Chrysler introduced its new and much-needed 2015 200 at the 2014 Detroit auto show (“Performance and Style,” Feb. 3, 2014), trumpeting that to cut new-car development costs, the model has more than its fair share of Fiat/Alfa bits. The Alfa Giulietta, Fiat Viaggio and Dodge Dart share platform pieces under what Chrysler calls its Compact U.S. Wide architecture. You won’t see or touch most of the shared stuff—we’re talking suspension pieces, brakes and the like.

To see how much the new 200 improved (or didn’t improve) over the old model, we added one to our long-term fleet.

How would the new car fare? Would it really be a fresh start, burying Sebring memories? Would it hold up over a year under our heavy right feet?

Some say the 200 is Chrysler’s make-or-break car: Can it crack the midsize juggernaut that is the Honda Accord/Toyota Camry/Ford Fusion

The all-new 2015 Chrysler 200S is the most aerodynamic vehicle in its class, aiding improved fuel economy, on-road dynamics, and reduced noise, vibration and harshness.

Our show coverage said “if we gave a Most Improved award, the 200 would win going away.” Would a year at the helm change our minds?

We ordered a 200S with Vivid Blue Pearl paint; a $30,020 base sticker price; and the standard 295-hp, 262-lb-ft Pentastar 3.6-liter V6, a nine-speed automatic trans and all-wheel­­­­ drive.

Then we went wild with options: Navigation and sound Group I (Harman/ Kardon radio, 7-inch information display, nine Alpine speakers, Uconnect, SiriusXM and more) added $1,495; leather heated and vented sport seats cost $995.

Then we checked the automatic dual-zone temperature-control box and added a backup camera, rear air ducts and remote start for another $895. We finished it off with the $795 premium lighting package, including HID headlamps with LED daytime running lights and LED fog lamps. Grand total? $34,200.

The car arrived at Autoweek HQ looking great. Stylistically, it’s a huge improvement over the outgoing car, more modern and clean looking. 

Some in the office say the design is conservative, but park it next to an old 200 and the improvement is striking—and it’s getting plenty of attention from bystanders remarking on its good looks. The dark, 10-spoke wheels look terrific, too.

Chrysler’s been improving its interiors big time lately. This car shows what the company can do with a clean slate: The 200’s interior is handsome, with better-quality pieces and materials than the old one boasted.

The flying buttress center console, a Volvo staple, looks natural in the 200. Here, it gives the cabin a clear, cockpit-like look.

We wonder if we’ll tire of the rotary shifter over time, but it does free up elbow/forearm space. As a fun little Easter egg, Chrysler embossed the Detroit skyline on the mat underneath the floating bridge, minus General Motors’ Renaissance Center. Ha!

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