I was at a bit of a disadvantage when I test drove the 2015 Chrysler 200. That’s because I’d never driven the previous generation Chrysler 200, and nearly every other review raves about how much better the 2015 version is over previous years.
But then maybe that’s an advantage for me. My week with the 200 didn’t carry any biased automotive baggage.
Let’s start by setting the scene. Chrysler has struggled in the mid-range of late. The Dart gave it a firm seat at the smaller car table, but the 200 just didn’t win over the hearts and minds of Americans. When the Honda Accord was winning the US sales crown in 2013 with 366,678 sold, the Chrysler 200 had barely a third of that. Thus it was time to up the game. Interestingly, this 200 is actually built on a stretched and modified Dart chassis, which in turn is based on an Alfa Romeo design. So this all-American kid has Italian roots. Just about everyone raves at how much better the new 200 handles. As for me, I thought it did exactly what a mid-range sedan should do. Solid maneuvering that didn’t leave you wondering what was going to happen next.
You have your choice of two engines. My test car had the 2.4 liter Tigershark four-cylinder engine which delivers 184 horsepower. It accelerates from zero to 60 mph in the low six second range, which is respectable although it isn’t going to overly impress anyone. Chrysler is using its new nine-speed transmission which allows for better starts and higher mileage. In fact, the mileage is great. Expect 23 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. During my week with the car I drove up to Las Vegas for the Barrett Jackson auction. While I didn’t quite make 36 mpg, it did just over 34 mpg. Around town I averaged about 31. Those are solid numbers.
Of course if you want serious horsepower, you can opt for the 3.6 liter Pentastar V6 engine. That pumps out 295 horsepower. Mileage will drop to 19/32, but that’s not really too bad for all that oomph.
Styling is a nice step up from the old model. The front end has a sleeker look without the big mouth grill opening. It has a nice slightly arching belt line that stretches from the headlights back to the tail lights. Honestly, there was nothing wrong with the old look, this just moves the styling nicely forward with a more modern face.
The interior is nicely done. You won’t confuse it for a luxury car, but it won’t leave you wanting. My test car was the S model that had leather and cloth trimmed seats. Having driven the car for more than 800 miles, I can tell you they were very comfortable for my average sized body.
The shifting mechanism will be different from most folks are used to. Instead of a stick that moves through the gears, the 200 has a round knob. You simply turn to the right or left to find the gear you need. It works great, so it’s just a matter of adapting. The only small glitch I found was that the gear selector was right next to three other round knobs that controlled the radio and climate control. Just seems like a lot of round stuff. Having said that, I never once turned up the volume when I meant to change directions. One other nice thing about the gear selector system is that it’s very compact. As a result, the 200 has a big storage space directly underneath that is perfect for a purse or small bag. You can watch a video of the interior here.
With most cars I’m not a big fan of paying extra for the fancy navigation system. Chrysler is the exception. It has the best display interface in the car biz these days. The navigation is simple and efficient. You don’t have to give it 16 commands just to find an address (OK, slight exaggeration, but sometimes it feels that way with other cars). It was included in the $1500 Navigation and Sound group option. This is one system worth buying.
Spend any time on the Chrysler website and you’ll see two words used a lot: CLASS EXCLUSIVE. Chrysler wants to make it clear that the 200 isn’t just another pretty face. It has options that can blow away the competition. From its CLASS EXCLUSIVE perpendicular park assist system to its CLASS EXCLUSIVE adaptive cruise control, you can have the 200 just about any way you want it.
As I mentioned, I had the S model which came with sport tuned suspension, fog lights, 18 inch wheels and upgraded interior. The Base price was $24,495 while my car stickered at $29,170. That included the comfort group, the navigation and sound group. Actually, it’s a pretty nice package for the price. Of course you can spend less for the entry-level or more for the top of the line.
One thing you can’t get anymore is the Chrysler 200 convertible. That’s been discontinued.
I’ll be honest when I say that the Chrysler 200 doesn’t blow away the competition. But then, that would be pretty tough in the crowded mid-sized category. But it does hold its own. When you think about all the options available, it means you can build it just the way you want.
I’m glad I never drove the old version. My memories of the 200 are only good.