NAIAS Preview: Mopar Fiat 500, Chrysler 200 Super S

By Charles Krome

One of the themes of the Chrysler Group rebirth that really hasn’t gotten much attention is the new focus the automaker is putting on Mopar, its “service, parts and customer-care brand.” But it’s been an important part of how the company has stayed afloat and in the news, since one way that Chrysler has made up for its lack of truly all-new vehicles has been by launching special, Mopar-ized editions of its current ones. Thus, we’ve seen the Call of Duty Jeep Wrangler, the Ram Outdoorsman and a very tasty Mopar Challenger all break cover this year and all earn a fair amount of buzz along the way.

And we’re going to see a lot more of this at the coming North American International Auto Show in Detroit, where two new specially kitted-out models will debut: A Mopar-enhnaced Fiat 500 and Chrysler 200 Super S.

The first of these, the 500, gets a strut-tower brace to stiffen things up a bit and then a whole bunch of cosmetic goodies, including:

  • Door-sill guards with the “500” logo
  • Dual racing-stripe decals
  • Katzkin leather interior with “carbon fiber-style” hand brake and shift knob
  • Rear window-mount rack and snowboard carrier
  • Chromed exhaust tip, mirror covers, fuel door and grille surround
  • Black gloss wheels with center caps
  • A “key fob cover”

But one should keep in mind that all these enhancements surely enhance the car’s price, too. The MSRP on the base 500 is expected to be $15,500, so a Mopar version could approach $20K (no pricing was given in the press materials). That’s some serious coin for a car this small, especially considering U.S. buyers’ aversion to paying premium prices in the small-car segments. Also, living in the Detroit area, I’ve started seeing the occasional 500 out and about, and the more I see of the car, the less enamored I am with its basic looks. It’s more of a gut feeling than anything else, but there’s just something about the 500’s relatively bland exterior, especially its front, that says “cheap” to me.

I’ve got a similarly bad feeling about the appearance of the Chrysler 200. Despite the reworked grille and some revised sheet metal, the sedan still looks out of proportion to me. Not “cheap,” and not as likely to scare off mainstream customers as the 500, but definitely out of proportion. It’s as if designers took the front of one sedan and grafted it onto the body and rear of a second, then topped it all off with the greenhouse from a third. And that’s something not even a long list of Mopar mods can hide.

Speaking of which, the spec sheet on the 200 Super S includes:

  • Black and Tungsten paint scheme
  • Revised grille with a black gloss surround and black mesh
  • Fog-light bezel with light bar
  • Brake induction openings
  • Vented hood
  • Lower chin spoiler
  • Decklid spoiler
  • Bigger 19-inch wheels
  • Aero sill cladding
  • Katzkin leather seating
  • Rear valance
  • Bright exhaust tip

In addition, Mopar lowered the ride height by three inches.

Again, there’s not much in the way of “go fast” additions here, but some of that is baked in with the Super S, as it’s built off the foundation of the Chrysler 200 S. What’s that, you ask? For those who missed its debut at the 2010 L.A. auto show, the “S” trim designation is going to be Chrysler’s version of the Dodge R/T business, with the Chrysler 200 S being “loaded with standard features a driving enthusiast appreciates and a distinct style all its own.” 

I haven’t driven a new 200 yet, but its heavily revised suspension and available 283-hp Pentastar V6 have received good reviews, and if you can get by the car’s styling, there should be enough performance to keep a certain set of likely Chrysler customers happy. Combine that with the Mopar Super S upgrades, and the result is a more-than-respectable stop-gap entry that should help the automaker get by until it launches its next-gen mid-size sedan some time in the future.

Author: Charles Krome

Charles Krome is a long-time automotive journalist who spent more than 10 years on the inside at General Motors and Ford, and also has corporate communications experience with Audi, Porsche and BASF Automotive Refinish. As a big motorsports fan growing up in the Detroit area, Krome was lucky enough to be able to attend numerous NASCAR, Indy car, F1 and SCCA events while still in his formative years. This, combined with a childhood that included significant (passenger) seat time in cars from Lotus and Jensen Healey, made him a car guy at an earlier age. Today, he lives in metro Detroit with his car wife, raising car kids.

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