How The 2015 Chrysler 200 Makes You Feel Good Just By Looking At It – Forbes
There is something striking about the 2015 Chrysler 200. But it can be hard to pinpoint.
Brandon Faurote, head of exterior design at Chrysler, wanted it that way.
“We call it an elegant composition of forms,” he said at a press preview of the all-new midsize sedan in New York. “What we mean by that is there aren’t any abrupt endings on the car in terms of line work or shapes or forms that aren’t well resolved. Your eye just continues to flow around the car and enjoy it.”
Come to think of it, that’s exactly what my eyes did the first time I saw the midsize sedan at the New York International Auto Show in April. It seemed strange to think it, but the car’s fluid form somehow had a calming effect.
“You look at the way snow drifts or the way sand blows on the beach and forms shapes—we wanted to have some of those kind of core emotional reactions when you see the car,” Faurote said, during a one-on-one interview following the press briefing.
This approach stands in stark contrast to the more extroverted designs of competing midsize sedans, such as the Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima and Nissan Altima. But it’s not unlike what Mazda has done with it’s new 6 sedan, which also competes with the 200. (Read about how the Mazda 6 emulates a luxury car here.)
The 2015 Chrysler 200 is an important car for the storied American automaker. It introduces a whole new look that will be a template for future products. Chrysler wants to bolster its image as a premium brand, so Faurote and his team had to create a compelling design that was upscale and elegant, yet bold enough to stand out in the crowded and competitive midsize sedan market.
In the following edited interview, Faurote lays out the thinking behind what he calls “the new face of Chrysler.”
What was the inspiration for the so-called “elegant composition of forms” when designing the new Chrysler 200?
I’ve always believed that in car design if you look at, say, a Porsche 356 or a 911, there’s these long drawn-out lines and these simple beautiful surfaces, and if your eye can just look at it and take it all in and not be interrupted, you have a pleasing reaction to it. And that’s one thing we wanted to do here: tie all of those elements together, so that your eye just traces it.
This seems counter to recent trends in car design that have popularized lots of creases, angles and bold lines on bodywork. Was it a conscious decision to deviate from that, or just a natural evolution?
It’s a little bit of both. In the early 2000s, the design vocabulary was a little more mechanical, more hard edges. So we really wanted to soften all of those hard intersections. You always want to try to do something that’s new, and in this case we think we’re doing it, particularly in the C pillar [the rear roof pillar]—the transition there into the trunk, that was a pretty key part of the car.
This car looks more upscale than its predecessor. How did you achieve that?
Part of it starts with the content of the car. We have an LED taillamp that’s very slim in nature. We wanted to make sure it had a high-tech appearance, and that’s where the very thin, very even glow of the taillamp comes from. Lighting technology is moving at a very fast pace. We wanted to make sure that the technology is one of the key elements that people notice when they first see the car, so that they know that it’s a well-crafted, high-quality premium car.
The headlights are also slim, whereas some competitors’ extend almost halfway up a car’s hood. Again, you’re going against the grain in terms of design.
Some of the other competitors take that a little bit to an extreme. So we wanted to make sure that this wasn’t overly expressive. We wanted to keep this simple and timeless, we wanted to have a good impact in the beginning and have it stand the test of time.
What was the most challenging aspect of designing the new 200?
The new face of Chrysler was the most challenging part to determine: What is that face, and what identifiable marks can we carry forward to future vehicles? Because when we started this vehicle, we knew it wouldn’t just be one and done. We knew we wanted to make a change and carve out an identity for ourselves. And it’s the front end that really was the toughest to get done, because we knew that was such an important part of the car. It’s the first thing you see.
What elements from the 200 can we expect to see on future Chryslers?
The form vocabulary from an overall standpoint, for sure. Some of the use of the bright elements [i.e. chrome], the lighting signature of the headlamps and taillamps, those are all important things that we can transfer across.
How would you characterize Chrysler’s new design identity?
We’re really going after beauty here. We’re really going after something that looks more expensive than it is, and that’s a pretty key aspect of this car and really all future Chryslers.
We want people when they first see the car driving by on the street to do a double take and say, “Wow, that’s a beautiful car.” And secondly, be surprised when they research it and find out that, “Wow, I can actually afford that. I don’t have to pay expensive prices to be able to afford something beautiful.”