by David Zatz in July 2013
The Chrysler 200 convertible has gotten mixed reviews; the most positive ones came from people who actually drove it, with the most negative from those who assumed it was a reskinned Chrysler Sebring, with no other changes.
The 2013 Chrysler 200 convertible does feel considerably heavier than the 200 sedan, probably because it is — the ragtop weighs in at around 500 pounds more than the sedan. Convertibles are usually heavy, because they need extra body reinforcement to make up for the lack of a roof holding things together. Still, the 283-horsepower V6 engine was responsive under any conditions, and the six-speed automatic allowed fast takeoffs and downshifted easily when needed. The responsiveness of the car and the quick launches speak well for the powertrain.
The 200S differs from the 200 in several ways, such as using a blackened chrome grille, darkened headlights, and embroidered leather seats. It also has a tighter suspension, which felt good around town and added to the cornering, but sometimes made the 200S feel jittery on the highway. We could not argue with the cornering, which was surprisingly good for a 4,000 pound mainstream convertible.
We tested the 200S during the hottest week of the year, with high temperatures and humidity, and were surprised by the power of the air conditioning. This might be the best a/c we've experienced in a car so far, including the 300C and several Lexus luxury cars; from the moment you start driving, cold air blasts out through the vents, making it far more comfortable to drive with the top down on hot days. It's probably the same principle they used when making convertible heaters more effective — so you can drive around in the cold without getting cold.
With the new 3.6 liter V6 engine, power went up from 232 horsepower to 283 (with 260 lb-ft of torque), while gas mileage shot up from 16/26 to 19/29. We suspect you'll find the city mileage lower than EPA ratings, but the highway mileage should be easy to achieve. (The Touring model comes with a four cylinder, which is more than enough for Chrysler 200 sedan but is a bit slower in the heavier convertible; it's rated at 18/27, probably because of the difficulty of pushing the all that weight — 4,000 pounds of it.)
The six speed has a very low first gear that allows instant acceleration and, in the 200, moderately easy tire squeal. At the top end, the six-speed automatic is geared fairly high, allowing for easy coasting that will let more thrifty drivers get away with better mileage.
Overall, the 200S was well behaved and easy to drive around town, and surprisingly quiet with the top up. The glass rear window helped visibility, and included a defroster. The front pillars are normally sized; with the top up, there are larger than usual rear pillars, but there aren't true “blind spots” if you include the use of the rear view mirrors, except for those caused by the high trunk. That stays, of course, with the top down.
The trunk itself is fairly large when the divider is folded away and the top is up, handy for those times when you need to carry a lot of cargo; with the divider in place, so the top has a place to go, there is still a pretty good amount of cargo space for shopping and such. To a degree, it makes up in width and depth what it loses in length. The top will not go down if the divider isn't in place, preventing owners from destroying their top by trying to lower it into a trunk that's already full.
To raise or lower the soft top, the driver has to keep their finger on the switch or key fob button for the full thirty seconds (in 2008-09, it had an “express” feature where a single touch would do it). Still, no manual latching is required, and the car opens the trunk, slides out the top cover, folds the roof and stows it into the trunk, and locks itself. You can also impress people by using the remote control to lower the roof.
A hard top is still available as a $2,000 option.
The windbreak comes folded up and in a zipper pouch; it fastens between the front and back seats. Setting it up is just a little awkward, but it works; the windbreak is easy to see through, and takes little space in the trunk when folded, since it can go right underneath the divider. Still, it's generally unnecessary; wind on the back of the next isn't as much of an issue in the 200 as it is on some convertibles.
In 2008, we wrote, “After frequently putting the top down and bringing it back up, we also wished for a single window-up control for all four windows.” Chrysler has added that, after taking out the single-press raise/lower feature; now, after raising the roof, there is a pause and a “ding,” and then all four windows rise up if you keep your finger on the switch.
The ride has become smoother with each passing generation, though the 200S counters that a bit with firmer tuning. With the change from Sebring to 200 came a far better mix of comfort and cornering; it's much harder to squeal the tires, except from a standing start, when the deep first gear makes it fairly easy. Full acceleration no longer brings even a trace of torque steer, despite the increase in power from the new V6.
Controls are generally well-designed. Climate controls are the corporate knobs with integral pushbuttons — attractive and both easy and pleasant to use. With the thermostatic climate control, the temperature knob gives up the traditional “blue and red” colors for marked temperatures.
The optional MyGIG hard-drive-based music system worked very well, though the sound is hurt by an overly enthusiastic subwoofer. A bit long in the tooth, the system is easy to use, and lets you plug in a computer via USB to transfer music or audiobooks to the car's own hard drive; you can also play CDs or DVDs (the slot is hidden but the display can tilt out of the way to show it), or connect an iPod or similar device through an auxiliary jack. We do wish it had two knobs, like the newer ones; the steering wheel audio controls help overcome that, when tuning.
The navigation system works well and conventionally, though a bit slow with manual destination entry. UConnect, the cellphone integration system, is built into the unit's controls, with a steering wheel voice command button. It worked well, but we were glad to have the steering wheel controls for easier access to key functions like changing stations; and getting to the audio controls to change bass or treble was far harder and more attention-demanding than it had to be.
Interior space is not bad for a compact convertible. Rear seats have little legroom, and any tall people in one row have to be balanced by short and thin people in the other, but four will fit. Rear seats are relatively easy to get into and out of; the front seats have carriers for shoulder belts, so it's not nearly has hard as one would expect for the driver to get the seat belts on (easier, in fact, than in the smaller Fiat 500).
The seats are fairly comfortable, and are far better than those in the 2008-09 Sebring convertible.
In terms of looks, the exterior is quite stylish, and the rear is fine, though we wonder about the interrupted tail-lights (a styling cue adopted by Toyota as well). The interior is more sculpted and less “chunky” than in the final Sebring, more modern and integrated and less “plasticky.” Everything is in the same place, but it looks completely different.
Customers can set some preferences, such as automatic locking and whether the horn chirps when the remote is used, without visiting the dealer. The trip computer provides temperature, gas mileage, and compass readings, and makes setting preferences far easier: it's a matter of going through menus rather than turning the key a certain number of times before pressing a switch. It also lets you see each tire's pressure, and when the compass/temperature is on, shows the radio station or CD track.
The center console has two levels; the deep bottom level has a power outlet and a coin holder which holds three sizes of coins. The instrument panel is modern and easy to read at a glance, with bright backlighting.
Convertibles are generally expensive, especially “full convertibles” with power tops like the 200. A manual mechanism isn't practical in a car of this size, so there is a double-jointed trunk, various folding and unfolding parts, shields, and sensors, along with the automatic locks (which are far more convenient than the “swing the visors out of the way, and push or pull a big recalcitrant lever into place” setups.) The Chrysler 200S sedan, outfitted roughly the same way, costs around $10,000 less. As it is, the 200S Convertible has a list price of $33,815, including destination.
The car does come well loaded; while Daimler liked to shave things off, Fiat-Chrysler tosses more options in as standard features, to increase value. So, for your nearly 34 grand, you get leather seats, active head restraints, individual tire pressure monitors, cruise, power locks and windows, variable intermittent wipers, Bluetooth streaming audio and cellphone integration, alarm, express-down front windows, remote start, rear defroster, thermostatic-control air conditioning, heated power front seats, stereo with 40-GB hard drive and satellite radio, six Boston Acoustics speakers, audio and USB sound input, steering-wheel controls, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, embroidered floor mats, auto headlamps, and LED tail lamps (for instant-on brake lights).
Our test had a single option, the $800 navigation system upgrade, pushing the price up to $34,610.
Buyers can also opt for the Touring, which starts at $28,320 (including destination), or the Limited, which is the same price as the S but swaps more comfort options for the sportier look and feel. We would probably go with the Limited on our personal car, though the price of Touring is tempting. You can take the Touring, add an $1,800 V6, and have a nice convertible, albeit without the hard drive stereo ($800 extra), voice command ($500), bigger wheels, windbreak ($300), etc.
The Chrysler 200S convertible has addressed most of the shortcomings of the Sebring: the rock-hard seats are gone, the cheap, chunky styling of the interior is gone, the convertible top mechanism has been improved (with parts that stay on more easily), the handling is better, and there's more power and less torque steer. The car is far better than it was; even if Jeremy Clarkson is still unhappy with it, the Chrysler 200 convertible is both satisfactory as a ragtop and as a regular day-to-day car. We do suggest, though, that before opting for the 200S package, you try it out at highway speeds, over regular and poor-quality pavement, and see if the firmer suspension is still attractive.
In the interests of fairness, we have to also point out that, at some point during 2014, the current 200 Convertible will cease production; we expect, but cannot guarantee, that a new version will be produced, based on a completely different body and suspension, and sporting a nine-speed automatic. The price of the new version is likely to be similar, but without any of the rebates or discounts buyers can get now (currently at $2,000, but dealers are likely to negotiate).
See the main Chrysler 200 Convertible page.
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