The outgoing Chrysler 200 was a rolling catalog of bad decisions: The base V-6 made only 186 horsepower. The transmission was a 4-speed. And the convertible model, in 2007, came standard with a vinyl roof. (Vinyl!) Chrysler doctored it up as best it could, but that car really needed a fresh start.
For 2015, it finally has one. It borrowed a chassis from Alfa Romeo – a benefit of Fiat's takeover – and is available with a V-6 that cranks out 295 horsepower and is hooked to a 9-speed automatic transmission. And it's available with all-wheel drive. Though the 200 starts at only about $22,000, it offers tech that belongs to cars costing far more, including the ability to avoid a collision by autonomously braking to a full stop. Its styling is a huge improvement – if the front end wore an Audi grille, you wouldn't be shocked.
With 2 million midsize sedans sold every year, Chrysler can't afford to field a car that it's only going to pawn off on Hertz, Avis, and sad-sack bargain hunters. The 200 is a serious execution of a mainstream sedan, which is something new for the American companies. If you remember Will Ferrell screaming, "I drive a Dodge Stratus!" on SNL, the joke lay in his character's pride in such an anonymous, disposable machine. With the 200, Chrysler is finally done joking around.