It’s a big deal when Chrysler reveals a new car. Luckily, we were on hand in Detroit to witness the debut of the new 200. Gone are the days of the rental car 200; 2015 brings a clean-slate design. This 200 has a lot riding on its shoulders. It has to complete against the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, and Ford Fusion. Those are all popular vehicles in a highly competitive segment, and that roster makes you wonder if the new 200 has what it takes. Everybody loves the underdog.
Let’s start on the outside. The skin is redesigned to be bolder, more attention grabbing, yet more elegant than the previous model. Chrysler’s’ design team knocked it out of the park with this one. There’s some good looking cars in its class, but the 200C is a true head-turner. With a look all its own, the 200C makes the most of its newly styled body. Up front, our tester had the Premium Lighting Group which incorporated HID headlamps with LED daytime running lights as well as LED fog lights. The LED fog lights were the best we’ve used. Around the side, the 19″ wheel option added a large amount of curb appeal without reducing ride quality. In the rear, the new LED taillights looked great at night.
Inside, the 200C demonstrates Chrysler’s luxury appeal. Our tester came with the Premium Group which showed off the leather steering wheel, cooled seats, and real wood trim. The bronze trim pieces are part of this group as well, but they’re a bit strange looking, and the bronze trim on the steering wheel is just asking for scratches from rings. Our week with the 200 coincided with a trip to The 1000 Islands, offering plenty of time to use all of the UConnect functionality. The car’s Wi-Fi hotspot allowed me to stay connected as my cellphone roamed along the US-Canadian border, and the entire interface was incredibly easy to use. As we found in our interactions with UConnect in the Dodge Durango, we wish there were buttons for heated and ventilated seats. That would avoid navigating through a number of touchscreen menus. In back, the rear leg room is tight and the trunk is small for its class. I’m 6’1″ and I had a difficult time getting comfortable in the rear. Also, three days of luggage for two people easily filled the trunk, requiring some bags to sit on the back seats. In a class where cars win or lose based on utility, the Chrysler gets points for technology but loses out on cargo volume.
The 200 comes standard with a standard 2.4L four-cylinder engine. The sportier 200S and luxurious 200C, like our tester, can be optioned with the trusty 3.6L Pentastar V6. The V6 is good for 295 horsepower, but doesn’t really feel all that fast. The 9-speed automatic transmission is seemingly always searching for a gear. However, unlike the Jeep Cherokee, this unit actually found ninth gear on the highway and netted an excellent 29.6mpg over 800 miles. The powertrain is definitely suited for the highway efficiency rather than back road fun. In the same vein, the 200 is available with three different suspension setups. The 200 LX and Limited come with standard touring suspension. The 200S get’s stiffer sport suspension and our 200C get’s unique “ride and handling” suspension. We’re not quite sure what that means, but that fits with the focus on luxury over sport. All-wheel-drive is optional on the 200S and 200C as well. Our tester, the 200C V6 AWD, is the highest trim level currently available. AWD adds $4,200 and year-round versatility to the long list of features.
The all new chassis is derived from Alfa-Romeo, which gave us high hopes for its handling prowess. Unfortunately, it wasn’t so. The 200 was wallowy in the corners with noticeable body roll. The transmission, already somewhat confused, was even more befuddled when you try to power out of corners. There’s nothing about the 200C that feels quick. It doesn’t hurry to gain momentum and the slow turn-in doesn’t help the car change direction. You can feel the all wheel drive working as you enter a corner at speed and soon after, understeer sets in. As you plow through the corner, you think to yourself, “When is a Chrysler 200C owner going to drive like this?” The answer is, probably, never. Evidence: the 200C’s standard “Engine Dress Up Cover”. And that is not a bad thing. Sport may be our personal forte, but the Chrysler 200C is not about cornering speeds, it’s about being a luxury car. And when you drive as many miles as we did, you’re thankful for that.
The 200 was always on the bubble within the Chrysler family. The 300 looks great and the Town & Country is immensely practical. The 200, though, was always the third wheel, the middle child. It didn’t get the love and attention from Chrysler that it deserved. Thankfully, with this new generation, the boys in Detroit have built a good one. With a little inspiration from Italy and a luxury mindset, Chrysler has designed a car that turns heads but won’t break the bank.
|2015 Chrysler 200C AWD
|Navigation & Sound Group I||$1,395|
|Premium Lighting Group||$795|
|19″ Polished Aluminum Wheels||$695|
|As Tested MSRP||$36,365|