Full 2011 Chrysler 200 Review
What's New for 2011
The 2011 Chrysler 200 is a new nameplate, though technically it's a refreshed version of last year's Chrysler Sebring. The heavy makeover includes updated exterior styling, a vastly improved passenger cabin, a new 3.6-liter V6 engine and retuned suspension and steering.
Name changes can often be a precursor to future success. Elton John, for instance, began his meteoric rise only after he left behind his given name: Reginald Dwight. Norma Jeane Baker? That'd be Marilyn Monroe. A similar transformation seems to have come about with the Chrysler 200, a car formerly known as the Sebring.
We haven't been very fond of the Sebring, a car grand in concept but cursed by the cheapness of its execution. Imagine our elation to discover in the new 200 a car that delivers on the style it promises, both in the quality of its interior and in the way it goes down the road. Even as its competition has become more cost-conscious, the 200 shows us that refinement is still possible in this market segment.
Though the 200's exterior styling retains the Sebring's basic form, new sheet metal from the front doors forward plus nicely redone front and rear fascias with LED daytime running lights and taillights give the car a more sophisticated look. A subtly lowered ride height, wider track and available 18-inch alloy wheels also give it a somewhat sportier stance.
These exterior changes complement upgrades inside the cabin and under the hood. In place of the Sebring's low-budget rental car cabin is a nicer interior with high-quality materials that shame other sedans in this class. Meanwhile, completely reworked suspension bits and steering make the 200 more satisfying to drive..A 2.4-liter inline-4 remains the standard engine for most trim levels, but the big news is the new Pentastar V6, a 3.6-liter, 283-horsepower engine.
There's some value here, too, as the convertible is the only roomy four-seater in its price range, and both convertible and sedan offer a lot of features for the money. That said, the 200 sedan still faces a class full of talent. In addition to ever-popular choices like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, there are top picks like the Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, Mazda 6 and Suzuki Kizashi. Even so, the 2011 Chrysler 200 measures up to the best of them.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Chrysler 200 is offered as a midsize sedan and convertible. Both are offered in four trim levels.
The entry-level LX model comes equipped with 17-inch steel wheels, a four-speed automatic transmission, air-conditioning, cloth upholstery, 60/40-split-folding rear seatbacks, full power accessories, cruise control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with audio controls and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player and auxiliary audio jack.
The Touring model adds some desirable extras including 17-inch alloy wheels, a six-speed automatic, automatic headlights, a power driver seat, automatic climate control, a trip computer, upgraded interior lighting, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob and a six-speaker sound system with satellite radio.
Opting for the plush Limited version will get you 18-inch alloy wheels, leather upholstery, heated front seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, remote ignition, Bluetooth and a premium sound system with a touchscreen interface, voice controls and digital music storage. Most of these features are available on the Touring. A sunroof and a Garmin-based navigation system with Sirius Travel Link data service are optional.
A sporty S trim level (delayed introduction) is essentially a Limited with even more standard features including the V6 engine, unique 18-inch alloy wheels, sport front seats with suedelike inserts and upgraded audio with Boston Acoustics speakers. The sunroof and navigation system are again optional. For the 200 convertible, Chrysler offers either a conventional power-operated soft top or a retractable steel hardtop.
Powertrains and Performance
The front-wheel-drive 2011 Chrysler 200 offers a choice of two engines. The 2.4-liter four-cylinder comes standard on all trim levels except the S and puts out 173 hp and 166 pound-feet of torque. The 3.6-liter V6, which is standard on the S and available as an option on all but the entry-level LX, puts out a healthy 283 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque.
A key to performance is the six-speed automatic transmission, which is standard across the line aide from the entry-level LX, which has a four-speed automatic. A new dual-clutch six-speed automatic, which promises better performance and fuel economy, will be available on four-cylinder models later in the model year. In Edmunds testing, a 200 Limited sedan accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 6.9 seconds, an average time for this type of car. The V6 convertible takes a bit longer at 7.5 seconds.
Current EPA fuel estimates are 20 mpg city/31 mpg highway and 24 combined for the four-cylinder with the six-speed automatic. The V6 earns a 19/29/22 mpg rating.
The 2011 Chrysler 200 comes with a long list of standard safety features including stability and traction control, antilock brakes with brake assist, active front head restraints, front side airbags and side curtain airbags.
In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests, the 200 sedan scored the top rating of "Good" in all the agency's tests -- which include frontal offset, side impact and roof strength. The convertible also scored "Good" in the frontal-offset and side impact tests (no roof strength test was done).
At the Edmunds test track, the 200 Limited came to a stop from 60 mph in 121 feet.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Chrysler 200's design team did a remarkable job transforming the Sebring's low-rent interior into something that can now hold its own against its midsize sedan competitors. The general dash design and control layout are pretty much the same as before, and because the materials are substantially better, the overall ambience is greatly improved. It ranks with competitors like the Ford Fusion and Hyundai Sonata without apology.
The actual dimensions of the passenger cabin haven't changed with the makeover, however, so the 200 is a bit smaller than its competition aside from the Suzuki Kizashi. The sedan's 13.6-cubic-foot trunk is also a little on the small side. If you're looking for a convertible with a comparatively roomy backseat, however, you should be pleased with the 200, as its midsize status provides more room than most.
The 200 convertible is available with either a conventional soft top or a more expensive retractable hardtop; the hardtop promises better security and noise reduction. Either way, top operation is easy and takes about 30 seconds to lower. Wind noise is impressively subdued with the top up; we've found the convertible to be just a bit louder than the sedan. With the top down, trunk capacity drops to just 6.6 cubic feet.
While not as immediately apparent as the appearance makeover, the mechanical changes made to the 2011 Chrysler 200 have also contributed greatly to the car's metamorphosis. A number of suspension tweaks have made a dramatic improvement in the 200's handling, and the steering provides a decent amount of feedback. The ride quality is now slightly firmer compared to the Sebring's super-cushy suspension tuning, but that's for the better.
Performance with the 2.4-liter four-cylinder is still unremarkable, but it should be adequate for most buyers, especially when it's mated to the six-speed automatic transmission. The new 3.6-liter V6 is quite energetic, delivering strong acceleration without a tremendous sacrifice in fuel economy.