2009 Chrysler 200C EV Concept Review

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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Published on February 12, 2010

Chrysler needs to get back to the business of building beautiful cars, something it used to do very well. (Photo: Chrysler)

Published on February 12, 2010

Space age interior would be a grand step up from a current Sebring cabin. (Photo: Chrysler)

Published on February 12, 2010

ENVI might now be history, but the technology the program developed is still available to Chrysler. (Photo: Chrysler)

Published on February 12, 2010

The display panel is state-of-the-art technology that would be well received. (Photo: Chrysler)

Published on February 12, 2010

The 200C EV's seats are gorgeous, but probably wouldn't make production. (Photo: Chrysler)

Published on February 12, 2010

Don't get your hopes up. (Photo: Chrysler)

Published on February 12, 2010

Published on February 12, 2010

Published on February 12, 2010

Published on February 12, 2010

Published on February 12, 2010

Published on February 12, 2010

Published on February 12, 2010

Published on February 12, 2010

Published on February 12, 2010

Published on February 12, 2010

Published on February 12, 2010

Published on February 12, 2010

Published on February 12, 2010

Published on February 12, 2010

Published on February 12, 2010

Published on February 12, 2010

Published on February 12, 2010

Published on February 12, 2010

Published on February 12, 2010

Published on February 12, 2010

Published on February 12, 2010

Published on February 12, 2010

Published on February 12, 2010

Published on February 12, 2010

Published on February 12, 2010

Published on February 12, 2010

200C? Was Chrysler messing with our heads? With the now reborn automaker's past CEO Jim Press putting on his best game face despite the openly dour moods of some Chrysler executive staff, out rolled a bevy of well-known Chrysler vehicles augmented with pure-electric drivetrains. This was the work of the Auburn Hills automaker's ENVI division, the play on letters taken from the first four of the word "environment", a Chrysler project that the brand hoped would be the envy of rivals but has now been disbanded in place of individual EV projects headed by each brand.

Chrysler had previously shown three of its ENVI EVs on September 23 of last year, when then-CEO Bob Nardelli showed up to an CNBC interview with a trio of electric vehicles, and later that day at Chrysler's world headquarters to a gathering of automotive journalists, wowing viewers and onlookers and simultaneously giving new hope to Mopar fans and alternatively to critics of the production Chevy Volt who didn't find it as sporty as the concept version shown last year.  The appropriately named Dodge Circuit, simply dubbed EV at that time and painted yellow instead of today's orange, is about as sporty as cars come, having been built off of the backbone of a Lotus, while the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited EV and Chrysler Town & Country EV also received new paint schemes for Detroit, and no doubt some unmentioned upgrades. The Auburn Hills-based automaker showed another electrified Jeep that it hadn't shown before, however, and the zero-emissions Patriot probably would have been its most doable EV yet, if weren't for a wholesale change from the top down that will see compact Fiat models replace the Caliber-based Patriot and Compass. None are for sale, for the time being at least, but the company has big plans. But a 200C?

It didn't take long for the Detroit auto show floor to get swept up in speculation, some of it negative regarding the announcement's lack of any real mainstream product to boost upcoming sales and other talk about just what the 200C represented. Was it the new look of the long anticipated 300C replacement, previously expected to bow at this year's North American International Auto Show, or possibly a rear-drive replacement for the much criticized Sebring? Chrysler staffers on hand denied any connection to the 300C, stating that the 300C is so gorgeous it'll knock our socks off, while another insider made it pretty clear that this indeed was the Sebring in prototype trim. No doubt we'll have to wait for some future show to find out what production relevance that car has, if any, although Chrysler did say that " the concept provides a clear view of what we'll see in a next-generation Chrysler performance sedan," in a press release, so place your bets as to which current model it will replace.

So what is the 200C EV? As the latter half of the name divulges, it's an electric car using the same powertrain already integrated into Chrysler's other show cars. True, but while the aforementioned models may be more readily available than the 200C EV, the stylish four-door sedan gives greater hope for Chrysler having a stronger presence in the critically important midsize car market.

In concept form it's a rear-drive sedan created by shortening the chassis of a current production 300 sedan, and due to its ENVI drivetrain can sprint to 60 mph (100 km/h) in a mere 7 seconds. Although performance was front and centre during its introduction, its powertrain being highlighted, the 200C EV boasts an upscale cabin that would go far to help people forget the current Sebring. It is "free of switches and levers," says Chrysler, "with all vehicle functions and features managed via a panoramic multimedia touch screen, a passenger-dedicated portion of the screen dubbed 'techno-leaf,' and a stowable tablet PC," said Chrysler in a press release.

"The Chrysler 200C EV embodies our passion for problem solving by combining the best of engineering and automotive design," added Ralph Gilles, then Chrysler vice president of design and boss of the revised Dodge brand. "With the 200C EV, we were able to maximize the effectiveness of the ENVI powertrain with the stunning, wind-cheating vehicle shape, while pushing toward the future with the avant-garde interior and advanced in-vehicle connectivity."

A series hybrid rather than merely a full-electric vehicle, the 200C EV can commute up to 40 miles on battery power alone between recharges, and if your daily drive takes you further it can extend to a 400 mile range via a small gasoline engine and on-board electric generator. Volt anyone? As if GM had hopes of hanging onto its "reverse hybrid" idea for long, it looks as if Chrysler at the low end and Fisker at the high end have plans afoot.

A series hybrid is the right idea, at least as far as I'm concerned. As for the 200C EV, it's an attractive car that pulls cues from Chrysler design era that was particularly elegant, specifically the Tom Gale-led group that created such notable concepts as the Atlantic Coupe, Chronos, and the one Chrysler should certainly have built to turn the brand's image around one hundred and eighty degrees, the 300 Hemi convertible, a car that looks most like the 200C EV.

That last point in mind, should Chrysler build the 200C EV? Well now it comes down to a business decision and which Chrysler models currently under development will continue being readied for production, and which models will be replaced by Fiat platforms that are better suited to a given segment. Chrysler's current five-year plan doesn't get too specific about midsize model replacements, although it does say the current Sebring will be replaced by a Fiat model in 2013, so don't look to the 200C EV to take over from this Sebring or its Dodge relative, the Avenger, which gets a major update sometime in 2010. Likewise the 300C will be completely redone before being introduced in 2010 also, along with its Dodge Charger cousin, and the 200C appears too small to replace the full-size Chrysler flagship. Does that leave it a conceptual orphan? Just like the lovely 300 Hemi convertible that inspired some of its lines, it looks like the 200C EV will never see the light of day, but its technology will no doubt find its way into future Chrysler vehicles and, without doubt, Fiat products as well. Just the same, it served as the one bright spot on Chrysler's stage during the 2009 Detroit auto show, a morale booster that might have been more important to Chrysler overall than all of its other concepts combined.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Sedan, EV, Chrysler, 2009,

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