2015 Chrysler 200
2015 Chrysler 200
2015 Chrysler 200
2015 Chrysler 200. Click image to enlarge

Preview and photos by Mark Stevenson

I had just arrived in Rochester, New York on a business trip. The city, much like Detroit, had been in decline over the decades. Kodak, once an industrial powerhouse, was verging on bankruptcy as consumers accepted the digital revolution in their lives and rid their households of film-based camera products. The airport, while a gem in the 70s, showed its age and wear.

The rental desk attendant passed me the keys to my chariot for the week, a brand new Chrysler 200 in its first year since being rebranded from Sebring.

And like everything else in Rochester, the 200, while refreshed, still showed its age and inevitable decline.

An analog clock, mounted centre dash, was surrounded by a pseudo-metal plastic ring, a sea of questionable design choices, and materials offered by the lowest bidding supplier. If product planning for the interior was also in charge of developing a Rolex watch, they would just rebrand a Casio complete with Velcro strap, colour the plastic casing with a silver Sharpie pen to give the illusion of metal, and call it a day. This was Chrysler’s version of luxury.

And herein lies the problem. Almost everyone with the level of income required to buy an “entry level luxury sedan” goes on business trips. These same people were exposed to this misaligned Pentastar product at least once in their jet-setting lives. After driving their fully loaded Accords, Camrys, and Fusions at home, being in a 200 was torture for most middle-managers. And, unfortunately for Chrysler, those rental transactions would be the only exposure these possible customers would have with product from Auburn Hills.

Ford has already figured out this midsize formula with Fusion, the bestselling family sedan in Canada last year. Chevrolet, while still enjoying decent sales with Malibu, isn’t nearly as competitive as offerings from Honda and Toyota. The Koreans – the Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima – are providing fairly competitive options for customers even as their product withers on the vine a bit.

Chrysler is currently in a league of its own with the current 200. The winged-crest-wearing mid-size sedan is something of a communist accountant’s wet dream. Completely predictable, cheap (automakers hate that word), and it will turn a profit due to a well-established sales channel. Who cares about residuals, brand value, and real luxury?

Accountants don’t. But, the ever-more discerning public does. This new 200 needs to reignite the interest of those purchasing cars with their earned salaries rather than those who manage annual corporate capital purchasing budgets.

This is the car Chrysler bets will do just that.

Whether you like the styling or not, this will now be the corporate face of Chrysler. Headlights mimic those of the Dodge Dart with added LED daytime running lights. Designers have given the grille a distinctive Chrysler treatment and very rounded features. In all, it is unique, and yet it seems derivative. Not good so far.

2015 Chrysler 2002015 Chrysler 200
2015 Chrysler 200. Click image to enlarge

The rest of the front, while short, has a fairly large overhang, giving the new sedan a different silhouette than its competitors. Combined with a lower beltline, the Chrysler could be a visibility dream for those not wanting to rely on back-up cameras and parking sensors. But, this combination gives the 200 a disproportionate look when put side-by-side with the Fusion, or even the Malibu.

Along the side, a nice body crease follows below the beltline and runs through the front and rear door handles. The start and finish of this line is fairly low and sharp instead of blended into the upper body like some others.

Moving around to the rear, arguably the best view of the car, gives the 200 a truly premium look. The kicked-up rear deck and dual exhaust outlets do their best along with some nicely shaped taillights that are very Audi-esque in shape while using the “race track” lighting idea of the Dodge Durango and Charger.

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