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Chrysler 200: Different, But Is It Different Enough?

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On: Wed, Oct 13, 2010 at 2:48PM | By: John Welch

Chrysler 200: Different, But Is It Different Enough?

The name "Sebring" should make most people think of endurance racing at its finest: prototypes and sports cars crunching fenders while battling the gnarliest conditions in the road racing world. Unfortunately, almost no one thinks of the magical Central Florida Mecca that is Sebring International Raceway; instead, most individuals immediately identify "Sebring" as a Chrysler automobile, and a disappointing one at that. Former Chrysler Sebrings, coupe, sedan or convertible, have never lived up to the legend that is their namesake. In fact, they have been so grossly out-classed by their competition, so universally panned by the press, so totally uninspiring that Chrysler now feels the need to distance itself from the name "Sebring". The Sebring's replacement is called the "200". Real original. The damage done to an absolutely hallowed proper noun, "Sebring", can never be undone. Thanks, Chrysler, you jerks.

At first glance, a glance that is totally manipulated by Chrysler's penchant for "teaser" photos, the 200 looks like a radically improved car. The styling is radically improved, at least. Upon closer inspection it becomes clear that this car is just a Sebring in a fancy wrapper. Slick headlights and a reshaped grille do not a segment leader make. Is Chrysler delusional, or are they just filling a wide and glaringly obvious gap in their new model lineup? Looking at the 200's C-pillar, one cannot help but be put off by this car. There is a good chance that this abomination (If you hadn't noticed, the sullying of the name "Sebring" has annoyed me to no end) will be the same rental-fleet-ready disaster that its predecessor was—doomed to be scorned by all who have any idea what the phrases "quality product" and "soft touch materials" mean.

Seen an old Sebring convertible riding around lately? Sure you have; Chrysler duped enough rubes' into buying these things that they still permeate the American landscape. They are usually covered in so much duct tape and so many zip ties that they are hard to miss. Who bought these things? Why did people buy these things? Did you need a convertible that bad? Really?!

The engine side of things is definitely improving. Along with what will probably be the typical Mitsu-Chrysler 2.4 liter dog, the new PentaStar V6 will also be offered. Here we have some positive change! A thoroughly modern, 270ish bhp 3.6, this engine finally drags the Chrysler mid-size frigate into the 21st Century. Again, this is an area where Chrysler can get a leg up on competition. If it's quicker than a similar Ford Fusion, then Chrysler has done its job.

Ahem, all of this vitriol could be put to rest if the 200 is a significantly improved Sebring. It is undeniable that Dodge, Jeep, and Chrysler have upped their game, as far as interiors are concerned, and frankly, the interior of the Sebring was dreadful. Considering how little importance Americans put on handling and chassis prowess, the interior could be considered the worst part of the Sebring formula. If Chrysler is able to inject a little of the staid elegance that has befallen the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Dodge Charger, and others, then the 200 might be a contender in the mid-size (Fusion and Malibu, not Taurus and Accord) category. Looking at the competition, the 200 has a hard road ahead of it. I'm just glad they aren't calling it a "Sebring" any longer . . .

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