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by Bill Cawthon in June 2014 (5)
The new Chrysler 200S is just that: new. The last vestiges of the “DaimlerChrysler” Sebring have been exorcised, and the improvements made in the 200 in the early Marchionne era have been enhanced.
Built on the same Alfa Romeo-derived platform (core dimensions) that underpins the Dodge Dart and Jeep Cherokee, the 200S provides a comfortable family driving experience, despite handling that rewards more spirited driving. No one is going to mistake the 200 for a Viper, but it definitely ranks well above the run-of-the-mill competition when it comes to taking on the twisties.
The exterior of the new 200S is fresh and clean: long gone are the strakes that would have looked more at home on the deck of a classic Chris-Craft power boat and the stodgy lines that lived on through the Sebring/200 transformation. The latest generation of the Chrysler midsize sedan is sleeker, and it looks like the entire body was styled by a team that got along well.
Inside, the 200S has a comfortable cabin with decent leg room, fore and aft. Some have commented that the seats are a bit narrow, but we didn't find that to be the case – and we're experts on narrow seats. The seats are firm and supportive: there was an initial comment that they might be a bit too firm but that opinion changed during the first drive.
The instruments and controls are well-placed for easy operation, though there were a couple of times during backing when I turned the fan control knob instead of the rotary gear selector because I wasn't looking. That’s a bit of a conundrum because I like Chrysler’s rotary shifter: it’s easy to use and frees up a fair amount of console real estate compared to the space needed for a traditional, lever-style selector.
As I have said before, I really like the way that Chrysler adds manual controls to its best-in-the-industry Uconnect system. Combined with the controls mounted on the steering wheel, it’s easy to make minor adjustments without taking your eyes off the road. When safely parked, more advanced changes, such as fine-tuning the audio, are intuitive and quick.
The automatic climate control system functioned flawlessly, though it didn't have to face the rigors of a full Houston summer. Our only complaint is that the rear-seat ducts on our review car were optional. Perhaps Chrysler should have its accountants sit in the back seat on a hot, humid Southern summer day in a car that doesn't have the vents, and allow them to enjoy the wait for relief to reach them from the front. Then sit in front and enjoy the blast created by trying to get cool air to the folks in the rear as quickly as possible.
The 200 has one of Ward’s Ten Best Interiors for 2014, and the accolade is well-deserved except for one thing: getting in and out of said interior. From the front seat that’s not a problem, and children and cast members of the Cirque du Soliel should have little trouble with the rear. Larger adults may have to do some awkward and uncomfortable contortions due to the slope of the roof and its impact on the shape of the door opening.
Trunk space isn’t an issue. There was plenty of room for our standard family luggage load. For longer/larger loads, the rear seats do fold down. Liftover height wasn't a problem.
The 200S was enjoyable to drive. The Pentastar engine, nine-speed transmission, and upgraded suspension provided good power and exceptional handling for a car in this class. Passing at freeway speeds wasn't a problem, even on the 75 mph section of our road test route. The sport suspension still allowed for a comfortable ride, even on back country roads. The 200 was even able to handle well on a section of our route that we normally reserve for trucks.
While our 200S was loaded with options, bringing the price up to $31,250, including destination charges, a basic, but livable 200LX with the four-cylinder starts at $22,695, including destination charges. This is competitive with other sedans in the range.
As I went through the “build and price” process, I noticed that the base model has a limited range of colors; you have to upgrade to a Limited to get a 200 in blue. The extra $1,555 does include more than an extra couple of paint colors, but it struck me as odd.
Overall, the 200 gives Chrysler a truly nice mid-size family sedan that not only looks good but feels good and performs well. It’s not surprising that the Texas Auto Writers Association named the Chrysler 200 the “Mid-Size Car of Texas.”
In my opinion, the 2015 Chrysler 200C AWD is easily the best midsized car that Chrysler has ever made. The 200’s dimensions might be perfect for a large percentage of drivers and families; most kids will be fine in the back seat. However, taller adults may have some issues in the rear.
Rumors of compromised rear headroom are not unfounded. I am not tall (five-foot-nine) and I am bald, but while sitting in the rear, my head hits the roof. I can only imagine what its like for those over six feet. I am in my upper 40s in age and consider myself fairly limber, but getting into the rear does take some amount of contorting.
The 200’s handling is excellent. Steering is tight and controlled. Power — what’s not to like about a 295 horsepower V6? I did expect it to feel faster, but because the ride is smooth and quiet, it doesn't feel as quick. The nine speed shifts effortlessly and I love the dial e-shifter. The 200 is quiet at normal speeds and gives a nice growl when accelerating. I did experience the road noise from the tires as other reviewers have noted.
As for the optional 8.4 U-Connect, I love it. It really is leaps and bounds better than most of its competition. I could live without some of the new tech options like forward collision warning, lane departure, and adaptive cruise, though I find it quite cool showing people how they cars can park themselves — I personally find it unnerving (there is something unnatural about giving a car gas and taking your hands off the wheel).
I haven’t yet seen a 200C with the perforated ventilated seats and the nicer real wood. The black 200S interior just doesn't have the feel of luxury that I want.
Overall, the 200 is a very nice car. The question is, it nice enough to sell well against the top competitors when there is no price advantage? With a rebate or special financing, I think the 200 will fly off the lots. For conquest sales, with no discounting, it’s going to still take some work. Add a little content here and there, some good marketing, and we could have a winner.
Don’t get me wrong, the 2015 200 is the most competitive midsized car Chrysler has built in over 20 years, feature to feature, quality, performance NVH, handling, it is as good as and even better than some of the best in class. I believe our interior is nicer than Honda and Toyota. Our exterior styling is as nice as them. But after over a decade of bad reviews, horrible ratings, and such, Chrysler is not even on the radar for most midsized shoppers.
The ball is now in the court of Marketing to get the public to change their perception of Chrysler when it comes to midsized cars. This is no easy or quick task. One way is to get as many out on the road as possible, in the hands of friends, relatives, and neighbors; word of mouth will be the best advertising.
by Jaime Hale
When the first Chrysler 200C arrived in the dealership, I was instantly worried because of its resemblance to the Dodge Dart. At roughly US$34,000 for the fully equipped version, it’s not cheap, but it has so many things going for it that it can compete with more expensive with German cars.
I venture to say that this is arguably one of the most beautiful cars that has ever emerged from Chrysler or from any American car manufacturer. Japanese cars don’t qualify here because with few exceptions, they’re generic-looking.
The tester is/was a white 200C with black interiors. This car has the Pentastar neatly stacked under the hood and it comes with the nine-speed auto tranny (all 200s have the nine-speed). Being the top-of-the-line model, the car has a decent A/C system that cooled the interior in no time, despite an exterior temperature of 30°C (about 90°F) and plenty of sunlight, so much so that I chose not to open the sunroof or its screen.
I found the cockpit to be comfortable. Despite six feet tall, I had no trouble getting in or out of the car because the seat was pushed way forward. The heated seat is a work of art, providing good support everywhere. Visibility on all corners is good, and especially so in the hind quarters because of the little windows in the C pillar. On top of having a rear view camera, the rear sensors’ show an image of the car on the dash; this gives you a pretty good idea of how close the car is to obstacles.
We drove in a well known Western Mexico City suburb, with hills, streets going up and down (but not like San Francisco), potholes, speed bumps, and different sorts of pavement. The engine is very responsive. The transmission changes gears imperceptibly and even in this difficult neighborhood of mine, it went forth and back between the gears with almost no feedback. Going downhill, the tranny held the car in second gear (I think). This particular street goes up and down a hill for about 1,000 feet in a straight line and it’s rather steep. The fun part came when I made a U-turn at the bottom of the hill and just pressed the accelerator all the way in. The Pentastar growled, the transmission changed to first gear, and off we went way up the hill. One thousand feet later we reached the top driving at 50+ mph. This is no small feat considering we were at 7,800 feet above the sea level. Since there were no cars on the road ahead, I tried the steering and found it very responsive, pointing the nose of the car where I wanted.
I was still doing 50 mph (on a regular avenue) when I decided to press hard on the brakes. The car came to a standstill with nary a bit of trouble. The ABS didn't even kick in as I expected it would. However, immediately after the car stopped, I felt this strong thud, like if we had been hit from behind. It was the transmission playing a trick, catching up with the car so to speak. It engaged the first gear and was ready to go.
We returned to the dealership on one piece, satisfied that we finally have a car that’s competitive in the market segment it’s aimed to.
The quality of the materials is very good and even though there’s room for improvement, as always, there’s enough luxury inside to keep finicky customers happy. The big 8+ inch screen in the middle is easy to use as is the one in the instrument cluster, which has an impressive resolution.
The Chrysler guys did a remarkable job insulating not only sound, but most of the road imperfections as well, and down here in Mexico City that’s important, given the chronically sad state of our streets. The Dart has a noisy front suspension and the rear is just awful, but none of that showed in the 200C.
My concern though is that the car has low-profile tires and in my personal experience, these tend not to survive our potholes for long. This may be a problem. Some overinflate their tires by 4 psi to try to avoid damage.
The seats do a good job keeping the people in the front properly seated, with plenty of side and lumbar support. The instrument cluster has the tach on the left, speedometer on the right, gas and engine temp gauges are on the lower part of the cluster and consist of linear graphic displays. Some functions can be controlled from the steering wheel. The 8-inch screen sitting on the center of the dash controls everything and you can configure most of the cars’ functions from it. The user interface is intuitive, easy to use. I loved the sound of the stereo.
The HID headlights. They cover a wide and long area in the front of the car with a bluish-whitish light that’s quite visible, even in during a rather strong thunderstorm.
Taller drivers may have to lower the driver’s seat because they can feel that the roof is a little bit low. A good speed bump or similar obstacle could cause them to hit their heads against the roof of the car. The rear of the car is rather tight. I wouldn't like to sit there on a trip, say two or three hours, because the roof is low and there’s not that much leg room. If the car wouldn't have had the sunroof curtain, this would have been a different story.
The side mirrors are rather small too, maybe for aerodynamics. The lane change warning system though does a good job preventing the car from occupying the same space as another car at the same time.
I tried to use the park assist feature in my garage, to no avail and much to the chagrin of my sons. One son, by the way, is 6’4” and he’s only 16 years old (as of last Thursday), and he had trouble getting in the back seat of the 200C. Once there he had to spread his legs wide open to be comfortable. Frankly, I don’t see how three people can sit in the back of the car, let alone comfortably.
On my way back to the office I stopped at the MacDonald’s and tested the park assist system there. It worked like magic.
Chrysler was founded because Mr. Chrysler thought he could build a better car and he did [though he didn't actually create it]. Chrysler was known for decades for its technology, making cars that were years ahead of those of its competitors. I am glad that Chrysler is back in the business of providing outstanding vehicles. I really liked the 200C and I know it will be a good seller.
by Bill Cawthon
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