Over the past few years, Chrysler has had to rebuild more than its finances.
The Pentastar brigade is trying to distance itself even further from the rental-spec Sebring with the redesigned 2015 Chrysler 200, which debuted at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show.
As previously shown in leaked photos, the new 200 wears restyled sheet metal that goes well beyond that of the face-lifted model Eminem hawked.
The new look is shockingly minimal for Chrysler, without a retro cue in sight and barely a hint of chrome. It’s particularly weird to see Chrysler’s winged emblem in that small mesh grille, and not some showier prow like the 300’s.
Chrysler says the 200’s design was inspired by iconic American products like the iPhone and Airstream, but many journalists are already comparing this child of Auburn Hills to the Audi A7.
This should impress people who want their car to look good without looking like something out of a cartoon, but it may blend in with traffic a bit too well. It’s much better looking than the car it replaces, but there aren’t any standout features that make the 200 more memorable than any other midsize sedan.
Whether you like the looks or not, the new body is very aerodynamic. With a drag coefficient of just 0.27, it’s almost as slippery as a Tesla Model S (0.24).
Underneath the svelte sheet metal base models get a 2.4-liter “Tigershark” four-cylinder engine like the one found in the Dodge Dart (which it shares a platform with), making the same 184 horsepower and 173 pound-feet of torque.
Those who think their Chrysler should be more powerful than a Dart can upgrade to a 3.6-liter “Pentastar” V6, with 295 hp and 262 lb-ft.
Both engines are connected to the nine-speed automatic transmission first deployed in the 2014 Jeep Cherokee. Power is sent to the front wheels, or through an optional all-wheel drive system that can either transfer 60 percent of that power to the rear wheels for better handling, or disconnect them completely for better fuel economy.
The interior of the 2015 Chrysler 200 has received just as much attention as the exterior. It’s clean and modern, with an infotainment screen placed front and center. The console below arches up to bring the controls closer to the driver’s hand.
The nine-speed gearbox is engaged with a rotary shifter, which isn’t very sporty, but it keeps with the cabin’s clean styling and recalls the dashboard-mounted push-button shifters from Chryslers of old.
Chrysler will offer three trim packages representing American cities: black for New York, black and beige for Sausalito, California, and Ambassador Blue and black for Detroit.
The 2015 Chrysler 200 goes on sale later this year with a base price of $21,700. The top-of-the-line 200C starts at $25,995.
Every new midsize sedan from Detroit seems to arrive with cheers of “America is back,” and the 200 deserves them as much as any. Hopefully customers will be just as enthusiastic when it arrives in showrooms.