2015 Chrysler 200SPosted on January 8th, 2015
Midsize sedan with a performance focus
By Nina Russin
Midsize sedans are the workhorses of the passenger car world, not only because they comprise the largest volume of sales: they also serve a wide variety of purposes, from family cars to mobile offices. For 2015, Chrysler introduces an all-new version of its entry: the 200. The newest 200 continues the direction of the model it replaces, moving the brand’s midsize entry upscale from the former Sebring.
Based on the Alfa Romeo Guilietta chassis which it shares with the Dodge Dart compact sedan, the new 200 comes with a choice of two engines, front or all-wheel drive. The brand’s new nine-speed automatic transmission stretches fuel economy to 32 mpg on the highway for the V-6 model tested.
Pricing for the base model starts at $21,700 excluding the $995 destination charge. The test car is the front-wheel drive S model priced from $24,725. Options include leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, dual-zone automatic temperature control, remote start, a premium Harman audio system with navigation, Alpine speakers, high definition radio, Uconnect with 8.4-inch touch screen, high-intensity discharge headlamps with LED daytime running lamps and 19-inch hyper-black alloy wheels.
The V-6 engine is an optional upgrade from the standard 184-horsepower inline four-cylinder block. The larger engine adds about $2000, bringing the final MSRP to $33,185.
Test drive in Arizona
I spent the past week at the wheel of the Chrysler 200S in and around the Phoenix, Arizona metropolitan area. Although weather is rarely a factor in the sunny southwest, a large cold front brought rain and sub-freezing temperatures to the valley. The weather in combination with holiday season traffic provided a serious challenge for the sedan, mimicking conditions in four-season climates.
The Chrysler 200 is not just a pretty face. It is a solid, well-built car with a high level of standard safety features and premium amenities that approach entry luxury products. Although shoppers might not be familiar with the European car the Fiat-sourced Chrysler is based on, they will no doubt be impressed by significant improvements in fit and finish throughout the car as well as the premium interior.
The 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine has become the brand’s go-to block for everything from the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Wrangler to the Ram 1500. It is well balanced and smooth, yet durable. A timing chain in lieu of a belt means buyers don’t need to worry about replacement during the car’s lifecycle.
Although the base four-cylinder block provides adequate power for the Chrysler 200, I’d recommend the upgrade for those who can afford it and live with slightly poorer fuel economy. The engine is a better match for a car of this size and weight, and the extra power comes in handy when passing slower vehicles and driving at altitude.
The driver controls the nine-speed automatic transmission using a rotary dial on the center console. The rotary dial takes up less space than a traditional shift lever, giving designers more room to add storage between the driver and front passenger. As a denizen of a very hot climate, big cupholders make me a happy camper.
The electric power steering system saves weight and space under the hood. It also eliminates mechanical components that wear out during the car’s lifecycle. Low-end steering response is quite good, making it easy for the drive to maneuver through dense urban traffic and crowded parking lots. On-center response is on the soft side, but drivers shouldn’t feel disconnected from the wheels.
Of all the options on the test car, blind spot detection with cross traffic alert is at the top of the must-have list. Second is the 26L preferred package that includes the rearview camera, heated front seats, remote start, dual-zone climate control and rear air conditioning ducts. Together the two options add about $1,500 to the price of the car.
The rearview camera projects a wide-angle image to the back of the car when the driver shifts into reverse. Lines superimposed over the image show the vehicle’s trajectory and distance from nearby obstacles. Cross traffic alert adds an audible signal when pedestrians or vehicles cross the car’s path. The blind spot monitoring system illuminates LED signals in the side mirrors when vehicles in the adjacent lanes cross through the driver’s blind spots.
Together these active safety features make a tremendous difference in the driver’s ability to navigate through dense traffic. The sedan has large front and rear pillars that impact visibility to both the front and back of the car and the optional safety features significantly reduce the possibility of a fender bender.
A four-wheel independent suspension consists of MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link setup in the back, offering both rows of passengers a comfortable ride. I was able to test the car on some rough road surfaces through the Gila River Indian reservation south of town. Even with the larger wheels, the ride didn’t feel harsh.
Engineers did an excellent job of minimizing engine, road and wind noise intrusion to the interior so passengers can converse or enjoy the audio system.
Optional comfort and convenience features on the test car give the interior an upscale appearance befitting a luxury vehicle. Designers focused not only on fit and finish but the quality of touch points as well. The center console, dashboard and instrument panel are all constructed of attractive materials that are soft to touch.
Although I’m not a particularly short person, I found the detents in the door hard to use. The door opens very wide which is good for a variety of situations, but a smaller person can’t use the detent to reduce the size of the opening in order to reach the door handle.
Keyless entry and start is standard on the S model. An option package adds remote start, so the driver can warm up or cool down the interior before entering the car. I found the power driver’s seat adjustments easy to use, providing good lumbar support and a clear forward view.
The steering wheel is also on the large side, better for a man’s hands than a woman’s. Redundant controls enable the driver to program the audio system, use the phone or change the information screen in the gauge cluster.
The rear seat holds up to three passengers. The trunk has ample room for the weekly groceries, luggage, golf bags and smaller camping equipment. Cyclists will need to install a rear mounted hitch or roof rack.
The Chrysler 200 comes with front, side, side curtain and driver and front passenger knee airbags, antilock brakes, stability control, traction control and emergency police and EMT notification as part of the Uconnect system.
Chrysler builds the 200 at its Sterling Heights, Michigan assembly plant.
Like: A stylish, solid midsize sedan with good power and fuel economy thanks to the nine speed automatic transmission.
Dislike: Thick front and rear pillars reduce visibility. Front doors are difficult for smaller drivers to close from the detent stop point.
Base price: $24,725
As tested: $33,185
Horsepower: 295 Hp @ 6350 rpm
Torque: 262 lbs.-ft. @ 4250 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 19/32 mpg city/highway
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