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200 Reasons to Buy a New Chrysler

The 2011 Chrysler 200

“Imported From Detroit.” That’s Chrysler’s new slogan. You’ve gotta admit, it’s better than “Buffalo For Real.” And I must say that when I first heard the new Chrysler tag line, which debuted during this year’s Super Bowl, it was a ho-hum moment for me. Even with Eminem (Eminem?) as Chrysler’s new front man, I had my doubts.

Then last week I headed over to Northtown Dodge in Tonawanda, where general manager Joe Erbacher put me behind the wheel of a new 200 Limited sedan for the afternoon. From the outside, it’s a vast improvement over the old Chrysler Sebring, which the 200 has replaced. The differences are subtle—it’s not a total remake—but what the designers have done has really made a difference. Sales consultant Dennis Lang gave me the grand tour of the 200 before I set off on my ride. Getting in, I was immediately impressed with the finish of the interior. Gone is much of the (often ill-fitting) hard plastic found in the Sebring, replaced by much softer material, which comes with advantages: It’s easier to fit pieces together when they’re not so hard, and it lessens the chances of squeaks over time. Many of the edges were also trimmed in an attractive, contrasting white stitching in this otherwise all-black test car. The black exterior is sharp-looking; the black interior, I thought, was maybe a little too black. That white stitching was just about the only thing in there that wasn’t black, making it kind of cave-like. An attractive cave, but a cave nonetheless.

The new 200 isn’t all about looks and feelings. At first I thought it was silly to think that Eminem would ever drive one of these things. Well, maybe it still is. But that Imported from Detroit line has some meaning behind it—you could very well be in a midsized import from the way the 200 drives, especially with the all-new Pentastar 3.6-liter V-6 engine and six-speed automatic (the combination on the test car), which is available in both the Touring and Limited models. (A 2.4-liter four-cylinder is standard on both, and also on the base LX model, with a four-speed automatic.) The V-6 is EPA-rated at 19/29 miles per gallon city/highway. It’s a very responsive setup; a jab of the throttle moves you out smartly, with just a bit of growl from the dual exhausts. The power rack-and-pinion steering gives you good feedback through the steering wheel—no aimless over-correcting on the highway, and it makes city driving and parking a snap.

A liitle contrasting white stitching relieves the black interior of its cavelike darkness.

There was plenty of interior space for me; headroom was great even with the optional sunroof, and legroom was more than enough, although I could have used a bit more space for my left foot. The Limited’s leather seats were firm but not hard—just right for a long drive. Plenty of room for a couple of full-sized adults in the back, or three if they’re not too chunky, and the rear seat folds down to allow full access to the already good-sized trunk.

My test car had a starting price of $23,945. (Pricing for the base LX starts at $19,245.) Standard on the Limited are: 18-inch polished aluminum wheels, fog lamps, media center with 30GB hard drive, heated leather seats, remote start, and other neat stuff. Options included a navigation system, six Boston Acoustic speakers (which really made the XM Margaritaville channel sound great!), power sunroof, and the V-6 w/six-speed automatic. With delivery, the bottom line was $28,705. That’s not a bad price for the quality Chrysler has built into this car. Like I said earlier, it compares favorably with many imports in both the fit and finish and the handling departments.

And who’s gonna argue with Eminem? That would be ludicrous!

Read more of Jim Corbran's You Auto Know every other week in Artvoice, and more frequently on Artvoice Daily.

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