Stock-market touts (who prefer to be called "financial advisors") have three key words to characterize any given company's shares, meant to clearly advise their clients: buy, hold, and sell. Our 2013 Ultimate New Car Guide was overly generous in praise for the first Chrysler 200, saying that the transformation of the dismal Sebring was "nothing short of breathtaking." The redesign was definitely welcome, but the 200 was hardly inspirational. Adequate, yes, if you didn't much care about driving. I'd have rated it "sell." Now the greatly revised 200, based on a much more modern Fiat/Alfa Romeo modular platform, is here. Is it better? Definitely. The exterior styling is notably improved and nicely refined, but it is still lacking in excitement. The interior, the part an owner sees most of the time, is not exciting, either, but it is vastly better than anything that has come before from Chrysler, DaimlerChrysler, or Fiat/Chrysler. Too bad photos weren't available for us to share here.
A brief look at two examples last fall, one just a model, the other a drivable but unfinished early prototype, left me with that "nice, but no cigar" feeling that comes from something that just doesn't quite measure up to what it could and should have been. There are almost no bad lines on it. The band across the nose -- including the headlamps, some terrific LED daytime running lamps, and a tiny grille with Chrysler's traditional winged badge -- is excellent. The bottom-feeder, catfish-mouth lower grille, flanked by nicely styled foglamps, is executed well, with a chrome band over the top, but it's also a bit sad. A smile on the face can be overdone, as Mazda has shown, but something not quite so much like a Japanese theatrical mask would have been welcome.
There's not too much "let's copy BMW" about the car, although there is the obligatory Hofmeister bend in the nicely profiled side-glass trim, but the ensemble falls apart at the rear end. The top of the backlight is curved, in keeping with the roof's transverse section, but the built-in spoiler is arced up in a much fatter curve, one that contrasts unpleasantly with the horizontal surface change running between the good-looking but still rather banal taillights. And then the lines change again, with the bottom of the deck lid sagging down while the "diffuser" below curves upward again. If you plotted a dead rear view, all of those basically horizontal lines are simply not in harmony. The side treatment is only OK; the indentation on the rear fender, deriving from a hard line through the door handles, looks entirely too much like the lines on a Maybach. And we all know how that turned out.
To quote our appreciation of the outgoing 200: "Is the 200 automotive perfection? Clearly it isn't." But this one has come a very long way toward that goal. Let's hope that's far enough for now.
FRONT 3/4 VIEW
1 Obligatory BMW reference shows up on all sorts of wannabe designs. Doesn't help, doesn't hurt. And it is a good line.
2 Side-glass profile is simple, elegant, and unobjectionable. And rather unnoticeable, too.
3 Creases in hood are much simplified from the dreadful Crossfire of a decade back. More like a BMW 3-series, in fact.
4 The most original, and most successful, part of the design is the artful integration of lamps and upper grille, actually quite a lot better than the current BMW solution.
5 This subtle crease across the nose is very nicely done, as well, fading as it intersects the side-treatment ridge along the fender.
6 Well-executed trim piece underlines corner lamps and loops up over the downturned mouth of the main cooling inlet below the bumper strike face.
7 Unnecessary goiter on the side is all the rage among stylists now but really adds nothing desirable visually as it completes the indented side treatment.
8 Sharp-edged detail continues softly behind the wheel opening. It complicates the sideview composition to little positive effect.
9 It shows a lot of courage to let the fuel door incorporate concave and convex surfaces as well as a hard line that must align perfectly.
REAR 3/4 VIEW
10 Spoiler line is too roundly curved. Kink above lamps could have been sharper, line flatter to good effect.
11 Upper edge of backlight defines roof's transverse section, doesn't correspond with other transverse lines below it.
12 Hardly original, it's still very nice to see side-marker lamps set into a flat band around the wheel openings.
13 A fairly full sheetmetal radius extends the fender-highlight line into the taillight transparency, making the car look usefully -- in the styling sense -- longer.
14 The side-indent profile line is cleanly drawn but unfortunately evokes less-than-successful predecessors.
15 Bright amber line within the rear lamp clusters is shaped to emphasize the solidly horizontal datum line in the sheetmetal between them, but the composition is inconsistent above and below that reference.
16 Perimeter of lower indentation on the rear rises in the center, pinching the panel between it and the lower deck opening, which sags downward.
17 Reflectors in corners of the rear are well integrated but a bit low for maximum safety.