5. June 2012
One of the examples of the disconnect that can exist between Manufacturing (as in function) and the product produced (as in car) is the no-longer-produced Chrysler Sebring.
Throughout the years I’ve had the privilege, on occasion, of visiting the Chrysler Sterling Heights Assembly Plant (SHAP), where the car was built. I was always impressed with the proficiency shown by the women and men at the facility. What’s more, Chrysler had invested in both developing the culture (as in educating for a manufacturing system) and in deploying technology (machines and whatnot to build things) at SHAP, so it was a top-notch facility for the top-notch organization.
Yet for all that, the Sebring was always a so-so car. There was nothing wrong with it, but it didn’t seem to have the stuff—both tangible and intangible—of competitive cars in the midsize class in which it competed.
SHAP was doing a great job at turning out what was, through no fault of theirs, an adequate car.
Now they are building the Chrysler 200. And it needs to be said that it is pretty much based on the bones of the Sebring.
But it is a better car than the Sebring. The designers and engineers have stepped it up both outside the car and inside.
Yet for all that, it needs to be noted that while Chrysler wasn’t standing still, its competitors—both crosstown and overseas—threw it into hyperdrive. Which leaves the 200 somewhat behind the curve—not the curve on the highway, but those other companies have gone so far so fast that they’ve curved space-time in some Einsteinian sense.
Again, the 200 is a perfectly competent.
However, one thing about the car is a little unusual nowadays. The base engine—and I should point out that the car driven here had the “Customer Preferred Package,” the primary part of the $1,795 option being for a 283-hp 3.6-liter V6—is a 173-hp 2.4-liter I4. And it—not in this case, fortunately—is mated to a four-speed automatic transmission. Yes, four. The Limited has a six-speed. Which is pretty much the going number for transmissions nowadays. Is this a case where they have some transmission capacity that they really don’t know what to do with, so they put it in the 200? And if that’s the case, what does that say about the 200?
I’m glad I drove the Limited.
The Limited brings a reasonable amount of interior amenities, as in eight-way power driver’s seat, heated front seats, Electronic Vehicle Information Center (EVIC) and trip computer, six
speakers, automatic temperature control, premium headliner with universal garage door opener, leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather-wrapped shift knob with chrome accent, SiriusXM Satellite Radio,UConnect, and tire-pressure monitor display. This one has the optional Boston Acoustics speakers ($475) and a “Media Center” that provides navigation, voice command capability, Bluetooth streaming audio, and more ($695).
The materials used on the inside are greatly improved vis-à-vis the Sebring. And the car’s styling, while not stunning, is fit to purpose, though one wonders why the 200 doesn’t have the styling presence of its bigger sibling, the 300. Let’s face it: with the 300 Chrysler designers have nailed it. With the 200, it is a little like they hit their thumb with the hammer.
Maybe this car is a placeholder. Something that is getting them to where they are going next. But if you’re looking for a midsize car and you’re a Chrysler partisan, now is more important than later. Frankly, if you are looking for a nice ride from your Chrysler/Dodge dealer, check out the new Dodge Dart. This is the car that the 200 ought to be.
Engine: 3.6-liter DOHC V6
Material: Aluminum block and heads
Horsepower: 283 @ 6,400 rpm
Torque: 260 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 108.9 in.
Length: 191.7 in.
Width: 72.5 in.
Height: 58.4 in.
Curb weight: 3,575.8 lb.
EPA: 19/29 mpg city/hwy