Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Chrysler 200 - Imported from Detroit Indeed

During the last Super Bowl, Chrysler got a lot of attention for its bold "Imported from Detroit" ad for the Chrysler 200. It featured stark Detroit photography and images of (and a short statement by) of rapper Eminem, with a gritty narrator telling the tale of a tough, hardworking city. All this for a car that used to be called the Chrysler Sebring -- and which was considered barely mediocre.

As artistically produced as they may be, ads are not facts, so I was eager to see what a 200 was actually like. Now I know. I've spend nearly a week so far with a Blackberry Pearl Coat 200 Touring. I've had to make several freeway trips of an hour or two and they have been very pleasant.

To move the Sebring to a 200, the engineers and designers upgraded the suspension and sound insulation for a smoother and quieter ride. Then, they turned their modest budget to upgrading the interior, long an area of complaint from folks like Consumer Reports and the car buff magazines. Here, they've added padding where formerly there was none, put a pretty clock and some chrome (plastic) on the dash, and tightened up everything. So--smooth, quiet, attractive.

The outside of the car received some attention too, with a new clean chrome look up front (see photo) and a completely revised tail, with much more sophisticated taillamp designs, trunk proportions and more chrome, almost Jaguarlike trim. It makes the formerly awkward design seem much more sure of itself--like Eminem himself.

Under the hood lives the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6, which not only moves the car along with ease, but earns an EPA average of 22 miles per gallon--and I achieved that in my driving. Granted, much of it was on freeways, but this is no gas hog. And well equipped, my tester came in under $25,000.

The all-American 200, built in Sterling Heights, Michigan, is a transitional vehicle, sold until new models come along based on Fiat platforms, but with its multitude of upgrades it now has become a car worth considering.

Photo by Chris Kidwell.

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