First Drive: 2015 Chrysler 200CPosted on March 20th, 2014
Midsize sedan delivers style and substance
By Nina Russin
In the post-recession marketplace, value has become one of the biggest determinants in car buying decisions. Shoppers are focusing more on what they need as opposed to what they aspire to. And despite the rising cost of new vehicle transactions, new car owners are acutely aware of value.
Nobody understands this better than Chrysler: committed to fulfilling this country’s need for great cars engineered and built on American soil. ‘Imported from Detroit’ is not just an ad campaign: it’s the new corporate mantra.
Considering all of Chrysler’s new products, none is more significant than the midsize 200 sedan that arrives late this spring. The D segment is one of the biggest most competitive among passenger cars, with players including the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and Ford Fusion. To conquest new customers, Chrysler must appeal to both the wallet and the heart, with a vehicle that is both stylish and substantive.
This writer believes the company has done just that. From its eye-catching front end to the aero profile, the 2015 Chrysler 200 is the date everyone wants to take to the dance. And it’s priced to sell, with a MSRP of $21,700 for the base LX and $24,495 for the volume-leading Limited models. MSRP does not include the $995 destination charge.
Two engines and four trim levels
Buyers can move up from the base four-cylinder Tigershark engine rated at 184 horsepower to the 295-horsepower Pentastar V-6 on both 200S and 200C trim levels. The S model features unique exterior styling, a sport suspension with stiffer shocks and a sport mode that modifies throttle mapping and shift points for more aggressive performance.
The premium 200C has chrome exterior trim, a unique interior, and includes the sport performance mode. The 200C with the V-6 engine and all-wheel drive is priced from $30,195.
The V-6 engine is the same block that appears in the base Jeep Grand Cherokee and current Wrangler. Both engines come with a nine-speed automatic transmission that the driver controls using a rotary knob on the center console.
The chassis is the same compact US wide architecture that the new Jeep Cherokee rides on. For the sedan, engineers focused on enhancing torsional stiffness with extensive use of high strength steel. The driver benefits from better steering response and a safer car.
The front-wheel drive platform is available with all-wheel drive that can deliver up to 60 percent of engine power to the rear wheels.
All variants come with eight standard airbags, hill start assist, stability control, tire pressure monitoring, an electronic parking brake, keyless entry and 911 connect. A safety tech option adds rain sensitive windshield wipers, lane departure warning with lane keep assist, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, parallel and perpendicular park assist ($1295).
Test drive in Kentucky
At a recent media event, I drove both the Chrysler 200 front-wheel drive Limited and all-wheel drive 200C. The Limited test car came with two options: a convenience group including satellite radio and rear backup camera, and a convenience group that added dual-zone temperature control, remote start and heated front seats.
Final MSRP, excluding the $995 destination charge was $25,940.
The four-cylinder Tigershark engine is competent performer. While it lacks the low-end torque of the optional V-6, the 2.4-liter engine is by no means anemic. I had plenty of power off the line and merging into highway traffic.
The nine-speed automatic transmission is a welcome alternative to continuously variable units many manufacturers are using to extend fuel economy. It is crisp and pleasant, with large overdrive gears for steady state cruising on the highway.
Average fuel economy during the test drive was about 28 miles-per-gallon.
Because the transmission is electronically controlled, there is extra room for a storage space beneath the center console. It’s a handy spot to stash a cell phone, tablet or small purse.
Fit and finish is excellent throughout the car, with no squeaks or rattles. The black interior upholstery on the test car is attractive and comfortable. Materials on the instrument panel and center console have a nice feel as well.
Designers pushed the supporting A and C pillars to the edges of the car to enhance its appearance. Unfortunately doing so impacted visibility. I had a hard time seeing around the A pillar when pulling into a busy intersection. The C pillars are less of a problem because the side mirrors and rearview camera eliminate those blind spots.
A four-wheel independent suspension provides a supple ride that protects occupants from jousts on rough road surfaces without being overly mushy.
Four-wheel disc brakes stop the sedan in firm, linear fashion.
Driving enthusiasts who upgrade to the V-6 engine and all-wheel drive will enjoy the additional power and control. All-wheel drive not only prevents wheel slippage on wet roads but also mimics a rear wheel bias during aggressive driving.
Winding two-lane roads outside Louisville, Kentucky were the perfect place to put the all-wheel drive 200C through its paces. The upscale model comes with slightly larger wheels than the Limited for better grip in the corners. Buyers can upgrade further to 19-inch aluminum wheels.
I was impressed with the on-center response from the electric power steering system as well as the lane keep assist option that steers the sedan back to the center of the lane if the driver begins to veer out without signaling.
Blind spot monitoring illuminates LED signals in the side mirrors when vehicles in adjacent lanes pass through the driver’s blind spots. The system also emits an audible signal if the driver signals to change lanes at this time.
Both test cars had pleasantly quiet interiors. Sound deadening technology includes a new type of carpeting that lessens road noise, laminated side glass and an available acoustic windshield.
The available navigation system is easy to program and intuitive to follow, with easy-to-read graphics on the center stack screen.
Because the 200 sedan has a flat floor, it is capable of holding five adult passengers. Rear legroom isn’t quite as abundant as on the Honda Accord that approaches a full-sized car in terms of interior space. But I was able to in the back seat comfortably.
Decades of minivans have made Chrysler designers experts at interior packaging. They do an excellent job of integrating functional storage areas throughout the 200 interior, including a center console with large cupholders that slide fore and aft, revealing a deep covered bin beneath. A locking glovebox provides secure storage inside the car.
Although cyclists are generally better served by a crossover or sport-utility vehicle than a sedan, the trunk of the Chrysler 200 has plenty of room for luggage, golf bags and the weekly groceries.
Chrysler builds the 200 sedan at its new assembly plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan.
Like: A stylish, well-built sedan with a high level of standard convenience and safety features. The Chrysler 200 should fill a lot of squares for its intended audience.
Dislike: Blind spots caused by thick front pillars can limit visibility in intersections.
Base price: $21,700*
As tested: $25,940 (Limited); $34,675 (200C AWD)
Horsepower: 184 Hp @ 6250 rpm (2.4L Tigershark); 295 Hp @ 6350 rpm (Pentastar V-6)
Torque: 173 lbs.-ft. @ 4600 rpm (2.4L Tigershark); 262 lbs.-ft. @ 4250 rpm (Pentastar V-6)
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: N/A
Comment: *Pricing does not include $995 destination charge.
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