Chrysler is suddenly a contender in the hugely competitive midsize sedan segment, a market dominated by the likes of the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Hyundai Sonata and Nissan Altima, to name a few.
The 2015 Chrysler 200 sedan isn’t perfect, but it’s a quantum leap forward in terms of style, refinement, and available features compared to the previous 200. In fact, the new base version of the 200 is even slightly cheaper than the outgoing model (by all of $95 bucks).
Starting at $22,695, including destination charge, the Chrysler 200 is powered by a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine that delivers 184-horsepower and 173 lb.-ft. of torque to the front wheels.This powertrain delivers a highway fuel economy average of 36 mpg.
For buyers who want more power, there’s an optional 3.6-liter V-6 that delivers 295-horsepower and 262 lb.-ft. of torque. An all-wheel-drive system is also available, but only with the punchier V-6 motor. A 200 with the V-6 and front-wheel-drive returns 32 mpg, while the same engine mated to all-wheel-drive dips to a 29 mpg highway average.
All models include a 9-speed automatic transmission, which is controlled by a rotary knob on the lower half of the center console. Staying on the subject of interiors, the cabin of the new 200 happens to be one of this sedan’s best features.
The heavier you go with the options, the more bells and whistles (not to mention real wood trim and “bronze chrome” interior accents) get scattered around the interior. Yet even in base format, minus any fancy ventilated front seats or heated steering wheels, the Chrysler 200 cabin has a very attractive and robust look and feel to it.
The console is especially useful, with loads of cubby holes and storage space. At 5 feet 9 inches tall, I found the rear seat to be comfortable, though some rivals definitely offer more rear legroom. The trunk is not very deep, but offers 16 cu. ft. of space and a 60/40 folding rear seatback.
My first test car was a 200S AWD model, with the V-6 engine and all-wheel-drive hardware. With extras like 19-inch alloy wheels, navigation, rear back-up camera, upmarket sound system, remote start, and LED daytime running headlamps and fog lamps, amongst other options, the sticker price was $33,460.
The 200 really held its own over some surprisingly twisty and demanding roads outside Louisville, Kentucky, where Chrysler staged the driving event. Uncooperative weather didn’t help, though soggy roads didn’t rattle the composure of the suspension.
The steering was accurate but, like many vehicles in this segment, it isn’t overly communicative – I’ll get back to this point later. In terms of overall comfort and refinement, however, this Chrysler really shines.
Now if only the 9-speed transmission lived up to its on-paper promise. A 6-speed automatic is normal in this segment, so I had high hopes for this gearbox. For the most part, it’s fine, and its operation fades into the background.
Yet when it gets confused, the transmission shifts abruptly or holds onto a gear way too long. I played with the steering wheel-mounted paddle-shifters, only to discover that ninth gear is virtually useless – power is non-existent, even the punchier V-6 engine is happier one or two gears lower.
For the afternoon drive, I switched to fully-loaded and 4-cylinder-powered 200C. There’s no getting around the fact the 184-hp inline-4 doesn’t have anywhere near the grunt of the V-6. Then again, without the added weight of the larger engine, along with the all-wheel-drive system, this front-wheel-drive 200 immediately felt lighter on its feet.
The steering had a little more verve to it, and with less power on tap, the transmission didn’t hunt as much for the perfect gear.
Stuffed full of features, the 200C FWD model was priced at $33,460. That’s only $2-grand less than a V-6 and AWD version I’d driven in the morning.
This car included a laundry-list of options, however, including the larger alloys, upgraded seating, LED lighting, and 8.4-inch touchscreen with navigation found in the V-6 model. The Premium Group ($995) interior trim, featuring wood trim and bronze chrome accents, is quite classy too.
Electronic stability control and eight airbags are standard across the 200 lineup. Yet it’s the SafetyTec Package that stands out as an exceptional value.
Only available on the 200C trim level (which starts at $26,990), this includes adaptive cruise control, brake assist for emergency braking, blind spot and cross path detection, front collision warning, lane departure warning and lane keep assist, rain sensing wipers, along with parallel park and perpendicular park assist.
That is an absolute hoard of safety content, all for an incredibly reasonable $1,295 – and the extra outlay needed for the 200C model, of course.
You don’t need to add more than $10,000 to the base price to enjoy the Chrysler 200. Pick and choose your options carefully, and you’ll still walk away with one very good midsize sedan.
It doesn’t rewrite the rulebook, but the Chrysler 200 thrusts the American automaker right back into the thick of the midsize sedan segment – and far higher towards the top-of-the-class than anyone, myself included, had expected.