Auto review: 2015 200C cures pox, casts glow upon Chrysler – Indianapolis Star
Like “Edsel the car” putting blight on “Edsel the man,” “Sebring the sedan” cast pox upon “Sebring the track.” The final Chrysler Sebring was far from a precision racecar. The interior was Tupperware, steering wandered, suspension clunked, and the doors didn’t fit properly. Outside of that, it was a great car.
We could spend days discussing the fine points of Daimler vs. Fiat stewardship of Chrysler, but a much-improved Sebring, re-named “200,” came after the Italians intervened.
CEO Sergio Marchionne set up camp at Chrysler’s engineering center and dispatched his minions to the factory to correct fit/finish while designers replaced cheap with elegant. One wonders why this didn’t occur in the first place, but we’d be back to that verboten discussion concerning Daimler vs. Fiat.
All that matters is the completely-redesigned 2015 Chrysler 200 puts its maker on a solid path.
Although much of the car’s underlying bits and pieces are shared with other Fiat-based models, stylists shaped a beautiful car. Compared to the bold look of recent Chryslers, the new 200 is streamlined and chiseled. An elongated body with arching roofline and upturned rear windowline hug sporty 18″ alloys. Its mug is less than gorgeous but projects an upscale air with tons of LEDs. The rear view where the fast trunk hunkers over strong shoulder forms makes me jitter. Get it in Vivid Blue Pearl Coat to cure the mopes.
Interiors were also designed to impress. Infotainment controls (best in the business) and Jaguar-style rotary gear selector are placed in a pod beneath the dashboard. Upper dash trim integrates contrasting colors and woodgrain in sweeping sections while jeweled blue-lit gauges, fly-bridge center console with lower storage and sliding tray are both delightful and convenient. Automatic climate control and heated leather seats keep everybody comfy.
Designers claim colors were inspired by American locations like New York’s 5th Avenue, Sausalito, CA, and Detroit. Thumpin’ Alpine audio supposedly conjures mountain cherubs. Compared to the old 200, the cabin treatment is from another continent.
Base models come with a 184 horsepower 2.4-liter MultiAir®2 four-cylinder engine, but that’s boring, so we stepped up to the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 that produces 295 horsepower and 262 lb.-ft. of torque. All-wheel-drive features an automatic fully disconnecting rear axle to enhance fuel economy when the system is not needed.
A class-first nine-speed automatic transmission helps deliver 18/29-MPG city/hwy. Stomp it often and hard because the exhaust sings like El Divo echoing the ghost of Pavarotti.
Those engines route power through a chassis that leaves the old 200 hopelessly wanting. The basic vehicle architecture is shared with other mid-size Fiat and Alfa Romeo products, also underpinning the Jeep Cherokee and Fiat 500L. That gives the car precise control and spirited road manners – very European.
Sport mode modulates steering, throttle, shifting, stability control, AWD and Adaptive Cruise Control for a more engaging experience. A little less harshness over rough pavement and the suspension would be excellent.
To enhance safety, engineers conjured an array of advanced equipment. Beyond Adaptive Cruise Control, which can slow the car or bring it to a complete stop when objects are detected, our car came with Full-speed Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning with Lane Keep Assist and ParkSense Parallel/Perpendicular Park Assist that uses ultrasonic sensors to guide the driver into spaces. What the heck, we also waived on a rear backup camera, blind-spot monitoring and Rear Cross Path Detection.
Despite a plethora of imported Fiat engineering, Chrysler invested $1 billion in its Sterling Heights, Mich., assembly plant for a state-of-the-art paint shop, robotic body shop and other upgrades. This allows the 200 to be a much better-looking and better-fitting sedan.
Beyond offering an exquisite finish, the paint shop is also environmentally-friendly. And, it’s really good at laying down layers of glistening metallic blue.
The outgoing 200 put the best face possible on the POS Sebring, but the whole affair was embarrassing to Chrysler. By leveraging its global resources, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) removed shadows by delivering a beautiful and well-engineered car that is sure to garner attention on the road and in showrooms. Prices start at $21,700, but our loaded “C” model with AWD rose to $34,675.
Send questions and comments to Casey at AutoCasey@aol.com.
2015 Chrysler 200C
Five-passenger, AWD Sedan
Powertrain: 295hp 3.6-liter V6, 9-spd auto.
Suspension f/r: Ind/Ind
Wheels: 18″/18″ f/r
Brakes: disc/disc fr/rr
Must-have features: Style, Performance
Fuel economy: 18/29 mpg city/hwy
Assembly: Sterling Heights, MI
Base/as-tested price: $21,700/34,675