Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
The Chrysler 200 will get to 100kph in seven seconds. Courtesy of Chrysler
The Chrysler 200 will get to 100kph in seven seconds. Courtesy of Chrysler

The 200 is an improvement on the Sebring, but it won't save Chrysler

Road Test It might have a new name, but the Chrysler 200 Limited is an updated Sebring that lags behind the competition in its market.

I am not a fan of kicking people while they are down, believing only bullies and fatuous politicians are deserving of that fate. The same applies to car companies. Chrysler was laid low by the recession and by mainstream products badly in need of updating. By all accounts, and with the aid of Fiat, it is rising to the occasion where it can, with some great new products (take a bow, Jeep Grand Cherokee) and a sprucing up of current lines. In other words, it's trying to regain its competitive mojo.

That said, let me state the following in clear, precise terms: the 200 is not the car that will save Chrysler.

Despite the new moniker, it is an updated Sebring, a mid-sized car that underperformed and underwhelmed in the marketplace. Now, the upgrades are substantial - Chrysler didn't just pry off the old badges and stick on new ones. The exterior makeover includes new front and rear fascias and fenders, new grille and bonnet, new rear boot lid and exterior mirrors and new lights front and rear, with copious use of LEDs.

The interior revisions are just as comprehensive. There's an all-new instrument panel and steering wheel, upgraded seats, new leather and cloth seat materials, new heating and cooling outlets in the instrument panel and new ambient interior lighting.

Look at the mechanicals: In addition to the existing 2.4L four-cylinder - which has been recalibrated and is now available with an optional new six-speed transmission (although a four-speed is standard) - the 200 also comes with a strong 283hp 3.6L "Pentastar" V6 mated to a six-speed transmission. The car's suspension system has also been completely reworked.

So, with Chrysler busting its hump trying to make a silk purse out of sow's ear, how can I be so harsh about its efforts? Unfortunately, it comes down to this: While the 200 is a much better car than the Sebring ever was, the sum total of the transformation still results in a driving experience that leaves me wanting more.

Things initially look good when walking up to the topline 200 Limited and giving it the five-metre appraisal. Against the likes of the somnolent Ford Fusion, the 200 comes off as classy. Up against the edgier Hyundai Sonata and new Kia Optima, or even the older Honda Accord or Toyota Camry, the 200's overall softer, more organic shape will not allow it to age well.

Things are somewhat better under the bonnet. Though the 200 is not being marketed as a sports saloon, the 1,614kg Limited will go from zero-to-100kph in less than seven seconds. That's more than acceptable for a family four-door. And fuel efficiency is actually better than the old 3.5L, despite a fair increase in horses. I averaged 11.5L/100km during my test time. However, while the power delivery is smooth and the six-speed autobox reasonably crisp in its shifting, the engine suffers - under power, not when cruising - from the same sort of induction noise that afflicted Nissan's V6, what many have described as the "moaning moo". It's a low-level sound - one is more aware of it than actually hearing it, and it can be annoying. Fortunately, it can also be disguised by turning up the stereo.

As for ride and handling, it's a mixed bag. The steering geometry was completely re-engineered - the track is about 25mm wider, tyre width has been increased and the car has a lower, wider stance. The result is a smooth, compliant ride with good isolation on rougher, pothole-strewn roads, and there is less body roll when cornering than in the Sebring. That said, the steering is artificially heavy and positively wooden when it comes to providing a feel for the road. I found myself doing a lot of minute corrections with the steering wheel when the tarmac was less than arrow straight.

The cabin - at least the Limited version - showcases the transformation best of all. One can see the concerted effort to create an upscale ambience that exceeds the Limited's $27,995 price tag. There's a lot of black plastic, which is old school, but the new instrument panel, bezels, gauge face and steering wheel, plus the various shiny bits and analogue clock, wouldn't look out of place on a more expensive European saloon - albeit one from 1990. Headroom is good throughout, but legroom in the back is limited for a mid-sized saloon. The other compromise from the Sebring is boot capacity that, at 385L, is far from class-leading.

The 200 is not horrible. For someone looking for a mid-sized saloon, who does not place a premium on performance dynamics, or is more concerned about style over substance, it is perfectly acceptable. But, if taken as a brand-new model instead of just a comprehensive update of the Sebring, it is already lagging behind the competition, which is not what Chrysler wants or needs. My advice to the company is to treat the 200 to a complete redesign pronto.

The Chyrsler 200 is expected to arrive in the UAE by the end of this year or early 2012.

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Styled with bleached bobs and pale skin, the models wore clean and sporty separates reminiscent of the chic workwear of The Hunger Games. Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Thoughtful tailoring at Asudari

The womenswear label Asudari showcased a collection that featured sharp masculine tailoring, but with feminine silhouettes.

Styled with bleached bobs and pale skin, the models wore clean and sporty separates reminiscent of the chic workwear of The Hunger Games.

Designer Lamia Asudari says she was influenced by Delftware ceramics from the 16th century, as well as the imagery of weaponry and artillery. Indeed, pistols, grenades and guns were emblazoned over jackets and dresses.

 Several of Jo Baaklini's pieces featured fruit prints. Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: At Starch, watermelon shirts, anyone?

“We need to cultivate our own fashion heroes — our own regional brands,” stressed Fashion Forward’s honcho Bong Guerrero in a press con two weeks ago.

Aptly, the slot for this season’s opening runway show was given to two newbies: Jo Baaklini and Timi Hayek, whose talents were scouted by Starch, a group dedicated to launching emerging Lebanese designers.

Between the two, Mr Baaklini had a stronger showing.

 Jean Louis Sabaji’s collection was very good when the tricks were toned down — like the simple white jumpsuit with a sculptural neckpiece. Stuart C. Wilson / Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Jean Louis Sabaji’s debatable debut

Jean Louis Sabaji’s collection was very good when the tricks were toned down — like the simple white jumpsuit with a sculptural neckpiece, the floral crop top, and the radiant yellow pleated skirt.

But most of the time he went too far. There were bell-bottoms, separates that looked like costumes from The Jetsons, and a yellow dress reminiscent of Bjork’s infamous Oscars swan dress — several disparate elements in one multicoloured, multilayered show.

 Launched in 2009 by childhood friends Arwa Abdelhadi and Basma Abu Ghazaleh, Kage bills itself as a label whose “ultimate goal is to design a collection appealing to all.” Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Kage pleases all palates

Did the designers of Kage aim to showcase every type of basic clothing on their latest show?

Because there were skirts, shorts, trousers, off-shoulder tops, short dresses, cocktail dresses, long flowy dresses, spaghetti straps, jackets, hoods — and even pyjamas, which with the incoming summer heat, looked especially appealing.

Launched in 2009 by childhood friends Arwa Abdelhadi and Basma Abu Ghazaleh, Kage bills itself as a label whose “ultimate goal is to design a collection appealing to all”, they said in their statement.

 The standout was a grey hooded cape that created a tension between edge and elegance. Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Polish, craft (and fur!) at The Emperor 1688

The best show of Day 1 at Fashion Forward was delivered by the three Golkar brothers behind The Emperor 1688.

The coats and capes were the clear winners: they came in all sorts of interesting colours and sizes — and featured exceptionally tailored proportions. There was a lot of volume, but also stiffness.

And whimsy: two favourites were a green double-breasted suit and a blue overcoat with a red clover pattern and gold buttons.

 Midway through Ezra's show, snow started falling from the ceiling. Ian Gavan / Getty Images for Fashion Forward

Fashion Forward: Ezra stuns in snow-covered show

Turns out the Filipino designer Ezra, known for his dreamy couture, still had a few surprises up his sleeve.

Midway through his show, snow started falling from the ceiling.

It created a starkly beautiful atmosphere for his intricately constructed gowns that seemed to be designed for an Ice Queen transported back to the 1950s.

He showed a collection that had a lot of technical firepower behind it: glittering iridescent fabrics paired with head and neckpieces that were moulded and stiffened to stand out in odd angles.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National