The Truth About Cars » Sebring The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Jul 2014 18:25:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Sebring A Long Last Dance With The Chrysler 200 Tue, 04 Feb 2014 15:04:34 +0000 200-5

I was shivering, I think, because I was low on blood. Ten days of internal bleeding, of cauterization, of six vials a day donated to the unworthy cause of redundant testing, of the dark brown surge through the catheter, of the bright red bloom in the water of the toilet bowl. Your blood keeps you warm. You don’t realize it, but it does. Low on blood, low on heat, shivering in my shearling and cashmere Gimo’s coat, backing my walker towards the open door of my rental.

There was an ugly whirr from the starter. A prehistoric noise, one that reminded me of the M-body Gran Fury my boss owned when I worked at a two-screen theater in 1989. The kind of scrape-and-moan that has long since been banished from modern cars. And it didn’t catch. A new car, in the Year Of Our Lord 2014, that doesn’t start. But when it did catch, on the second crank, the temperature display showed a nice round zero. Zero degrees. I can forgive that. I can forgive being a bit hesitant to start after days on the rental lot, at a temperature not so far above that at which Ketel One freezes.

“You and me, little guy,” I said, patting the soft-touch dash, “we have some work to do, so let’s get going.” And we did.

I didn’t want to return to driving. Not for a long time. I had it in mind that I would wait until spring, perhaps. At the very least, I’d wait until the bones stopped grinding in a way that I could hear and feel in my teeth, until I was healed up enough to survive an unlucky second crash, should one arrive. But the rest of the world wasn’t inclined to work at my schedule. I had doctors who insisted that I drive thirty miles to see them, an employer whose actions regarding my crash and the resulting downtime oscillated between simply bizarre and definitely threatening, and a lonely friend suffering in a hospital on the other side of the city. It was time to drive.


What can I tell you about my Chrysler 200? Well, it was a configuration that I can’t make on the Chrysler site, even when I select model year 2013. Four cylinder. Four-speed auto, but much better-behaved than the one in the Avenger SE I tested last year. No automatic headlights. Cloth seats. Oddly bling-tastic wheels. It was clearly some sort of leftover-parts special tossed to the rental fleet. You couldn’t buy a retail 200 this poorly equipped in 2013, and the 2014 transition models appear to either be V6es or loaded fours. Easier to list what the car has than what it doesn’t have: windows, locks, cruise, CD player, A/C. At a dealer, if you found it new, after the incentives, maybe seventeen grand. At an Enterprise Used Car lot for $13,999, more or less. They say the price is no-haggle. I’d haggle, I think.


For two weeks the 200 and I trundled down unplowed roads, through low-visibility snowfall, into crowded parking garages dripping with dirty snow that melted into brown stalagmites to catch a walker or stall a wheelchair. The Eagle LS tires weren’t comfortable at the sub-sub-freezing temperatures and the nose would occasionally slide without warning on the freeway. Not a problem; my son was safe at home and the passenger seat stayed empty. If the Chrysler never gripped with authority, it was also harmless in the way it let go of the road, just continuing along in the same direction until some trustworthy surface appeared beneath its paws.

I have yet to get out of the driver’s seat without significant pain, but I’ll call that an effect of the three cracked lumbar vertebrae. The Avenger’s seat, when I put hundreds of miles on it in a day, was fine, and the seat in the 200 is nominally better, featuring some adjustable support. The interior fabric showed no appreciable wear after 24,000 uncaring miles in random hands. The dashboard, too, looked brand-new. When they did the interior refresh on these cars, they didn’t skimp. Five years from now, these ex-rental cars will impress people with how they’re lasting.

The “World Engine” four-cylinder, on the other hand, is simply depressing. I’m tempted to write a children’s book about it, calling it “The Little Engine That Doesn’t Want To”:

Chug, chug!
Is that a tractor?
Is that a tow truck?
Is that a Tempo?
It’s the World Engine!
Listen to it mooooooaaaaannnn on the hills!
Feel it vibrate at the stoplight!
Chug, chug, World Engine!
You’re so sad and lonely!
Waiting for the red light
We hear you chug, chug!

In the winter, the 2.4 is supremely reluctant to do anything and it shakes the 200 lightly at rest while idling in a most unsteady fashion. To paraphrase Douglas Adams, it sucks in precisely the same way that the Pentastar does not. Earlier this year, I had the chance to drive a V6-powered 200 across Ohio, and it was a genuine pleasure in most respects. But the World Engine? Chug, chug!


Last week, I added an occasional passenger to my trips. She requires a wheelchair, for the same reason I’m leaning on a cane, and we keep her in the back seat for safety’s sake. Nontrivial bravery, to get in a car with someone knowing that you’ve done it before and ended the day taking an eighteen thousand dollar helicopter ride to an emergency CT scan. “What’s it like back there?” I asked.

“Not great… but not terrible, either. The armrest is good.” So, a 5’8″ woman can sit behind a 6’2″ man in this thing. The rap on this generation of Chrysler midsizers has always been that the back seat room is below-par. That’s true if you’re coming from a Camry or Accord, but when you compare it to, say, any of the other sub-twenty-thousand-dollar sedans, the 200 makes a solid case for itself. And there’s room in the trunk for a wheelchair.

Every once in a while, you come up against the fact that this is fundamentally a generation older than the competition. Somehow, today, I locked the keys in the 200 while it was running. However, the trunk was open because I was about to load a wheelchair into said trunk. No problem, right? Just pull the handle in the trunk and drop the rear seat. Except for the fact that the Chrysler doesn’t have those handles, because they weren’t yet popular when the Sebring was released. The solution: use my cane to bash the center pass-through open. Climb into trunk, banging all fractured bones in the course of doing so. Reach through center pass-through, grab fabric loop that releases fold-down seat, unlock rear door, climb back out of trunk, take all remaining Tylenol in the bottle, take a nap, make note not to tell TTAC readers about stupid adventure.

What’s it like at full pace, on a racetrack, at the limit of the tires? I couldn’t tell you. I haven’t exceeded seventy-three miles per hour in the 200. It’s been a lot of poking around in bad weather at low speeds. A lot of drab commutes with the surprisingly excellent heater battling the polar-vortex cold. A fair amount of chug-chug idling in phamarcy drive-thrus.

Under these conditions, the Chrysler has shown virtue. The controls are simple and easy to use. The stereo is weak but clear. Road noise is about what you’d expect from a Camry. As previously noted, the interior materials are definitely up to par, even if they are applied to an interior that is narrower and less exciting than what you’d find in the competition. If the 200 fails to excite, it also fails to annoy or disappoint at the price.

No, it can’t hold its own against a modern Camcord or Sonatoptima. But it isn’t priced against them. It’s priced against Corollas and Civics and Fortes. Hell, I’m pretty sure you can get a run-out 2014 V6 model for twenty grand. That’s not a bad idea, really. It’s more car than the compacts offer and if you are price-conscious it is worth considering.

A week from Thursday I’ll turn this car in and go buy something for myself. That will mark four rental weeks together. Viewed in the context of many of my short-term relationships, it’s been better than most. Frill-free but faithful and fit for purpose, the 200 has been reliable enough, capable enough. Good enough. It’s tempting in this business sometimes to forget that ninety percent of buyers simply want good enough. The new 200 will have more of what people want and none of that awkward turtletop Sebring legacy hanging over its head. But if you want good enough, right now, this will do.

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Unsponsored Content: Learn With Me At Shenandoah Or Sebring This Month Tue, 14 May 2013 18:56:36 +0000 No, I won't be driving one of these. Picture courtesy TrackGuys

It costs a thousand dollars a day to hang out with Jose Canseco nowadays, but you can hang out with me for much less. And I’ll even throw in some laps around two of America’s most popular road courses.

This upcoming weekend, I am coaching with TrackDAZE at their Summit Point Shenandoah track. I have one spot for a novice or intermediate student available and I can do ride-alongs and additional coaching for yellow and black group students. The cost of this, in addition to the TrackDAZE fee, is… nothing. I’m going to be there anyway. Wait until you see what I’m driving. It’s a Toyota Corolla. Or, as they say, similar.

Next weekend I’m joining TrackGuys at Sebring International Raceway. Bring your Mustang, Corvette, or Nissan Juke for two days of excitement. I’d like to tell you that I know Sebring like the back of my hand, but in all honestly I’ve never even been there. The first few laps should be extremely exciting for both of us. Not only is there no extra charge for hanging out with me and having me criticize your driving, there’s actually a discount if you register before the end of the day Thursday.

I’ll be flying to yet another track the following weekend, but unless you’re within shouting distance of Phnom Penh or Jakarta or points between, it’s probably too late to make affordable plans to meet me there. But I will have some stories to share when I get back.

What are you waiting for? Grab your credit card, your non-fireproof Pilotis, and your G-Force neck collar, and get packing!

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The Best Dash Cam Footage: Sebring 1965 Sat, 20 Apr 2013 17:04:16 +0000 Click here to view the embedded video.

Since the Mosport footage was so well received  here’s another one from the archives. Sebring, 1965, with some very crude dash cam-style action.

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Review: 2012 Chrysler 200 S Convertible Sat, 08 Sep 2012 13:00:27 +0000

So you want your next car to be a cheap drop top that seats four? If you live in America, your options are strangely limited. By my count, only five convertibles are available on our shores that seat four and cost under $30,000. If you cross the “convertible hatchbacks” (Cooper and 500c) off the list you’re left with three options. The Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder, Ford Mustang and the former king of the convertible sales chart: the Chrysler Sebring 200. Does this re-skinned front driver have what it takes to win back the “best-selling convertible in America” crown?

Click here to view the embedded video.


Convertible sales have been on a downward spiral since 1950. At the rate we’re going, only 1.1 percent of new cars sold in America in 2012 will be drop-tops. What’s to blame? Well, the old Sebring certainly didn’t help.

Since a euthanization just wasn’t in the cards, Chrysler opted for a re-skin. Much like a freakish face transplant from your favorite B-grade movie, the Sebring was nip/tucked everywhere except the doors and the roof. I can almost see the mask being peeled off by Sean Connery. Trouble is, as Mythbusters demonstrated, a new face can’t hide what’s underneath. The awkward hood strakes are gone, replaced by smooth sheetmetal and a new nose sporting Chrysler’s wavy corporate grille. Unfortunately nothing could be done to make the enormous trunk lid disappear, so the 200 still has more booty than a Sir Mix-A-Lot music video. Frankenstein touched off the transformation with new wheels, LED running lamps and bling-tastic 17 and 18 inch wheels. The result is a design that is strangely more cohesive than the original, more of a statement of how wrong the original vehicle was than anything else.

As with the Sebring, shoppers can choose between a traditional canvas top or a trendy three-piece folding hard top for an extra $1,995. Top operation is restricted to speeds under 1MPH and takes 27 seconds to complete with the cloth top and 30 with the hard top, essentially precluding stop light top drops.


Inside our 200 S, the Sebring origins are obvious despite the redesign. How so? It’s all in the shapes. The parts are at least as snazzy as anyone’s, but because Chrysler couldn’t afford to change the car’s hard points, the Sebring’s silhouette is unmistakeable in the strange door handle position and the incredibly tall dashboard. Shapes aside, nobody can fault the materials and workmanship. Gone are the made-like-Rubbermaid plastics, gone are the faux-tortoise-shell accents. Thankfully the “fin” that dominated the dashboard like a veruca has been sliced off. Replacing the strangely shaped (and strangely appointed) rubbery steering wheel is Chrysler’s new corporate tiller from the 300. The same soft leather, chunky rim and audio controls hidden on the back of the wheel are also along for the ride.

Seat comfort is something of a mixed bag. The rear seats are unusual for a convertible: they are sized for normal adults and shaped the way you’d expect a seat to be shaped. Why does that sound amazing? Most “four seat” convertibles have rear seat backs that are either strangely upright or angled forward to get them to fit in the vehicle. Meanwhile the 200 has rear thrones suitable for a 2 hour wine tasting excursion. Sadly the front seats aren’t as comfortable suffering from a firm and “over stuffed” bottom cushion that made me feel like I was perched on a large gumdrop. Or a tuffet. This is a seating position only Ms Muffet would appreciate.

Carrying four people with relative ease is something of a marvel, but asking any convertible to carry four people’s luggage is just a pipe dream. At 13.3 cubes, the 200′s bootilicious rump can easily swallow four roller bags and some hand luggage. Drop the top and the space shrinks to 6.6 cubes, good for a garment bag, one roller bag and a purse. A small purse. Don’t think buying the soft top will improve things, Chrysler designed the roof sections in such a way that the hard and soft tops share some common design elements and occupy the same space in the trunk.


The one interior item not touched in the Sebring-to-200 transformation was the infotainment system. We get the same six-speaker base unit in the 200 Touring with the same CD player and Sirius Radio. If you want to pair your Bluetooth phone, that will set you back $360. The limited model comes with a 6.5-inch head unit that adds standard Bluetooth, USB and iDevice love and a 40GB hard drive based music library. A $475 Boston Acoustics speaker package is available on the 200 Limited and standard on the 200 S. Chrysler’s last-generation nav system is also available for an extra $695 in the upper trims of the 200, but honestly you’d be better off going aftermarket.


Perhaps the biggest change during the 200′s metamorphosis is under the hood. The weaksauce 2.7L and aging 3.5L V6s have been replaced with Chrysler’s new 283HP 3.6L V6 mated to their in-house built 6-speed auto. As a mid-year change, the unloved 2.4L four cylinder also gets some 6-speed love. The extra two cogs on the four-banger mean it is finally the economy choice delivering 20/31 MPG vs 19/29 for the V6. Before you discount the V6 in favor of economy, our real-world figures put them on equal footing and with over 4,000lbs to motivate there is a serious penalty for not checking that $1,795 option box.


The Sebring was horrible on the road. The chassis felt like a wet noodle, the cowl shake was so bad you could have churned butter and the whole car was so unresponsive that steering and throttle input were more suggestions than commands. Despite shedding none of the nearly 4,100lb curb weight, the 200 does offer some rather unexpected improvement. While there is no hiding the fact that the 200 is a heavy front-driver, the 200 proved enough fun on the winding Northern California back roads that I found myself wishing for upgraded brakes. Seriously. Who would have thought?

The 200′s suspension tweaks have finally put the kibosh on wheel hop. When equipped with the V6, front-wheel-peel is easy to achieve and fairly amusing. Drive the 200 back to back with a Mustang however and you’ll forget all about the comfier back seats. You’ll also be painfully aware how overweight the 200 has become. There is no question that however improved the 200′s handling is, it will always play second fiddle to Ford’s topless pony.

How it stacks up

If the Sebring and 200 existed in a vacuum, we would laud the 200 for being a substantial change and the best convertible ever. The problem of course is that shoppers have options and pricing is the ever-present bugbear. In my mind, anything can be forgiven for the right price. Is the Nissan Versa cheap and “plasticky”? Damn right. But it’s the cheapest car in America, so who cares? The Chrysler 200? It has a $26,995 problem. Yes it is cheaper than the Mustang, Camaro, Eclipse, and EOS. But is it cheap enough? Let’s do the math.

First off, nobody should be subjected to the four-cylinder 200, so $27,600 becomes the real base price. The Mustang convertible starts at $27,200, toss in the automatic transmission and you’re at $28,395. For the extra $795, the Ford delivers vastly improved handling, more power, less weight and improved fuel economy. Win: Ford

The Camaro convertible is $32,745 (base with the automatic) and delivers at least $3,500 of standard equipment when compared to the 200 making the true cost of 326HP and a better RWD chassis $1,645. Win: Chevy

The 200 gets some relief when pitted against the ancient and expensive Eclipse Spyder with its old 4-speed automatic and haphazard interior. Mitsubishi wants $27,999 for admission to the four-cylinder, four-speed party and a ticket to the 265HP V6 show will run you an eye-popping $32,828. Win: Chrysler

The 200 delivers a bigger trunk than many mid-size sedans, more rear legroom than Mustang, better visibility than Camaro and better “everythings” than an Eclipse. The 200 is certainly not the best convertible in the segment, but at least Chrysler’s changes mean you don’t have to pretend you’re just renting a summer car anymore. Don’t believe me? Rent one yourself and see. TTAC’s last word? If you want a front-driver, save $1,000 and buy the MINI Cooper convertible.

Not a fan of our Facebook page? Too bad, if you liked us on FaceBook you’d know what we have on the front burner. Get on, get social and tell us what you want to see. Subscribe to our YouTube channel while you’re at it.

Chrysler provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested:

0-30: 2.7 Seconds

0-60: 7.1 Seconds

1/4 Mile:  15.3 Seconds @ 94 MPH

Average fuel economy: 21 over 645 miles

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Review: 2011 Chrysler 200 Touring Take Two Tue, 06 Sep 2011 20:08:46 +0000

I have always rooted for the underdog, except when (for no apparent reason) the guy decides to start punching himself in the face. And so it was with Chrysler’s final Sebring. When the Cirrus burst forth along with the LH sedans almost 20 years ago, they were extremely competitive in style and price. While reliability hasn’t been Chrysler’s forte, you could always justify buying a Cirrus on the basis of America-first-ism, or style, or something. By the time the end drew near for the old Chrysler the Sebring was just a bruised mess from years of self-abuse.

The “New Chrysler” decided to send the Sebring out to pasture, but budgets being what they were, a euthanization just wasn’t in the cards. Instead, much like a freakish face transplant from your favorite B-grade movie, Chrysler spent a few hundred million to nip/tuck the Sebring into the Chrysler 200. I can almost see the mask being peeled off by Sean Connery. Trouble is, as Mythbusters demonstrated , a new face can’t always hide what’s underneath. Michael Karesh’s review back in April piqued my interest in some twisted way and with Chrysler willing to part with the more mass-market 200 “Touring” for a week, a Take Two Review was born.

Outside the 200, the old Sebring’s profile is the only real problem at hand. The tall roofline with somewhat ungainly C-pillar just doesn’t seem to jive with the new curvy schnoz. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder however, and my informal lunch-group-opinion-poll revealed that some liked the 200′s looks, some disliked them, but surprisingly few people loved or hated the form. This lack of polarizing opinion is a shame; some of Chrysler’s best products elicited strangely deep passion because of their daring design. I can’t imagine anyone having the same reaction to a 200. However, I can’t imagine anyone getting hot and heavy over a Camry or Accord either.

Inside our Touring tester (MK got his hands on a Limited), the budget theme is obvious despite the better trappings. How so? It’s all down to the shapes involved. The parts are all at least as snazzy as anyones (possibly excepting Hyundai’s latest high-quality wares), but the shapes constrained by the original Sebring’s silhouette are hard to avoid, like the door handle position, the high dash, etc. If on the other-hand you like the shape of things, nobody can fault the materials and workmanship anymore. Gone is the made-like-Rubbermaid dashboard, gone are the faux-tortoise-shell accents, and thankfully the “fin” that dominated the dashboard has been sliced from exorcised from the design studio. Replacing the strangely shaped, strangely appointed rubbery steering wheel is Chrysler’s new corporate tiller from the 300 and Grand Cherokee. The same soft leather, chunky rim and audio controls hidden on the back of the wheel are also along for the ride. So that’s the interior sorted, while not class leading it is certainly middle-of-the-pack.

What’s the 200 like to drive? Consider this probably the least important aspect of this review. Before you start the flaming in the comment section, hear me out. When was the last time you heard of a mid-size mass-market sedan (read: FWD) being the pinnacle of driving perfection? I’ll tell you: the 12th of Never, that’s when. Out on the road the 200 yet again delivers a middle-of-the-pack experience, which I have to say is exactly what I want from my mid-size people schleper. The former Sebring felt like a wet noodle on the highway, steering the Sebring felt like you were merely suggesting a change in direction rather than commanding it. The 200 on the other hand feels more direct (but till very isolated from the road thanks to the electric power steering) and while unengaging, is entirely acceptable for the segment. The ride is fairly smooth and does a decent job of soaking up the potholes now frequent on California highways and Chrysler did an admirable job of quelling road noise with new sound deadening materials in the 200’s cabin.

When the going gets twisty the 200 starts behaving more like a Toyota Camry than a Mazda 6, but then again that’s about par for this course. Out tester wore some fairly hard rubber in a 225/55R17, this no doubt contributes to the questionable corner holding ability of the 200 when pushed. Some softer rubber would make a marked change in the 200’s character on mountain highways. In that respect, I might even say getting the base LX with the steel rims so you can bling your 200 out Eminem-style aftermarket. Fortunately the suspension tweaks wrought to make the 200 have put the kibosh on wheel hop, so when equipped with the V6, front-wheel-peel extremely easy to achieve and fairly amusing as well.

Speaking of that V6, this is the one area where the 200 goes from average to class leading ( if you check the option box). Call it a desire to attract those with a need for speed (or perhaps more likely that Chrysler couldn’t afford to spend the money de-tuning an engine for 200 duty), the new 3.6L “Pentastar” V6 puts out the same 260 lb-ft of twist as it does in the Grand Cherokee and 300 with only a slight reduction in HP (283 vs 290) probably owing only to exhaust changes. The new V6 is smooth and quiet and a damn sight faster than the rough 2.4L four-banger. The six-pot easily served up a TTAC verified 5.5 second run to 60 time after time. If this wasn’t enough of a reason to make the $1,795 leap (available on Touring and Limited, standard on S), the fuel economy toll will surprise you. The EPA claims the V6 achieves 1 city MPG and 2 highway MPGs lower than the 2.4L four-cylinder with the 6-speed auto. If that were the truth, the extra 110HP you net from the upgrade would already be worth it, however our real-world fuel economy tests indicated the 3.6L V6 matched the 2.4L in our informal city and highway driving runs. Even when you factor in the optimistic trip computer and do the fill-drive-fill method of calculation and my handy OBDII trip computer, we still ended up with a very respectable 31.4 MPG highway average (27.2 overall for the week). (Our real-world numbers with the 200 compare relatively favorably to the Kia Optima’s 22/34 from Kia’s 274HP turbo four.)

While the new V6 is an all-new high for Chrysler, the new 6-speed FWD “auto-stick” transaxle is far from a perfect dance partner. Chrysler says their in-house developed sextuplet cog-swapper: “allows clutchless manual or automatic gear selection for an exciting driving experience”. Problem is: it doesn’t. I don’t really need row-your-own feature in a mass market car, but if a manufacturer feels like including it, I’d like it to actually do my bidding. For some reason, Chrysler chose not to allow downshifts that would cause the tach to rev past some 4,000RPM, and you can’t select 1st gear until you’re practically stopped. At least the 6 speeds seem well suited to the V6 when accelerating at full throttle, at other throttle positions however the transmission is economy oriented with fast and furious up-shifts whether you want it to or not.

Shoppers will find four 200 trim-lines waiting for them at local dealers: LX, Touring, Limited and S. The base LX model gets you four wheels for $19,245 and seems to be on the lineup to give rental agencies something to buy and Chrysler a low price point to advertise. A step up to the Touring gets you the new 6-speed auto (instead of the 4-speed the LX is saddled with), a headliner that’s worth looking at, map lights, auto climate control, auto headlamps, the chunky leather wrapped steering wheel, XM Radio, 6 speakers (instead of the base 4), power driver’s seat, center armrest, and alloy wheels for a somewhat reasonable $2,295 premium over the LX. Stepping up to the Limited adds: fog lamps, remote start, heated seats, Bluetooth, leather trimmed seats and 18-inch wheels for an eye-popping $2405 over the Touring model. Premium 200 shoppers will no doubt select the “200 S” for a $2,295 premium over the Limited to get their hands on bright exhaust tips, black grille, bigger alternator, 6.5” touch-screen radio with Boston Acoustics speakers, a larger alternator, black headliner, faux-suede seat inserts and some snazzy polished/painted wheels.

The astute shoppers will notice Bluetooth is conspicuously absent from Touring and LX models, in an era where even the cheapest car in America (the new Nissan Versa) comes standard with Bluetooth, this should be a standard feature in the 200. I’d gladly give up the snazzier headliner for a Bluetooth speaker phone since most states outlaw hand-held phone calls. You also need to step up the trim ladder (Touring or higher) to get the V6 or the sunroof. Want Nav? You have to climb up to the Limited or S in order to get Chrysler’s integrated touch-screen navigation system by Garmin. Our tester was the Touring model with the V6 upgrade, the touch screen radio and the cold weather group and the 18”wheels bringing final price up to a moderate $23,065. Glancing at the options lists, unless you have a real passion for cowhide, I’d stop at the Touring trim and get an aftermarket Nav/Radio. This is the other area where the 200 shines: price. As long as Chrysler keeps the stickers low, shoppers might give them another chance.

At the end of the day Chrysler has managed to do a bit more than put lipstick on the pig, they changed enough of what made the old Sebring terrible making the 200 a decent competitor for the Altima or Malibu, in other words, strongly middle-of-the-pack. Yet, is this enough? Tell us ino the comment section below. Strong initial sales backed by a heavy advertising campaign may indicate people are willing to give the mid-size Detroit scamp a second chance, but what about that competition? This is a crowded segment, and by my estimation there are 13 competitors to the 200 sedan in the form of the Accord, Altima, Camry, Fusion, Sonata, Malibu, Passat, Optima, Galant, Legacy, Mazda 6, Regal, and even the 200’s alter ego the Avenger. Supposedly Chrysler’s warranty claims are down, and their long powertrain warranty is certainly enticing, but I can’t help thinking if I was shopping I would end up at the Hyundai dealer in the end. Chrysler has created a solid contender in this segment, but for me, the high-output V6 just isn’t enough of a draw to keep me from going Korean. How about you?

Chrysler provided the vehicle for our review, insurance and one tank of gas.

Specifications as tested
0-30: 2.26 Seconds
0-60: 5.5 Seconds
¼ Mile: 14 Seconds @ 102MPH
Average Fuel Economy: 27.2
Miles Driven: 825


IMG_3917 IMG_3922 IMG_3924 IMG_3925 IMG_3926 IMG_3927 IMG_3928 The Sebring gets a new nose IMG_3933 Rear view IMG_3937 IMG_3938 IMG_3939 IMG_3940 IMG_3941 IMG_3942 IMG_3943 IMG_3944 IMG_3945 IMG_3946 IMG_3947 IMG_3949 IMG_3950 IMG_3954 IMG_3956 IMG_3958 IMG_3959 IMG_3960 IMG_3961 IMG_3962 IMG_3964 IMG_3966 IMG_3968 IMG_3972 IMG_3973 IMG_3976 IMG_3978 IMG_39292-thumb Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 61
Piston Slap: It’s Not A Fox Body… So What Is It? Wed, 10 Aug 2011 18:03:42 +0000

TTAC’s personal window into the CAW, mikey writes:

Sajeev, as spring approached our frozen north, I couldn’t face another summer sans convertible. As a proud, retired UAW and CAW member, my choice was limited to domestics. What to buy?

The Sebring? No way. New is out of my reach, so rule out a 5th gen Camaro. Having owned a 4th gen F-body…one was enough. Did I really say that? A Solstice or Sky, maybe?  Can a 50 something couple pack up and go for two days? I couldn’t find a place to store a cell phone, never mind two suit cases, and a Beer cooler.

I looked at a used “Pontiac G6″ hardtop convertible. Wow! all that mechanical stuff that runs the retract? Hmmmm, lets put it this way: too many years on the assembly floor, tells me to give that baby a wide berth. Draw your own conclusions.

So today we find ourselves the proud owners of a 2008 Mustang convertible. In my way of thinking, knowedge rules, and I have zero experience with Fords, except a 1969 Marquis that was a POS when I bought it, 35 years ago. So I need to update. So I’m asking the B&B to help me out.

Its not a Fox body, so what is it? What other Fords, if any, share the same platform? It’s a 4 litre automatic, without a lot of options. So I guess it’s a base model? Were Pirelli tires standard equipment? How about the “Shaker 500″,it can’t really be 500 watts? Why the phone button on the radio? I don’t think its got Bluetooth, or does it?

So it’s a 4 litre sohc? Where’s the camshaft? Does it have push rods? Why three valves? Two intake one, exhaust? 210 HP, is it me, or why do I feel that my old Firebird 3800 had a lot more cookies?

In all, the Mustang is far more comfortable, for a couple our age. It’s roomier, and quieter than the Firebird. It certainly has less rattles, and squeaks. That being said, I don’t find the Mustang as much fun to drive. That might change with time eh.

So any input/knowledge, negative, or positive, from you guys would be welcome.

Sajeev answers:

As much as I hated the 4th Gen F-bodies, I gotta admit they were a ton of fun and better than the 5th Gen in so many ways.  Plus, your particular Firebird was one of our first Piston Slaps, so pardon me for my nostalgia.

While Wikipedia has most of your answers, let’s try to put a more interesting spin on the facts. Yes it’s an D2C (a.k.a. S197) platform, and while it is the most authentic platform in Ford’s passenger car lineup, they chose to run the Volvo-D3 platform for their premium sedan and crossover offerings.  This platform is an evolutionary dead end…for now.  But could you imagine if Ford came out with a “foxtrot” lineup?  Can you imagine the sweetness of a 5.0L coyote powered Ford Flex or Lincoln MKS?

The Cologne V6 in your Mustang also has a well-documented wiki page, and Pirelli tires were indeed standard equipment: not so surprisingly, the timing of the Ford-Pirelli deal was soon after the Firestone tire debacle.  I haven’t seen the rubber on the new Mustangs, but many new Fords roll on Hankook donuts.  Not that I put much faith in a tire’s brand name, but some brands go for more green…and sometimes damage control is very important. More to the point, lucky you: you got yourself some fancy eye-talian tires, man!

The rest of your questions are good fodder for the B&B. If they don’t answer ‘em all, owner’s manuals are rather cheap on eBay.  If you have a manual but didn’t read it, well, shame on you and RTFM!

One last thing, if you feel the Mustang doesn’t have the balls of your old Firebird, remember that V6 Mustangs (except the latest model with the performance pack) are tuned for softness in throttle response, power delivery and overall suspension mushiness.  That whole “Mustangs are secretary’s cars” thing from the 1960s never really left.  Luckily, an SCT tune is pretty cheap and easy, people with Mustang GT’s dump their stock sway bars on a regular basis, and shock upgrades are plentiful. If you really care.

Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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Review: 2011 Chrysler 200 Mon, 04 Apr 2011 21:02:41 +0000
I wasn’t planning to review the Chrysler 200. Renaming a lightly revised car to escape a well-deserved bad reputation always strikes me as a lame tactic. And the Sebring, on which the 200 is based, was so far off in so many ways that I didn’t see the point. We don’t just review cars to trash them around here. But then I drove the revised minivan, and was very pleasantly surprised. Perhaps Chrysler had similarly transformed the Sebring when creating the 200? With a Buick Regal for the week, and a need for some reference points, the time had come to find out.

Working with limited funds and even more limited time, Chrysler couldn’t change the sheetmetal. So the 200’s proportions are every bit as frumpy as the Sebring’s were. Given this constraint, the improvements wrought with new wheels, light assemblies, fascias, and upscale trim are admirable. Just not sufficient (though the rear three-quarters view isn’t bad). Dark colors like the metallic black on the tested car do at least de-emphasize the odd C-pillar. Granted, the Camry, Accord, and Fusion are hardly beauties, but their proportions (which my eye tends to focus on) are less ungainly. The Regal is much more handsome (as is the Chevrolet Malibu).

Chrysler was able to more substantially revise the Sebring’s interior, and the 200’s is more attractive than those in the Camry, Accord, and Fusion. The sedan’s cleanly-styled instrument panel, many padded surfaces, and classy piano black trim with chrome highlights suggest that it should be considered a premium car. But upon closer inspection the upscale appearance seems skin deep and concentrated in the instrument panel. The door panels are extensively padded but their armrests, which give a bit when employed to pull the door closed, feel as well as appear tacked on.

The minor controls are very similar to those in the Sebring and don’t look or feel like those in a premium car. There are good reasons why the Regal costs about $4,000 more (though the Suzuki Kizashi comes close to the Regal while being priced about $1,000 above the 200). The materials in major direct competitors tend to be cheaper, and look it, but they are assembled at least as well. The Hyundai Sonata might pose the largest challenge by combining style with above-average materials and workmanship.

The Chrysler 200’s minimally bolstered seats, though certainly more comfortable than the Sebring’s hard slabs, recall domestic iron from years past. Though the buckets are soft, you still sit on them rather than in them. The thick A-pillars, tall instrument panel, and overly distant windshield conspire with these seats to thwart any meaningful connection with the car. The side windows are more expansive, but this largely serves to highlight that the view forward is not. In back there’s a healthy amount of legroom, but as in the Sebring (and many competitors) the cushion isn’t high enough off the floor to provide thigh support.

With 283 horsepower at 6,400 RPM and 260 foot-pounds at 4,400 RPM, the all-new 3.6-liter DOHC V6 out-specs all others in the segment. Hitched to Chrysler’s homegrown six-speed automatic (neither the smoothest nor the smartest) it moves the car quickly and sounds good in the process while earning EPA ratings of 19 / 29. But the chassis isn’t a match for the V6’s power. There’s some torque steer under hard acceleration, but the real problem is posed by curves. In casual driving the 200 feels okay, but even a moderately aggressive turn of the steering wheel uncovers a fair amount of lean, early onset understeer, and insufficient damping. The harder you push the 200 the sloppier both the suspension and the steering feel. Some cars ask to be driven aggressively. Others are up to the challenge, though they don’t ask for it. The 200 isn’t up to the challenge. Some Toyotas suffer from a similar powertrain-chassis mismatch, but this doesn’t make it right. The Regal has the opposite problem: well-tuned chassis, merely adequate engine. On a curvy road this is the better problem to have.

In his Chrysler Town & Country review, Jack Baruth noted that he was easily able to keep up with a 200 driven by another journalist. No doubt the other journalist lacked Jack’s mad driving skillz, but it also happens that the minivan steers and handles much better than the sedan. My earlier suspicion that Chrysler cribbed from VW’s work for the Routan? Consider it intensified.

The 200 does ride better than it handles, and better than the Sebring. For people who drive like grandmas (perhaps because they are grandmas) its chassis limitations won’t be much of an issue. The car doesn’t seem as slick and eerily silent at low speeds as a Toyota, but it’s smoother and quieter than an Accord or Fusion. Here as well the Sonata poses a tough challenge. Some competitors handle better, others ride better, but the Sonata Limited’s balance between the two might be the best among the segment’s major players. Unfortunately, none are outstanding driver’s cars.

One thing the Chrysler 200 definitely has going for it: a low price. With the V6, leather, sunroof (not on the tested car), nav, and premium audio it lists for $28,505. A comparably equipped Toyota Camry XLE lists for $3,700 more, and adjusting for remaining feature differences using TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool narrows the gap by only about $300. A loaded Ford Fusion Sport is about $2,500 more even after a $1,600 adjustment in its favor for a power passenger seat, SYNC, a rearview monitor, and various other safety features not available on the Chrysler. Even a Sonata Limited 2.0T with nav is about $1,600 more.

Its strong new V6 notwithstanding, the Chrysler 200 isn’t remotely a driver’s car. Unlike the revised minivans, the revised sedan doesn’t contain any pleasant surprises. The bits you see, most notably the much-improved interior styling, are as good as it gets. The 200’s refinement, solidity, and chassis tuning mark it as, at best, an average member of the mainstream midsize sedan class rather than the next one up. To their credit, Sergio’s bunch aren’t deluding themselves about how much they were able to achieve. An all-new Fiat-based midsize sedan is only a couple of years away. In the meantime, they’ve priced the 200 substantially lower than its major competitors, making it a good value for those who don’t mind its exterior styling and who aren’t aiming to carve any corners.

Brad Marshall of Suburban Chrysler in Novi, MI, provided the car. Brad can be reached at 248-427-7721.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data.

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Book Review: Sports Car Racing In Camera, 1950-59 by Paul Parker Thu, 10 Feb 2011 15:00:12 +0000
A proper coffee-table car book ought to be heavy on the grainy action photos, light on the words, and include photographs of Škoda 1101 Sports and Renault 4CVs at Le Mans. Sports Car Racing In Camera, 1950-59 qualifies for inclusion in even the most crowded coffee-table real estate.

Normally, I give review copies away after I’m done with them, lest I run out of shelf space for my collection of Nixon biographies and Emile Zola novels, but this one is a keeper. In fact, this shot of Ak Miller from the 1954 Carrera Panamericana is going to be sliced out, framed, and hung on my office wall.

The book is broken down by year, with a chapter for each year of the 1950s and a breakdown of teams, drivers, and results for each year. Unsurprisingly, most of the photographs were shot at European events, though we do get a few from Sebring and other New World events. Here’s Jack Fairman behind the wheel of an XK120 at Dundrod in 1951.

Porfirio Rubirosa digging his car out of a ditch!

Those who enjoy drooling over photos of 1950s Ferraris and Maseratis will find their Italian car-porn needs amply satisfied with this book; there’s even something for the Osca aficionados.

This is a Haynes book, written by a Brit for the British market, which means that some of the photo captions contain near-disturbing levels of attention to detail. You’ll also get some double-take-inducing Anglocryptic turns of phrase, e.g., “…their dominance was interrupted by Jean Behra’s Gordini biffing Tony Rolt’s D Type up the bum at Thillois on lap 21.” Biffing up the bum! No matter— I’ll take this over the “Go Dog Go” style I slog through in some of the drag-racing books I won’t be reviewing.

This fine book earns a Four Rod Rating (out of a possible OM615-grade five). Murilee says check it out!

Sports Car Racing In Camera, 1950-59 by Paul Parker
SCRIC-14 9781844255528 SCRIC-01 SCRIC-02 SCRIC-03 SCRIC-04 SCRIC-05 SCRIC-06 SCRIC-07 SCRIC-08 SCRIC-09 SCRIC-10 SCRIC-11 SCRIC-12 SCRIC-13 Rating-4ConRods-200px Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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What’s Wrong With This Picture: The Sebring Connection Edition Fri, 12 Nov 2010 18:08:36 +0000

Now that Chrysler has released full side-on images of its new “200″ sedan, its Sebring heritage is plain to see. But will a new name, a new V6, improved handling and a new interior be enough to get D-segment shoppers to forget the Sebring’s ignominy and head back to Chrysler showrooms?

chrysler2001 Now I see it... chrysler200 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 46
What’s Wrong With This Picture: The Sebring Is Dead Edition Tue, 12 Oct 2010 16:44:08 +0000

Chrysler has taken advantage of the kerfluffle over GM’s Volt to release the first full images of its most important car to date: the Chrysler 200, or the artist formerly known as the Sebring. As with the Volt, we’re not entirely convinced it’s as revolutionary as Chrysler’s making it out to be, but we’ll obviously wait for a test drive to reach a definitive conclusion. Meanwhile, the 200′s design has more than a few hints of Sebring about it (and that’s without a proper side-on view), although the overall effect is of a much-cleaned-up car. It’s not distinctive in a way that’s going to instantly win over skeptics, and Chrysler’s midsize sales probably won’t improve until reliability and resale data shows real signs of improving, but the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Given what Chrysler was working with, namely the least competitive car in its segment, this 200 is shaping out quite nicely as a first, tentative step towards viability.

2011 Chrysler 200 sedan 2011 Chrysler 200 sedan 2011 Chrysler 200 sedan 2011 Chrysler 200 sedan 2011 Chrysler 200 sedan 2011 Chrysler 200 sedan 2011 Chrysler 200 sedan 2011 Chrysler 200 sedan 2011 Chrysler 200 sedan 2011 Chrysler 200 sedan 2011 Chrysler 200 sedan 2011 Chrysler 200 sedan ]]> 80
The Sebring Resurrection. In China Fri, 10 Sep 2010 12:23:37 +0000

I had a beer and a pizza yesterday night with Ash Sutcliffe of China Car Times (us expat car bloggers need to stick together) and he swore on a stack of bibles that he had seen the resurrection of the  Chrysler Sebring over at Beijing Auto. But it won’t be a Sebring.

It will be a T8, being sold under one of BAIC’s brands.  BAIC had built the previous gen Sebring to ho-hum success. When all fell apart between BAIC and Chrysler, they had a plant and tools on their hands, and they are making the best of it.

The launch of the T8 appears to be pretty much imminent.

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What’s Wrong With This Picture: Sebring Improved In China? Edition Tue, 11 May 2010 19:50:14 +0000

We’ve mentioned that Beijing Auto (BAIC) showed a Saab 9-3 rebadge at the Beijing Auto Show, but we have thus far failed to highlight another re-style of a Western also-ran by the Chinese automaker. This C70 sedan is ostensibly an electric vehicle prototype, but under the skin it’s all Chrysler Sebring. BAIC built the unloved sedan for several years in China, and numerous reports indicate that this prototype has several Sebring attributes, including that rear door cutline and the transmission. Some have even gone as far as to suggest that the C70 somehow previews the look for the new Sebring-replacing Nassau, but that’s not likely. Still, it gives you an idea of what could be done with the Sebring… even by a relatively new Chinese firm.

BAIC C60 (formerly Saab 9-3) baicc70 baicc701 Oh say can you Sebring? Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 19
Out With The Sebring, In With The… Nassau? Thu, 29 Apr 2010 14:14:06 +0000

Chrysler won’t officially confirm it, but the Detroit Free Press cites Chrysler dealers who say that the tarnished-to-death Sebring nameplate will be replaced with the name “Nassau,” when Chrysler brings out a Fiat-facelifted version of the midsized sedan later this year. The Nassau name first entered Mopar history with the 1955 Windsor Nassau, a a two-door coupe advertised as having “the 100 million dollar look.” After a mere two model years as the Windsor Coupe nameplate, the Nassau name lay dormant for decades before returning as a 2000 styling buck for the Chrysler 300, and again as a midsized sedan/wagon concept in 2007.

Jim Hall of 2953 Analytics tells the Freep that although the updated Sebring won’t look like the Nassau concept,

Chrysler bought the Nassau name when they came out with the concept, so it makes sense they would use it

But what’s in a name? Although the Freep says the Nassau’s interiors are “completely new,” it only says exterior styling will be “substantially different.” And since the Nassau is merely an update to one of the worst cars in America, will the nameplate die when an all-new, Fiat-developed midsized sedan arrives in 2013? If Chrysler’s history is anything to go on, the name certainly appears to be little more than a placeholder. 2007 Chrysler Nassau Concept 2007 Chrysler Nassau Concept 55chryslerwindsorcoupe chryslernassaufront nassau2000concept Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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New New Chrysler Buys Sterling Heights Plant From Old New Chrysler Fri, 19 Feb 2010 18:59:56 +0000
Chrysler Group LLC has some serious faith in its planned Sebring “intervention,” as it has purchased the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant back from the estate of its bankrupt predecessor for $20m. According to the Detroit News, the move was necessary to secure $8.2m in local tax abatements, and as a result, the Sebring and Avenger will continue to be built there until 2012. But, warn ChryCo spokesfolks, “There is no commitment on the future of SHAP beyond 2012,” when the refreshed Sebring will finally be replaced by a new midsize sedan based on a Fiat platform.

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Marchionne Confirms The Death Of The Sebring Wed, 17 Feb 2010 22:43:46 +0000

Well, the death of the Sebring name anyway. The Detroit Free Press reveals some of the first details about Chrysler’s all-important refresh of the Sebring/Avenger, a vehicle that CEO Sergio Marchionne recently admitted (in what was surely a Lutzie-award-worthy understatement) is “not the most loved car by car enthusiasts.” The biggest detail: it won’t be named Sebring. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, considering that the Sebring’s issues are less related to a tepid reaction from the enthusiast market, and have more to do with the fact that even the least car-literate Americans recognize the Sebring name as a symbol for all that is wrong with America’s auto industry.

Marchionne reveals:

We’ve rolled up our sleeves and have torn apart that architecture. You’ll see a completely different animal. We’re having a discussion about what name this animal should have. The jury is still out.

And though the Freep notes that “tearing apart the architecture” (a technical term) can yield results in terms of ride and handling, it frets that Chrysler may be somewhat limited in the changes it can make to the Sebring and Avenger. Certainly styling (another problem area for the Sebring) can only be tweaked so much in a year (Chrysler’s latest product plan reportedly dates back to early last summer), and the only possible powertrain “intervention” hinted at by Marchionne is the introduction of Fiat’s “MultiAir” valve timing technology to the 2.4 liter GEM engine. That might improve efficiency by as much as ten percent, but the possibility of integrating it by the end of the year is far from certain.

Ride and handling are by far the Sebring’s worst dynamic elements, and there’s little doubt that a year of fettling by Fiat’s engineers will improve the car in this respect. The Caliber’s new interior lights the way out of Fisher-Price territory for the Avengbring’s passenger space, but will only carry it as far as the land of unremarkable adequacy. Meanwhile, there are brakes, seats, and build quality in need of attention.

But frankly, the most important aspect of the Sebring refresh, especially in light of the planned name change, will be changes to the car’s styling.  Removing the hideous hood strakes has already been tried, and hasn’t made much of a difference. The Sebring is such a fundamentally ugly car that it will take more than minor revisions to remove all memory of the hot, fussy mess that Chrysler fields in a segment that requires nothing more than anonymous styling. The biggest mistake that Chrysler could make with its “intervention” would be to change the Sebring’s name while retaining clearly identifiable visual cues from the old car. The Sebring is infamous enough (and not just with enthusiasts) that visual reminders of the old, bad car will eliminate any advantages of the overhaul’s improvements, as consumers have seen past the cynical name-change-game before. How Chrysler will achieve this on its one year timeline remains one of the biggest open questions in the car business today.

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The Product Development Pause That Refreshes Thu, 11 Feb 2010 21:17:59 +0000

Fiat/Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne was supposed to give a speech in conjunction with the Chicago Auto Show today, but backed out at the last minute, sending Dodge honcho Ralph Gilles in his place. The Chicago Sun Times was able to snag an interview with the globetrotting CEO though, and it features some of Sergio’s more candid (if confusing) comments on the state of new product development at the New New Chrysler. Of particular interest is his very apt criticism of Cerberus’s mismanagement of new product development, specifically the decision to replace the 300 before the Sebring.

The biggest market segments in the United States are the C [midsize cars] and D [large luxury vehicles] segments. If you only have a dollar to spend that’s where you go spend it, especially if you’ve got products that are structurally not working.

The decision was made to invest elsewhere. So we developed a brand-new platform for the 300, a decision that took capital that may have been required elsewhere to go play in a different sandbox. Until you’re clear about where you need the money, where the money needs to be spent to ensure longterm survival – that part of it was substantially missing.

We’ve done all the reallocation. The 300 we have now. We’re going to launch it. God bless it. It’s a brand-new car. But we’re taking a lot more care now about developing the C and D architecture because that’s the future of the house….

We recognize the problems of the Sebring. We know that it’s not the most loved car by car enthusiasts. Until we actually deliver the new architecture, which is going to be this year, and effectively re-launch our D-segment presence, it’s going to be a difficult year. … The second half is going to benefit from all the product launches. … I gotta be able to get to next Christmas. When we went to bankruptcy, it’s not as if the bankruptcy judge gave us 13 new architectures and six new models. He didn’t. He gave us what the old car company had.

When asked what Fiat contributed to the new Sebring, things got a little more confusing:

The only thing we’re delivering to Chrysler is the basic platform. Everything from that point on, once we deliver it, is up to Chrysler. Having said this, it’s not an inconsequential amount of knowledge that’s being transferred. Without it, you can’t build the car. Once we have the architecture in house, then we can start peeling off the nameplates. The architecture is interesting because it’s capable of doing both the C and D segments. So it’s versatile and it will allow us to effectively cover half the American market.

At this point, the Sun Times’ Kirk Bell cuts in with:

[Author’s note: While the previous two answers could be read to indicate that the Sebring due later this year is all new, that is not the case. A heavily revised version of the existing Sebring will come this year and an all-new car based on a Fiat platform is scheduled for 2013. The architecture for that later model is being delivered to Chrysler engineers this year to begin developing the car due in 2013.]

And these refreshed products are where the big questions lie. Ever since Chrysler’s five year plan announcement, we’ve been hearing about these “heavily revised” products and how heavily revised they will be. On this point, Marchionne has only the same old hype.

The first half of 2010 is going to be more difficult than the second, simply because the product offering doesn’t start delivering until the second half. The first real viable, tangible evidence of this is going to be the Grand Cherokee in [quarter two], which is brand new. Then we’re going to see the Wrangler coming out with a significant update. I think there are 14 other interventions, most of which are significant enough to warrant almost a new product launch – that will come out in [quarter three] or [quarter four] this year.

This is where the Kool Aid detectors start going off. If there are really 14 new-product-launch-worthy “interventions” by the end of next year, but they weren’t planned until last Summer, how thorough can they really be? Think about it: 14 “significant” product overhauls in (conservatively) 18 months. Methinks Sergio has a different standard for what “warrants almost a new product launch.” Meanwhile, don’t expect any more evidence one way or the other, because Chrysler has taken this opportunity to make a cheap stand on “principle.”

Who does Chrysler think it’s currying favor with by not-so-subtly ribbing GM for its overhyping tendencies? As much flack as GM has received (on this site and elsewhere) for relentlessly hyping vehicles for years before they go on sale, Chrysler’s “trust us” act isn’t any more inspiring for the simple reason that their underlying problem is the same as GM’s: unpopular and uncompetitive products for sale right now in key segments. The difference is that GM has shown signs of real product improvement, whereas Chrysler simply has not. Moreover, if Chrysler wants its 14 refresh roll-outs to be noticed by consumers, it’s going to have to do more than roll all of them out in one frantic six-month period.

Let’s face it: Chrysler needs buzz, hype, awareness, some kind of excitement surrounding its future generally and its forthcoming products in specific (if only in the irritating “teaser” format) almost as much as it needs anything else. Because as things stand right now,the baseline perception of Chrysler is of a dying company with nothing to offer. In this light, Chrysler’s principled rejection of hype is far more likely to be interpreted as keeping rushed semi-refreshes under wraps so they won’t be mocked to death by the time they go on sale. If that’s not the case, Chrysler has nothing to lose and everything to gain by building consumer awareness of new products. If it is, well, the truth will out sooner or later.

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A Note From The Editor On Our Most Recent Review Wed, 03 Feb 2010 14:28:38 +0000

Today’s review of the Fiat Bravo is more than just a unique look at a European-market vehicle that will never be sold in the United States: it’s an(other) early look at the future of Chrysler. Sergio Marchionne has called the C and D segments “critical” for US-market success, and the C-Evo platform that lies beneath the Fiat Bravo tested today, will form the basis for planned 2012 replacements to the Caliber and PT Cruiser and possibly the re-launched Sebring and Avenger (reportedly in stretched form). Indeed, the Lancia-trimmed version, known as the Delta, was shown at the Detroit Auto Show in Chrysler-brand drag, apparently to prove how easy these rebadges will be. As cynical as this might seem, Mr Bronfer’s relatively positive review leaves little doubt that Fiat’s got more to offer the C and D segments than the aging, neglected Mitsubishi platform that currently underpins Chrysler’s offerings in these classes. In that sense, this is some of the most positive news we’ve heard about Chrysler’s future in a while.

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Alfa Romeo Strategic Review Ordered: Chrysler-Based Models In The Works? Tue, 01 Dec 2009 17:24:46 +0000 Mama Mia! (courtesy:wikimedia)

Automotive News Europe [sub] reports that Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne has ordered a strategic review of the Alfa Romeo brand, citing declining sales and mounting losses. Alfa’s sales have fallen from 203,000 units in 2000 to 103,000 last year, and the brand has lost between €200m and €400m in each of the last ten years. According to Marchionne, Fiat’s sporty brand has undergone too many reinventions. “You cannot be a newborn Christian every four years,” he explains. “It’s the same religion, eventually you need to own a religion and carry it to conclusion.” The recent delay of the 147 replacement due to name-related issues was merely the latest trouble for the Alfa brand, which has struggled with aging products and underinvestment. According to Marchionne, Alfa faces two possible futures: retirement or rebirth… on Chrysler platforms?

The retirement scenario is basic enough. ANE [sub] explains that it involves

Freezing investment in the brand after the 147 hatchback is replaced by the Giulietta. This means that the 166 will not be replaced, leaving the brand with the Giulietta and the MiTo, Alfa’s first small car, as its only fresh models. The rest of the Alfa range — the 159, the Brera coupe, the Spider and the GT coupe will continue to be sold.

Presumably such a freeze would be followed either by a slow wind-down of the brand, or a post-economic-recovery revival. With Chrysler’s fate looming as a giant question mark over Fiat’s future, a comprehensive investment in Alfa would likely be delayed until Chrysler shows signs of serious recovery. And as depressing as that scenario is, the scenario where Alfa survives is almost more frightening.

Two of Alfa’s oldest models, the 159 and 166 sedans desperately need replacing (the latter was discontinued in 2007). And according to Marchionne, Fiat might just stoop to basing their successor models on Chrysler’s Sebring and LX platforms. “Certainly the availability of D and E segment (platforms) in the United States which are capable of being Alfa Romeoized is there,” says Sergio. “We need to look at the economics of that opportunity.”

Now before, the howls hit a fevered pitch at the idea of a Sebring-based Alfa, remember that Chrysler’s mid-sized sedan is being extensively re-worked by Fiat’s engineers this year. So, in theory anyway, a future Sebringetta might not be quite as bad as, say, the current Sebring. And an LX-based 166 replacement would be Alfa’s first rear-wheel-drive sedan in decades. And in any case, there are no plans to sell any Alfa models in the US, a point that Marchionne was crystal clear about when asked at Chrysler’s five-year plan presentation. And at least Marchionne realizes that “the heritage of the Alfa and Dodge brands is completely different, the DNA is completely different. We would lose a lot of the appeal of Alfa Romeo if we try to Americanize it through a merger with Dodge.”

But now that we’ve equivocated excessively, feel free to rage against the very notion of a storied enthusiast brand sinking to the level of re-working Chrysler products.

Madness? This is Fiatsler!

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