‘Imported from Detroit’ was the buzz when Eminem drove the new Chrysler 300 through the streets of his hometown to the tune of a very well executed ad campaign. Since then, Chrysler’s certainly hit its stride, presenting a new vehicle at every motor show across the country. Most recently the company hit the Detroit motor show halls with the re-envisioned 200.
Far from being a rebadged Sebring, the new car’s design started from a clean sheet, says lead exterior designer Jeff Hammoud. Inspired by American design and architecture, the exterior theme is one of simplicity, underlined by its straight shoulder and bone line running the length of the car. Though it rides on a donor Alfa Romeo platform — which presented some packaging constraints designers had to work through with engineers — Hammoud claims the form vocabulary explored is all-American, something Chrysler hopes will help steal sales away from would-be Toyota Camry buyers.
Though the new 200’s exterior design is far from revolutionary, one must consider the class in which the vehicle sits and the crucial need for Chrysler to capture buyers in that segment. It simply can’t afford to alienate buyers who depend on a vehicle to commute or run errands — a group that Toyota and Honda have faithfully served for the last 20 years with the Camry and Accord.
Where the car really moves the game on however is in the execution of its interior design, led by Chrysler Group’s head of interiors Klaus Busse.
The new interior is without a doubt the frosting at the center of the proverbial cupcake. Buttons and controls for the HVAC have been moved off of the IP and down onto the floating center console, ahead of the rotary gear lever and within easy reach of the driver’s right hand. Attention to detail is also high, as seen on the steering wheel, with its chrome insert all around adding to the perceived quality of the interior. The gauge cluster is nestled in a curvaceous pod, which is surrounded by a beautiful wood inlay, which Busse says was inspired by Charles Eames’ famous chair.
Designers and engineers worked together to reimagine the cabin layout as well, with a storage area beneath the center console and a reconfigurable layout within it. The sliding cupholders reveal two stowage compartments — one at the front with connections for the user’s external devices, and another under the large center armrest. And as Busse reveals, the packaging of the HVAC system — vertically in the center stack — also frees up space and allows for a larger glovebox.
“We’re aware of what we need to be competitive in the D-segment,” says Busse. “But for us it was really about digging much deeper, trying to elevate Chrysler and live up to the promise that we made two years ago with the ‘Imported from Detroit’ campaign.”