Chrysler 200 rides into battle
If ever an American car company had a model with the potential to be exported in big numbers it's Fiat/Chrysler, with its new 200.
In fact I'm surprised that the company has retained the 200 numerology, as the car's predecessor, also known originally as the Sebring, was an unmitigated dog of a machine. It looked awful, drove even worse and was outclassed by every other brand that entered the C/D segment segment.
Now, just as partner brand Dodge has with the new Dart, Chrysler is basing its mid-sized sedan offering on the Alfa Romeo Giulietta floorpan and hardpoints, and, also like Dodge, the new 200 has that hard to argue additional value straight from the box: it's lovely to look at.
Actually at the Detroit Auto Show, Chrysler didn't really do the shapely new 200 justice, choosing to show it in grey, white and blue colourways under bright lights where it shrank from its surroundings. Photographs of the same car outside in daylight look a lot more convincing and we'd say that the model was arguably the best-looking affordable vehicle at the whole event.
It's nice to know that it won't be short in terms of performance, either, with the option of a 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 to go with its standard 2.4-litre four, with both models also fronting with a new 9-speed automatic first used in the soon to arrive Cherokee, so refinement levels, fuel use and emissions should be pretty good, too.
An all-wheel-drive set-up will also be an option on 200s with the V6 power unit and Chrysler says it's the first to deliver an automatic fully disconnecting rear axle, improving fuel economy by reducing what the engineers call "parasitic mechanical friction losses" when all-wheel drive is not required.
The new Chrysler's styling is a huge improvement on the model that preceded it, which had ugly protruding overhangs, awkward proportions - particularly side on - and coarse, almost asthmatic, power units.
Shorter overhangs, a front smile that links back to the company's handsome LH sedans of the 90s, conspire with a side profile that could be mistaken for an Audi A7's if you didn't know any better, create a car of pleasing proportions with a stance that says "racer" rather than "relic" like the old model. Chrysler says that the frontal treatment is the new face of the Chrysler brand, so we can only hope that the company does something similarly handsome for the larger 300 sedan if and when that comes up for a redesign.
The 2015 Chrysler 200 sedan is all new from the ground up for Chrysler and with a car looking this good we can but hope that Chrysler looks hard at the RHD markets around the world. Compared with the other cars in this segment which include the Nissan Altima, Mazda6, Holden Malibu, Ford Mondeo, Kia Optima and Hyundai i45 Sonata, it's the only one with a V6 option which would make it a sure catcher of those who are downsizing their management sedans, but would still stay with a six if they could.
The 3.6-litre Pentastar V-6 engine produces a best-in-class 217kW (295 horsepower) and 355Nm of torque, while the standard 2.4-litre MultiAir2 Tigershark I-4 engine offers a more than useful 135kW (184 horsepower) plus 250Nm of torque and a combined economy rating of 6.7-litre per 100km. A lot of this economy will be derived from the new nine-speed automatic which features electronic shifting with a rotary dial set-up.
The new 200 puts quite an emphasis on safety, with at least much active safety as its competitors in the C/D segment, including Adaptive Cruise Control-Plus which under certain circumstances and without driver intervention can bring the car to a full stop. The 200's Full-speed Forward Collision Warning-Plus provides autonomous braking and car slows and also bring the vehicle to a full stop when a frontal collision appears imminent.
LaneSense Lane Departure Warning-Plus introduces steering- wheel input as well as a warning message in the instrument cluster to alert the driver of inadvertent lane departure and assists with gentle corrective action.
To help the idiots out there, the car has a standard electronic park brake with Safe Hold, which secures the vehicle if the driver opens the door and unlatches the seat belt while forward or reverse gears are still engaged, so you're unlikley to run yourself over - don't laugh, it happens.
The 200 also offers ParkSense Parallel/Perpendicular Park Assist, which uses ultrasonic sensors to guide the driver into parking spaces, while it also fronts with the usual electronic stability control, electronic roll mitigation, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, reversing sensors and camera, blind-spot monitoring, Rear Crosspath Detection and approved child seat anchors.
As the new face of Chrysler, which really does need to clamber out of the box styling wise, the 200 looks very promising as the still desirable 300 starts to age in the marketplace. If the next design for the larger car can take note of the new car's integrated grille and headlamps and the updated Chrysler badge across its smiling nose, as well as its glassier window area, the whole Chrysler range will benefit from the new distinctive look.
Meanwhile, Chrysler fans can help secure a righthand drive version. Write to your Chrysler dealer, this is a car worth waiting for.