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Test complete video: Chrysler 200 and Dodge Avenger

Consumer Reports News: December 14, 2011 03:38 PM

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Chrysler’s mid-sized sedans--the Chrysler Sebring and its platform-mate, the Dodge Avenger--left them in a bind. The cars were woefully uncompetitive with slow sales as a result. All-new replacements from their then new-found alliance with Fiat were years away. Killing off the Sebring and Avenger would leave a line-up with no sedan smaller than the large Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger. And keeping the mid-sizers on sale unchanged wasn’t much of an option.

So Chrysler did what they could to update this aging platform. The Sebring was rechristened the 200. Interiors were spruced up. Rough exterior styling edges were smoothed over. Handling and ride were tweaked. The two lackluster optional V6s were dropped in favor of the quickly-ubiquitous corporate 3.6-liter V6. To top it all off, add in a Super Bowl ad featuring the 200 that reminded the nation of Detroit’s former glory.

All of that seems like a lot. Problem is, it wasn’t really enough. The 200 and Avenger still languish at the bottom of Consumer Reports’ family sedan ratings for the reasons we detail in this video. Sure, the new 3.6-liter V6 is potent and the interiors are nicer than before, but there are many better choices in this tremendously competitive market segment.

There is hope on the horizon. Our tests of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Dodge Durango, Dodge Charger, and Chrysler 300 show that when Chrysler gets the chance to really redesign a car--not just do a nip here and a tuck there--they can do a pretty good job. Teaser shots of the Dodge Dart are building buzz and hopes for--finally--a competitive modern small sedan from Chrysler.

With all of these positive developments as Chrysler rebuilds its product line-up, hopefully replacements for the 200 and Avenger aren’t far off.

Tom Mutchler

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