We root for the underdog.
We want the Cinderella team at the NCAA tournament to advance to the Elite Eight. We want to see the #15 seed defeat the #2 seed, and we get excited when a 35-point football underdog pulls out an overtime victory.
In the automotive world, there is no greater underdog than the Chrysler 200. It has to overcome the stigma of being based on the Sebring, the constant deriding by reviewers across the land and the low-quality association of being a rental-car stalwart.
With the 2015 model, Chrysler and new owner FIAT know things have to change. In order to be a viable and profitable company, Chrysler simply must field a competitor to the top-selling cars in its class: the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Ford Fusion and even the Nissan Altima.
This is an underdog story like no other.
Here’s what the 200 needs to do in order to stand a chance:
- Offer comparable fuel economy to the competition while making decent power.
- Include standard technology that others sell as options.
- Have an interior that doesn’t feel cheap.
- Feature exterior looks that invoke feelings of pride.
The new 200 is built on a frame that also underpins the Dodge Dart and the new Jeep Cherokee. The wheelbase is stretched, but not enough to grow much from the previous 200. Power will come from either a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder that produces 184 horsepower or Chrysler’s 3.6-liter Pentastar V6, making 295 horsepower. All models get the new 9-speed automatic transmission that helps base models get up to 35 miles per gallon on the highway. That covers point one!
Car and Driver covers the techie stuff:
The 200’s center stack houses a standard five-inch Uconnect infotainment screen, while a dashboard-encompassing 8.4-inch Uconnect touch-screen is an option. Information is fed to the driver via a standard five-inch TFT display in the instrument panel, but a seven-incher can be ordered. The aforementioned adaptive cruise control, forward-collision and lane-departure warnings, backup sensors and a camera, blind-spot monitoring, and rear-crosspath detection all on the options list. [sic]
I know Chrysler needs to make money, but had all those options been standard, the 200 would become a no-brainer.
The interior looks to be creatively designed and includes an unconventional center stack that combines a rotary shift control, climate controls, the parking brake and connectivity functions. There’s also a pass-through storage area that is large enough to carry an electronic tablet. Leather seats with all the expected heating and auto adjustments are available.
The exterior looks a lot like the Dart, but grown up and classier. It has Italian cues, and my 12-year-old son even said, “It looks kind of like a Maserati.”
Thank you, Italian designers, for bringing some much-needed excitement to the Chrysler brand!
The elements are there for an underdog victory, but the final proof will be in how the car drives. With a starting price of about $22,000, we’ll be rooting for it.
How does the 2015 Chrysler 200 look to you?