our comfort.
Working from the old Sebring platform, Chrysler engineers resurfaced the 200 as best they could in a one year time frame, adding a new grille and head lamp treatment inspired by the 2011 Chrysler 300. Around back, slim wrap-around tail lamps flank an elongated winged badge and new bumper; there's also more chrome accents as well as larger and more stylish wheels. The 200 sits lower to the ground than the Sebring, giving it a more hunkered down look. Chrysler even took pains to conceal the car's underpinnings. The exhaust system, for example, is now concealed behind the rear bumper, a vast improvement over the Sebring's clearly visible bright silver setup that looked like an exposed fuel tank when viewed from behind.
If the 2011 Chrysler 200 has a super sweet spot, it's in the way the car drives. Equipped with the new Pentastar 3.6-liter V6 engine, the 200 can rocket to highway speeds or pass slow moving traffic with utter confidence. Smooth, quiet and surprisingly fuel efficient, the V6 is a far better choice than the buzzy 2.4-liter four-cylinder. Chrysler spent a pretty penny revamping the 200's suspension and we can safely say it was money well spent. The car drives beautifully, attacks turns like a piranha let loose in a lobster tank and absorbs bumps without effort. Surprisingly, despite having its 283 horsepower directed through the front wheels, the 200 exhibited little sign of torque steer, even when launched hard from a dead stop. On long stretches of highway, the 200's steering wheel required little input to keep the car from veering off course; even roadway grooves and crowning pavement could deter the 200 from its intended path.
The 2011 Chrysler 200 LX carries a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting right around $20,000. The Touring trim bumps the price up to about $22,000, while a fully loaded Limited with the V6 can easily reach into the high $20K range. Compare the base Volkswagen Jetta at just under $17,000 or the Chevrolet Cruze at right around $18,000 (both with automatic transmissions) and the 200 seems a bit pricey. To make your best deal on a new 200, be sure to check the Kelley Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying. As for resale, we think the new 200 will do a little better than its Sebring predecessor, meaning its five-year resale values will probably still remain on the lower end of the category, lower than the Chevrolet Cruze and Kia Forte, and much lower than the Volkswagen Jetta, Honda Civic and Nissan Altima.
The entry-level Chrysler 200 LX features a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, a four-speed automatic transmission, power function for the windows, mirrors, locks and trunk lid release, heated side mirrors, 17-inch wheel covers, manual air conditioning, tilt and telescoping steering wheel with audio controls, driver's seat manual lumbar support and height adjustment, an AM/FM stereo with MP3 compatible CD player, and an auxiliary audio input jack. Standard safety features include four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, electronic traction and stability control, front seat side-impact airbags, and front and rear side-curtain airbags.
After the LX, the three remaining trims are the Touring, Limited and S. Within these trims are such available features as a six-speed automatic transmission, fog lamps, a power sunroof, automatic on/off headlamps, automatic air conditioning, leather seating surfaces, heated front seats, an eight-way power driver's seat, hard-drive based Garmin navigation radio, SIRIUS Satellite radio, a Boston Acoustic audio package, 18-inch polished aluminum wheels, and a 3.6-liter V6 engine.
Where the old Sebring drove like softly sprung rental car, the 200's revised suspension and steering set up place it at the top of its category. It's an unexpected but welcome pleasure.
Garmin Navigation Radio
Chrysler's newest audio units feature mapping by industry leader Garmin. Not only is the system intuitively easy to operate, the large 6.5-inch screen makes it easy for older eyes to navigate the on-screen commands.
Under the Hood
Chrysler's 2.4-liter four-cylinder is not the most refined engine in its class, but with 173 horsepower on tap, it's not the weakest either. When paired with the six-speed transmission, this engine can move the 200 briskly and promises fuel economy near the top of its class. If you can shell up the extra cash, the new Pentastar 3.6-liter V6 is the engine to have. Smooth, efficient and impossibly potent, it turns the 200 from a sleeper to a keeper.
2.4-liter in-line 4
173 horsepower @ 6300 rpm
166 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/31
283 horsepower @ 6400 rpm
260 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/29
In what has to be one of the most ambitious model overhauls in Chrysler's long and rocky history, the company has revised or completely remade its entire model line including its Dodge and Jeep divisions. Considering where the company was just a year and half ago, this kind of massive retooling is nothing short of miraculous. Of the many models to see an improvement, none was more in need than the dowdy Chrysler Sebring Sedan. Given a new look, a new interior and a whole new name, the Chrysler 200 is a much more competent competitor to such vehicles as the Volkswagen Jetta and Honda Accord, although it remains to be seen if consumers will overlook the still somewhat dated design in favor of the tempting goodness simmering beneath the car's sheet metal.