2011 Chrysler 200 vs 2010 Sebring: Worth the Name Change?

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I took the one less-traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

– Robert Frost

sebring vs 200

As the morning birds sang their melodies overhead, I couldn’t help but notice the striking stance of the new Chrysler 200, patiently waiting for our test drive to begin. It’s the morning following the 22nd Annual Chrysler Employee Motorsports Association Car Show, and Allpar’s Dave Zatz and I were about to take this Chrysler 200 Touring on a Mopar factory tour of the greater Detroit Metropolitan area.

midsized car

While waiting to enter the roadway, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the only thing I could hear was Dave’s fingers lightly drumming the leather-wrapped steering wheel. This car was quiet. As we joined the flow of traffic the 200’s 2.4L VVT engine pulled strongly to cruising speed. The shifts were smooth, the road-noise minimal. And although the 2.4 does get a bit vocal past 2,000 RPMs, it’s a reality easily forgiven by the car’s improved handling.

rear- 2007 Chrysler Sebring cars

“Improved.” It may be the understatement of the year. Although some might have you believe that the Chrysler 200 is an entirely new vehicle, it is in-fact, based off the former Chrysler Sebring. Given the rather morose state of its predecessor and a reputation leaving much to be desired, the 200 had anything but high-expectations to meet. Even so, Chrysler’s refined attention to detail produced a car that many Mopar folks can say, “we’ve been waiting for,”— the proverbial, “honey, I'm home.” Chrysler reworked the sedan from top to bottom, not sweating even the smallest of tolerances. It’s a big improvement to say the least, and more importantly, a step forward.

Although the 200 takes its basic shape from the Sebring, it’s evident that the folks in Auburn Hills went the extra mile. Moving around the side of the 200, the door paneling stays the same, but streamlined mirrors and 17” aluminum alloy rims give it a more refined stance. Chrysler lowered the front and rear by a half-inch and quarter-inch respectively.

200

The most easily recognized trait of the 200 that ties it to its predecessor is the D-pillar. Although structurally unchanged, the addition of three-dimensional chrome “200” badging adds a touch of elegance that harkens back to the days of the New Yorker

Gone are the days of the egg crate grille and alarmingly bulbous headlamps. The 200 features a more conservative, elegant front fascia with a chrome grille, and LED-accent headlamps that suggest a high-caliber arrival. The notable absence of chiseled lines and edges promotes the car to an aesthetic previously unimagined by its predecessor.

Around back, the 200 has a new profile with sleek, LED-tail lamps and chrome trim. Chrysler’s new center high-mounted stop lamp allows for greater rearward visibility, but the greatest strength is the cohesive design that allows everything to look perfectly placed. Make no mistake: while the 200’s rear profile could be considered understated in comparison to many of its competitors, it’s classy, elegant and distinct.

midsize seda

As we delve into what lies beneath, the real differences that set the 200 apart from the Sebring become clear. Along with changes in ride height, a widened track, higher roll point and rigid body mounts contribute to the 200’s responsive, well-mannered ride. As we cruised the streets and ally-ways of Detroit, the car handled everything we threw at it with relative ease and maneuverability. Although Chrysler tightened the handling of the car substantially, it responded to the usual dips, bumps and crevices in the road with little cabin disturbance, and no rattles to speak of. However, merging onto the freeway we did notice that the car tended to feel a little numb at the higher cruising speeds.

They always say that “what’s inside, matters most” — and for the Chrysler 200 the interior is what has given the company the audience it deserves. Completely reengineered, the front dash and center console stem from a “soft-touch” unibody dash pad that’s just as pleasing to the eye as it is to the fingers .The leather-wrapped steering wheel and chrome-accented controls give occupants a feeling more commonly found in entry-level luxury sedans. Quality of materials has increased noticeably, and while still not what Chrysler owners [of less recent cars] have come to expect, it’s certainly better than anything to hit showrooms over the last decade.

By using a “soft-touch” dash pad, Chrysler was able to greatly reduce the tolerances normally required of harder-material panels. As a result, the potential for squeaks, rattles and other vibration-related pitfalls is greatly reduced.

2011 Chrysler 200

From the moment you slide behind the wheel of the 200, the engineer’s renewed commitment to ergonomics becomes clear. Dashboard controls and readouts are placed in easy-to-read locales while not hindering visibility, and the center console is simple to operate. However, do not let Chrysler’s choice to avoid the histrionic dashboard style found in many Ford competitors, allow you to think this vehicle is any less capable.

chrysler 200 interior

instrument panel - chrysler cars

The radio and cruise control can all be operated via thumb controls on the steering wheel and the radio duplicates its readout in the instrument console for easier reference. Climate controls reside on three easy-to-read turn-dials above the gear selector with firm detents that provide positive user feedback. The power 8-way driver’s seat and tilt/telescoping steering wheel allow for a generous choice of seating positions. The console-mounted gear selector shifts easily and quietly, with the hand-operated parking brake located just behind.

200 gauges

While the basic design of the gauge cluster has not changed, Chrysler has extended the features of the dot-matrix displays to include much of what the company’s former “overhead trip-computers” used to show; everything from compass heading, tire pressure, trip mileage, fuel economy, radio content, etc. It’s a welcome approach to encouraging the driver to keep their head forward. With this in mind, the radio and controls are mounted high on the center stack negating the need to glance downward to check the time or change the station. The font used on the optional 8” multimedia display is large and easy to read, offering a secondary digital clock readout in addition to Chrysler’s signature Swiss analog betwixt the center air vents.

Regardless of trim, the standard list of safety equipment continues the brand’s strong commitment to occupant safety. Some notable features include active head restraints (which move forward in rear-end collisions to reduce head travel), Front and side supplemental air bags, brake assist/traction control, tire pressure monitoring system and electronic stability control. The 200 was rated a “Top Safety Pick” for 2011 by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety attaining a rating of “Good” in all key areas tested.

Chrysler 200 interior

Although our 200 Touring test model was quite generously equipped, moving up to the Limited provides additional creature comforts of note. Aside from the addition of fog lamps, chrome-clad door handles and 18-inch polished aluminum wheels; the Limited features premier leather-trimmed seating, auto-dim rearview mirror with U-Connect microphone, heated mirrors, automatic headlamps, and the 3.6L Pentastar Engine with 6-speed automatic transmission- just to name a few.

With four models between $19,000 and $27,000, the 200 is a hot contender in the market of mid-size offerings. Although Chrysler still has “many miles to go before [they] sleep,” they’ve carved an impressive niche in what tends to be a stale-segment. Drivers of the Accord and Camry beware, your choice is about to get a whole-lot harder.

Chrysler 200

Chrysler’s own version of what changed from the Sebring

According to Olivier Francois, “It had to be good, and it had to be now... the brief was simple: do everything [within 12 months].” He told engineers to look at:

every thread, every weld, every stitch, every cut, every seem, every rivet, every collection, every seal, every valve, every spring, every chip, every line, every angle, every detail, I want this car to be stronger, tighter, faster, smoother, smarter, purer, bolder, sharper, louder, meaner, classier, sexier, I want it to be the Chrysler. ...

leather seats

A completely new front end...new wheel design, completely new rear end... what are we not giving you? The cheap plastic... There are new fabrics, new instrument cluster, new dashboard, new steering wheel. We fixed the ride, handling, performance, and NVH. We took care of the guts.

Measurement Chrysler Sebring Chrysler 200
EPA interior volume, cu. ft. 102.5 100.3
Head Room (with/without sunroof) 37.9 or 40.1 / 38.4
Leg Room 42.4 / 37.6 42.4 / 36.2
Shoulder Room 56.4 / 56.4 56.3 / 56.0
Hip Room 53.5 / 53.2 52.6 / 52.8
SAE trunk volume, cu. ft. 13.6 13.6

Interior space in the Chrysler 200 declined somewhat as seat quality improved over the Sebring — thicker seats mean less room.

SpecsSebring 200   Specs Sebring 200
Height 59.0 58.4 I-4 weight 3,287 3,389 (LX)
Track, Front  61.8 61.7 V6 weight 3,499 3,559
Track, Rear61.862.7 Width71.272.5
Length190.6191.7      

midsize seda

ItemChrysler SebringChrysler 200
Steering Ratio 16.5:1 16.65:1
Turning Diameter 36.5 ft. (11.13) 36.5 (37.7 with 18” wheels)
Steering Turns 3.0 3.3 (3.0 with 18” wheels)
Stability ControlOptional Standard
Traction Control Optional Standard
Standard Wheels  16 x 6.5 steel 17 x 6.5 steel
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