Chrysler has had a history of pulling off some magic over the years, in some instances by coming up with truly breakthrough products such as the original Dodge Caravan and Jeep Grand Cherokee, other times by yanking a rabbit out of a well-worn hat, as it did when it tweaked the tired-upon-arrival Chrysler Sebring and transformed it into the so-so Chrysler 200.
How much of that had to do with the powerful “Imported from Detroit” ad campaign that launched with a 2-minute Super Bowl spot featuring rapper Eminem? Well, that’s for another conversation, but that trick likely wouldn’t work again, and Chrysler knows it — which is why the maker is rushing to get an all-new replacement ready for the 2015 model-year.
We’ve been catching glimpses of “mules” running around for months, but these are the first good images our veteran spy photographer Jim Dunne has been able to capture of the 200 in its own skin – albeit heavily camouflaged. Nonetheless, you only have to squint slightly to get a sense of what’s coming.
The 2015 Chrysler 200 is shaping up to be a much more balanced and modern design than the awkward exterior that had to accommodate the front-drive platform developed during a failed partnership between the old DaimlerChrysler and Mitsubishi Motors.
There’s a somewhat longer-looking overhangs – front to back linked by a curvaceous, coupe-like roofline. The rear door and windows suggest there’ll be reasonable access to the back seat, by the way. The front shot suggests a significantly revised grille with most of the breathing set to be done by a lower intake. LED running lights are likely.
If the images provide a sense of déjà vu that’s for good reason. The new 2015 Chrysler 200 will share the same Compact US Wide architecture that began life as an Alfa Romeo platform and which was then widened and tweaked for the American market. The first application was in the revival of the Dodge Dart barely two years ago.
In fact, don’t be surprised to see some of the nicer details from the Dart, such as its three-dial climate control interface, show up in the next-gen 200, along with a Ram 1500-derived dial shifter and still more elements borrowed from the new Jeep Cherokee.
Chrysler Group CEO Sergio Marchionne has made a point of trying to move the flagship Chrysler brand up-market. He’s also made it clear to his product development teams that the error of badge-engineered, or look-alike, products is over. So, expect to see as much differentiation as possible between the 2015 200 and the Dodge Dart, the former model getting even more refined features and detailing, among other things.
Another reason for moving up-market is the impending arrival of an all-new compact model for the Chrysler line-up, current plans calling for it to be dubbed the 100.
If Chrysler hits the mark it is likely to position the 200 up against such competitors as the Ford Fusion, Volkswagen Passat – and the coupe-like VW CC – the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, and perhaps even some of the new low-end luxury products coming from the likes of Chrysler’s former partner Mercedes-Benz.
As for power, word has it the maker will offer a range of options – Chrysler planners keenly aware that they must avoid the mistakes made during the Dodge Dart launch. That means that while mileage will matter, so will performance, so you won’t see the initial Chrysler 200 mix hit the streets with barely enough power to get out of their own way.
Among the choices buyers will likely get: the ubiquitous 2.4-liter Chrysler Tigershark inline-four making 184 horsepower. But that mileage miser will be balanced out by the new 271-horsepower 3.2-liter Pentastar V-6. Chrysler is expected to make good use of the new 9-speed ZF automatic it is introducing on the new Jeep Cherokee – by then, the gearbox expected to be past the software problems that have been plagusing the Cherokee launch.
In keeping with trends in the market segment, expect to see the front-drive base 2015 Chrysler 200 also get an optional all-wheel-drive package.
One of the questions we haven’t gotten answered is whether the CUSWide platform will also show up again under the skin of a next-gen Dodge Avenger, the current model sharing the old 200’s Mitsubishi-derived architecture. In keeping with his no-badging strategy, many sources believe the Avenger will have to go away, and it was notably absent from recent Dodge product charts, helping spur concerns that the corporate performance brand might itself have a limited future.
(Dodge not going away, its brand boss asserts. Click Here for the full story.)
As for pricing, the current Chrysler 200 starts at just around $23,000, after adding in delivery charges. That’s at the low end of the competitive group and could see a bump upwards when the new model debuts a year from now. Then again, Marchionne’s marketing folks decided to use price as one of the keys to build up demand for the Dodge Dart so, perhaps, they will use a similar strategy when the 2015 Chrysler 200 comes to showrooms.
Photos by Jim Dunne/CAR SPY
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