• Mar 23, 2011
An Improved Droptop For The Cruise Ship Crowd

2011 Chrysler 200 Convertible - Click above for high-res image gallery

The previous-generation Chrysler Sebring Convertible was a mainstay of vacation-destination rental fleets. The cars were so numerous that you could pick them out from your airplane flying into Orlando, Miami and Los Angeles.

The old Sebring seemed just about perfect in this role. It was fine for a couple days of fun in the sun, but you never shed a tear when dropping off its keys back at the rental counter. When we arrived at the launch of the new Chrysler 200 Convertible in San Diego, we wondered whether the Sebring's successor would be better enough for us to want to hold onto the keys after our test drive was over.

Continue reading First Drive: 2011 Chrysler 200 Convertible...

Photos copyright ©2011 Chris Shunk / AOL

Unlike the 2011 Chrysler 300, which largely resembles the 2010 model but is actually an all-new vehicle, the Chrysler 200 Convertible is not all new. It's what insiders call a heavy refresh. Our own Zack Bowman recently detailed the 200 Sedan's improvements, nearly all of which the droptop shares, inside and out.

Highlights of the Sebring renovation include all-new sheetmetal and handsome chrome accents flying behind Chrysler's new winged logo. The 200's new LED daytime running lights look good, as do the LED taillamps.

2011 Chrysler 200 Convertible side view2011 Chrysler 200 Convertible front view2011 Chrysler 200 Convertible rear view

More significant than the exterior modifications are changes inside, where money has been thrown at everything customers see and touch. The new dash topper is nearly seamless and soft to the touch, the same for which can be said of the door panels.

Unfortunately, there wasn't enough money to update the audio head unit. Its small knobs and comparatively rudimentary interface is well behind the curve. The same goes for the Mercedes-Benz-owns-Chrysler-era gated shifter. Some years ago, we can imagine German managers pressuring Chrysler to use the design that was once the standard of the Three-Pointed Star. While you get used to it, its action leaves a little to be desired.

2011 Chrysler 200 Convertible interior2011 Chrysler 200 Convertible instrument panel2011 Chrysler 200 Convertible gauges2011 Chrysler 200 Convertible door panel

One of the available engines for the reworked 200 is the new 3.6-liter Pentastar V6. This optional engine and the carryover 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder base engine both send power to the front wheels via a modern six-speed automatic. Power for the V6 is 283 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque with fuel economy of 19 miles per gallon in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. The 2.4-liter produces 173 ponies and 166 lb-ft twist, but somehow manages to deliver inferior fuel economy compared to the V6 at 18/29 mpg.

The chassis has also benefited from some attention. For 2011, 22 of the 200 Convertible's 28 suspension bushings have been changed, as have elements of the suspension's geometry. The track is an inch wider, ride height has been lowered (12mm in front and six mm in the rear), and tire width has been increased from 215 to 225 mm, regardless of tire diameter.

2011 Chrysler 200 Convertible engine

Behind the wheel of our optioned-out ($34,570), V6-powered 200 Limited tester, we took the car on San Diego's inland roads and out to some sporting mountain passes.

As in the sedan, the 200 Convertible's Pentastar engine delivers more than ample power. In its own way, the 200 C hustles along, making short work of traffic and freeway on ramps. The V6 has a nice exhaust note when pushed, but is otherwise quiet. In normal driving, the entire powertrain is smooth and unobtrusive.

When curvy roads beckon, however, the powertrain doesn't have the chops to keep pace. At times, the throttle feels lazy and the six-speed automatic can be slow to downshift.

2011 Chrysler 200 Convertible headlight2011 Chrysler 200 Convertible wheel detail2011 Chrysler 200 Convertible roof2011 Chrysler 200 Convertible taillight

Regardless of the roads, it was easy to feel the changes made to the chassis. The suspension responds immediately to inputs. The wider tires bite tenaciously and the 200 tracks true. Unfortunately, while the hydraulic rack-and-pinion steering is nicely weighted, it communicates absolutely nothing about the road surface or what the tires are doing. The steering wheel might as well be a rheostat.

Since Chrysler engineers were working to improve what they had, as opposed to starting from scratch, the 200 Convertible's body structure simply isn't as stiff as some newer convertibles we've driven. When the top was down, there were minor vibrations coming through the steering column. Big bumps made the aft sections of the long doors move against their strikers. Nothing rattled, but those telltale motions don't bode well for a rattle-free long-term ownership experience.

Top down, the front seats could have been marked a buffet-free zone. Conversation at highway speeds was easy compared to many open-air rides. Our car was also fitted with a folding wind-blocker, a Mopar accessory. In the raised position, it cut the wind buffeting to almost nothing, and with the insulated hard-top in place, the interior was fixed-roof quiet.

2011 Chrysler 200 Convertible rear 3/4 view

To provide a relevant point of comparison, the 200 Convertible feels nothing like the 2011 Ford Mustang Convertible with the Blue Oval's 3.7-liter V6, what could be considered one of the 200's closest competitors – at least in some strange, cross-shopping world that we hope to never exist in. The 200 Convertible obviously lacks the Mustang's inherent rear-wheel-drive balance and sportiness. Plus, the Mustang has more than 20 additional horsepower and an available six-speed manual gearbox. The 200 Convertible counters with more room in the rear seat and a suppler ride.

While Chrysler presented the 2011 200 Convertible as being a much better driving car – and it is – it's not a driver's car. Not by any means. And that's no surprise. In any of its three trim levels (Touring, Limited, and upcoming S model), it's a car for cruisers as epitomized by the stereotypical mid-line cruise ship patron; middle-age and middle-income, without any particularly stellar automotive ambitions or requirements.

The automotive market is a diverse community, and the new 200 Convertible, starting at just over $25,000, should serve its target audience well, including rental fleet managers who might notice that their customers are slightly less enthusiastic about returning the keys.

Photos copyright ©2011 Chris Shunk / AOL

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 3 Years Ago
      Not bad for a placeholder, but they better hurry up with the all new 200.
      • 3 Years Ago
      "it's a car for cruisers ... middle-age and middle-income, without any particularly stellar automotive ambitions or requirements"

      LOL...the redesign will have to make a new name for itself because right now this car (even with the new V6) is for rental fleats, women, and gay men
        • 3 Years Ago
        I was just pointing out a funny line from the review...on a blog like this where most readers are enthusiast that have "stellar automotive ambitions or requirements" I thought most readers would get a kick out of the authors discription...and i was only describing the demographic the author is pointing out.

        ...no offense intended for rental fleets, women and gay men
        • 3 Years Ago
        It's too bad that misogynistic & homophobic comments like this are de-riguer on automobile-related blogs...

        ...not all of us here are str8 white males.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Just because offense isn't intended (Riiiiight...) doesn't mean your statement isn't offensive.

        There are a whole lot of us gay car enthusiasts out here...
        ...and a great many of us have more to spend on cars than our str8 counterparts since most of us are don't have kids to raise - so you're only kidding yourself when you think gay men are the target market for this: We can tell garbage from the good stuff, we can afford better, and we buy better.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Some people just want a comfy car. I think now that it doesn't have a lego-block interior and some clean sheet metal, it might just hold Chrysler over until the next-gen midsize hits the ground.

      Which begs the question: This refresh probably cost a lot of money. Is it possible Chrysler will sell this off to GAZ as well? Or maybe keep it around for fleet ala Town Car/CrownVic/Chevy's Vue-do-over?

      • 3 Years Ago
      It's better... much better: I don't think many people will deny that. However, it's still not very good. & unless the price difference is significant, there'll be absolutely no reason to opt for the 4 cylinder model.
        • 3 Years Ago
        well, it looks a ton better than a Camry Solara (which I'm not even sure it's for sale any longer
        but that's what this competes against

        I'm thinking those Solara lovers will likely come by the Chrysler store to trade in their old junk for some new junk (though slightly better than their old junk)

        $35k is a lot of coin, but then since this had no real sporty pretensions the 4 cylinder model should be the choice not the V6
      • 3 Years Ago
      I see Chrysler is still trying to recover from the Teutonic plague, but I have to admit the Italian-job makeovers are before-and-after lookers. Can't wait for the next gens to arrive as I'll be in the market in a couple of years.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Owned one for 5 years in blue. Best running fuel effefient vehicle where you can tkes you cares with you adnd by you return home, you forget all about them, Bambi.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Gotta make up my mind, which seat can I take?

      If you are one of the 40 million or so to watch the video, the pre-update Sebring is the car of choice for Ms. Black and her pals.

      With the update, it is a nicer car for the retired golfing set and those who are stuck with it on the rental car lot. When the original car was so underwhelming, its not hard to make improvements.
      • 3 Years Ago
      HUGE improvement to the vehicle with just a few minor changes, this is what it should have been all along. I can't wait to see what the REAL 200 brings to the table.

      If it came down to my money though, I'd take the Mustang convertible. More horsepower, better looks (completely subjective), better drive, and less of a "stigma" of a rental car or old person car. Of course, that is just my opinion and we all know what we say about opinions....

        • 3 Years Ago
        You are too modest. The Mustang's better looks are hardly subjective. They are readily apparent to anyone with working eyes. Even a braille examination of the two cars would demonstrate which one has the more aesthetically pleasing combination of rectilinear and organic lines.

        The Sebring was appallingly homely; though 200 is a significant improvement in fit, finish and design cohesion, let's be honest. Calling the 200 better than the Sebring is a compliment, but somewhat of a dubious one. It does make me optimistic about a clean-sheet redesign, though.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Lets see now , it has a lot more room than a Mustang convertible including a larger back seat that's actually usable by grown adults and it has a hardtop which is always a plus in a convertible , you can steer the damn thing with one finger and it rides as plush as a big Chrysler 300 . I drove a 2011 Charger with that big six & it has all the horsepower that 90% of driver's would require & gets great gas mileage & the engine has duals and sounds GREAT . The only problem is that sticker shock price . Rebate about five grand off that $35,000.00 price tag & we might be tempted .
        • 3 Years Ago
        Sticker shock?? A new 2004 Sebring Limited Convertible had a base MSRP nearly the same (in 2004 dollars!) as the 2011 200 Limited Convertible, probably even higher comparably equipped. Granted, inflation-adjusted car prices have been largely flat or even dropping for many years but a comparable 2004 model would've probably stickered for $38,000+ in today's dollars. A $32K starting MSRP for the 2011 Limited seems reasonable.
        • 3 Years Ago
        $30K? Pfff...you know the depreciation on Chryslers will kill you, right? Why not wait two years for one of these turkeys to come off a rental lot and get it for $12K? Might even be cheaper if Chrysler actually does a full redesign on the 200 by then...
        • 3 Years Ago
        @ JIMBO

        The rear seats in the Mustang really aren't THAT bad, and the 200 really isn't that good. They are essentially a wash when it comes to rear seat space, look up the specs for yourself.

        About.com has a picture showing you the rear seat space of the 200 convertible, it isn't good at all.

      • 3 Years Ago
      It should do well with the demographic it's designed for (middle aged single women/elderly gay men) that know or care little about cars.
      • 3 Years Ago
      What a bunch of whores. Nobody likes this car.
      • 3 Years Ago
      These things will remain worthless rental cars until they finally get a proper transmission and three pedals.

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