2011 Chrysler 200 Sedan: Introduction
Considering the marketing dollars that goes into launching a new vehicle, the fact that Chrysler has applied four different nameplates to its mid-size luxury sedan over the last 17 years is even more evidence of the brand's woes in this segment. The LeBaron, Cirrus and Sebring names have all been used and discarded since 1994, and now the 2011 Chrysler 200 takes its place as the entry-level model in the Chrysler line-up. Even though the new 200 is a refresh of the Sebring (an extensive one at that) and is still available in both sedan and convertible body styles, the changes made to the styling, luxury, performance and comfort were more than enough to warrant the new name on the improved sedan. After our recent reviews of the equally refreshed Town & Country and the all-new 300C, Chrysler finally let us spend a week with the car that kicked off the "Imported from Detroit" tagline during this year's Super Bowl.
2011 Chrysler 200 Sedan: Pricing and Trim Levels
Assembled in Sterling Heights, Mich. alongside the Dodge Avenger, the 2011 Chrysler 200 Sedan is available in four trim levels (LX, Touring, Limited and S) with a starting MSRP of $19,245 that is almost $1,000 less than the outgoing 2010 Sebring Sedan. Jumping up to the 200 Limited, which we had for this review, the base price starts at $23,945 with our car having an as-tested price of $28,205 after factoring in some highly recommended options and the required $750 destination charge. As much of a value as the new 200 is against the old Sebring, Chrysler even set its pricing to undercut some of the more popular sedans in this segment by thousands of dollars. Even at almost $30,000, the 200 Limited provides plenty of luxury features to warrant this price while still being a considerable value compared to higher trim levels of rival mid-size sedans.
2011 Chrysler 200 Sedan: Competition
Right out of the gate, the 2011 Chrysler 200 Sedan faced some serious heat as it is positioned one of the most competitive segments on the market going up against the likes of the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata and Nissan Altima. Through the first nine months of 2011, the Chrysler 200 has sold 58,550 units (both sedan and convertible) which is an 87 percent increase over the 2010 Sebring in this same time period, but that pales in comparison to the Accord and Camry as well as some of the other mid-size cars in this segment. Chrysler couldn't have asked for better media attention or advertising from its new 200 as it was in one of the most popular commercials played during Super Bowl XLV, and eight months after the big game, Chrysler posted big numbers in September selling almost twice as many 2011 200s compared to 2010 Sebrings.
2011 Chrysler 200 Sedan: Exterior
The updated styling for the 2011 Chrysler 200 - based largely on the 2009 200C Concept - is cleaner and more elegant than the previous Sebring's design, and it helped usher in a new corporate look for Chrysler that included a new brand logo. Up front, the Chrysler 200 now looks more like the bigger 300 with its slatted chrome grille and the scalloped headlights with LED daytime running/parking lights. The smaller headlights and grille both help give the 200's face a more upscale look, and the lower fascia continues this trend with the thin chrome strips accenting the fog lights. The rear view has also been changed with reshaped LED taillights that now give the 200 - dare we say it? - a Jaguar-like look thanks to the pointed shape of the lenses and the thick chrome strip that spans across the decklid. Even the 200's underhood aesthetics have been improved with a large plastic cover sitting where the Sebring's engine previously sat fully exposed.
As stylish as the new 200 is, there is still plenty of Sebring in the design since the core body structure was carried over. This means that while the side body creases are still the same, so are awkward roofline and greenhouse treatments; these major changes will have to wait until the next-generation of Chrysler's mid-size offering. Finishing off the 200's styling, our test car was fitted with 18-inch, ten-spoke wheels, but for a sportier look, be sure to check out the sinister 200 S.
2011 Chrysler 200 Sedan: Interior
One of Chrysler's biggest issues in its cars for most of the past decade has been cheap interiors covered in hard plastic, but, like some of the newer Chrysler Group vehicles, the 2011 Chrysler 200 has an impressive interior with class competitive cabin materials, technology, design and, most importantly, fit and finish. Like the exterior, Chrysler could only make so many changes while keeping the same body structure, but just about everything inside the 200 was changed to make the car look and feel more luxurious especially in the Limited trim level. Unlike the Sebring's hard cabin materials, the 200 Limited has softer touch points including all important areas like the center armrest and door panels, and even the previous car's hard edged look has given way to softer lines and more contrasting materials (like the piano black trim and chrome accent used on the center stack) for an atmosphere that matches the exterior.
From the driver's seat, the thicker, four-spoke steering wheel, updated center stack and three-pod instrument gauges further all help give the 200 a luxury car ambiance. Even the seats feel more supportive and more comfortable for both front and rear occupants, although the overall cabin size is less than some of its rivals... namely the Camry and Accord. Likewise, the 13.6 cubic feet of cargo space is on the small side for its segment, but the split folding rear bench seat and rear-seat pass-through both help to better accommodate large items.
2011 Chrysler 200 Sedan: Packages and Options
The 2011 Chrysler 200 base model comes standard with cloth interior and a sufficient four-cylinder engine, but in addition to all of the amenities added in the 200 Limited, this test car also came fully loaded with all of the available options offered on this trim level totaling $3,510. If you're trying to save every penny possible, then the most important option for those looking for a sportier sedan should be the $1,795 Pentastar V-6. Budget buyers looking for a factory navigation system that doesn't break the bank will be glad to know that the 200 offers a $395 Garmin-based navigation with a 40-gigabyte hard drive and Chrysler's Uconnect system; for $895, an upgraded GPS-based navigation system is available and it includes SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link. Finally, our car was also equipped with the $845 power sunroof and the $475 six-speaker Boston Acoustics audio system.
2011 Chrysler 200 Sedan: Powertrain and Fuel Economy
Like other cars in this segment, the 2011 Chrysler 200 Sedan comes standard with an inline four-cylinder engine, but thankfully our test car was upgraded with the all-new 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6. This engine - available on 200 Touring and 200 Limited and standard on 200 S - is smoother and more refined than the Sebring's 3.5-liter V-6, and it is more powerful, too, boasting 283 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque (increases of 48 hp and 28 lb-ft). On top of all of the other improvements, Chrysler also made its new Pentastar V-6 almost as efficient as the smaller inline-four models with EPA fuel economy estimates of 19 miles per gallon in the city, 29 mpg on the highway and a combined rating of 22 mpg. When paired with the 3.6-liter V-6, the 200 does carry over the previously used six-speed 62TE automatic transmission, but it still provides smooth, quick shifts along with the AutoStick manual shift mode.
2011 Chrysler 200 Sedan Review: Driving Impressions
The 2011 Chrysler 200 received a new engine, a more luxurious interior and a fresher exterior design, but one of the most impressive changes that the Chrysler engineers made was to give the 200 an updated suspension that returns a more polished ride. Noticeable improvements were made to the car's handling abilities and ride quality giving it one of the most distinguishable rides in its class. There are definitely sportier cars like the Kia Optima and Ford Fusion while the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord are soft for daily driving, and the Chrysler 200 delivers surprisingly agile cornering when needed and a plush ride for long highway drives. Chrysler's use of its new V-6 engine in the 200 is also an obvious upgrade over the Sebring thanks to quicker acceleration off the line. For the extra $1,795, checking the option box for this engine is well worth the money as it gives the 200 quicker acceleration than a Lexus IS 250 for about $10,000 less while offering a similar level of luxury.
2011 Chrysler 200 Sedan Review: Safety
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has yet to rate the new 2011 Chrysler 200 for passenger protection, but the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave it (and its sister car, the Dodge Avenger) all "Good" ratings and named it a 2011 Top Safety Pick. All Chrysler 200 Sedan models comes with standard safety features that include six airbags, active front head restraints, electronic brake-force distribution with brake assist, four-wheel anti-lock disc brake system, traction control, Electronic Stability Control (VDC) and tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS).
2011 Chrysler 200 Sedan Review: Final Thoughts
No, the 2011 Chrysler 200 Sedan is not perfect, but it is impressive how much Chrysler was able to accomplish with essentially the same architecture as the Sebring but creating an entirely different car. From obvious changes like the sleeker styling, more luxurious interior and better performance to the more detailed elements like the improved fuel economy and smoother ride, the Chrysler 200 is a better-rounded car that should be able to improve its share in the highly competitive mid-size sedan segment. While it is still going to take some time for the 200 to become a major player in this market, though, the 200 continues to stand out in its class thanks to the fact that it is the only car to offer both sedan and convertible models. Most importantly, if Chrysler can make this big of an improvement using the same platform, Chrysler's next-generation entry-level sedan should be something worth looking forward to.
2011 Chrysler 200 Sedan: Pros and Cons
- more power and refinement from new Pentastar V-6
- improved cabin materials and interior design
- more elegant exterior styling
- smaller than some rivals
- base model still uses four-speed automatic transmission
- same awkward roofline carried over from Sebring
Chrysler provided the vehicle for this review
Photos by Jeffrey N. Ross