2011 Chrysler 200 Review by Scott Burgess

Chrysler had its hands full when it took on redesigning the midsize Sebring and creating the 200. It was a marvelous effort — one of monumental proportions.

Through years of abuse, the Sebring had become the rented punch line for a brand considered a joke.

There's still hope. The all-new 300 shows how Auburn Hills can reinvent itself with modern design, edgy performance and vision. The 200 shows how Band-Aids on sheet metal never really stick.

Chrysler, of course, had to do something with the Sebring, and every change on this car is a marked improvement. It rides better, looks better and just feels better than the outgoing rib-hooded Sebring.

But the problem the 200 faces is that the competition has moved well past it in design and performance. Chrysler wants to eventually drive its luxury heritage home again, but this 200 won't help the brand sputter out of the parking lot. If this is the best vehicle Detroit exports, then Glenn Beck is right.

Too harsh? Far from it. In fact, the Chrysler 200 makes me angry. No one is prouder of the Motor City, and I want every carmaker, foreign and domestic, to produce world-class cars and trucks. When that happens, consumers win. Regrettably, the 200 is still a dog. And I get mad as hell when anyone pumps out a car that forces me to recommend the Toyota Camry over it.

If you compare the 200 to any of the mainstream midsize competition — not the luxury brands it is purported to go up against — all of them outshine the 200.

The only head-to-head match the 200 wins is against the Sebring. So if you're a Sebring owner, eligible for some sort of friends or family discount — or more likely, rented a Sebring and are considering buying one — here are all of the improvements you'll find in the 200.

Short a few gears

First, the 200 features the engine that will power Chrysler's recovery: the 3.6-literPentastar V-6. This 283-horsepower engine provides oomph to this car's performance. It has lots of power and can pull this car all over the place while hitting 19 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. This is the premium engine, however.

The base model comes with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 173 horsepower but only improves mileage to 20 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway.

Car buyers in the midsize category prefer a good four-cylinder engine. The 200 doesn't have one.

Worse yet, this car is equipped with a four-speed automatic transmission. Even subcompact cars now come with more gears spinning than this. There is an optional six-speed transmission that can help the acceleration, but it feels ill-calibrated with quick up-shifts.

Then there is the new look of the 200. While it's much improved, it's still the same. The front end has been redone and the straked hood is gone — thankfully.

The new face of Chrysler isn't a bad mug. The expansive seven-bladed grille and stretched logo above have a touch of class. The LED trim in the headlights sparkle like chrome. It's no secret that the very best pieces of the 200's exterior were taken right from the 300, which had undergone years of reworking. It's a smart move.

But no number of LEDs can hide a profile that looks like a loggerhead turtle. If this car came in tortoise shell, the EPA would have to put it on the endangered sedan list to prevent trappers and automotive enthusiasts from rightfully shooting it into extinction.

Inside improvements

Of course, tortoise shell would look nice in the much-improved interior. Chrysler overhauled this area, changing out the dash and refining most touch points, which are much softer now. The seats are upgraded, the instrument panel looks much nicer and the craftsmanship is noticeably improved — none of the pieces snapped off or cut me.

But Chrysler couldn't swap out the first-generation UConnect system, which still is awkward to use and just a poor infotainment system. (The system Chrysler is moving into vehicles right now is much better, but the 200 wasn't ready for it.)

Perhaps the biggest interior improvement is the car's ride. Chrysler overhauled the suspension to smooth out the ride and provide better handling at every level of driving. Even the steering feels less numb. And with so many upgrades inside, a lot less noise seeps inside the cabin, so the ride is much quieter.

The changes to the 200 are significant, but this car lacks inspiration or soul.

It performs better when compared to itself, but doesn't perform as well as any of its competition. That's a losing proposition.

It's vastly improved, but that's only because it was so horrendous before. Hopefully, this car is a placeholder until the real redesigned 200 arrives - eventually.

The only thing this 200 proves is that good enough is never going to be good enough.

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