2015 Chrysler 200 Test Drive: Chrysler Takes a Big Shot at Luxury

The Chrysler 200S is brand new, and is now the largest sedan to be built on the Alfa Romeo-derived platform 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.

200 car review

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.

Chrysler-200S-InstPanel-ACP

Instruments and controls are well-placed for easy operation, though there were a couple of times when I turned the fan control knob instead of the rotary gear selector because I wasn't looking at the panel while backing up. 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.

consoleAs 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.

seatsThe 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 Soleil 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.

rearWhile 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.”

When the Chrysler Sebring became the Chrysler 200 back in 2011, there was a vast improvement to the midsized sedan in every way, but with the introduction of the 2015, Chrysler has one of the best cars in the segment.

2015 Chrysler 200

Patrick Rall is a professional writer whose credits include the Detroit Autos Examiner, TorqueNews.com, High Horsepower Photography, and other publications.

Some of the exterior design cues can be compared to some other cars from around the industry, but there is no question that this new car is good looking on the outside, while the cabin is on par with some of the biggest names in the luxury world. While few would call the old Sebring a luxury car, it is impossible to call the 2015 Chrysler 200 anything but a luxury sedan based on the interior spread; the exterior is more arguably that of a luxury sedan.

midsized car

A proper luxury car needs to pack impressive performance and driving technologies, to give it a smooth ride and spirited handling. When I was able to spend a few hours behind the wheel of two new 200 sedans, I went through a wide variety of driving situations, from highway driving to tight country roads, to experience the ride quality, handling, and the incredible acceleration of the Pentastar V6.

The first 2015 Chrysler 200 which I spent driving was a 200C with the 3.6L Pentastar V6 mated to the new 9-speed automatic transmission and an advanced all wheel drive system. The 2015 200 is the only car in the segment with a 9-speed transmission, and with 295 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque, the V6 200 is the most powerful car in its segment.

rear suspension

The engine's power only takes a few seconds to realize and appreciate, as the throttle response is quick and precise, allowing the 200 to really rocket away from a stop. Thanks to the advanced all wheel drive system that puts as much as 60% of the power to the rear wheels, you can launch the new Chrysler 200 very hard, and the car does nothing but respond with a smile. This AWD system really allows you to use all 295 horsepower to its fullest, and that rear power shift gives the 200 a rear-drive feel similar to the bigger brother - the Hemi powered Chrysler 300. While the Pentastar V6 doesn't offer the same V8 growl of the Hemi, this powerful V6 has an awesome sound under hard throttle.

luxury kit dashboard

Not surprisingly, the 2015 Chrysler 200 V6 AWD offers just as impressive acceleration when cruising down the highway as it does when launching from a stop light. The Pentastar V6 is whisper quiet when cruising down the highway at 70 miles per hour in 9th gear, but when you put the hammer down, the transmission quickly pops down several gears and all 295 horsepower are channeled to all four wheels with a hearty roar. With incredible urgency, the new 200 will rip up past the century mark without any hesitation and for those drivers with a real need for speed – the new 200 feels very calm, confident and comfortable when traveling at very high speeds.

midsize car

The 200 is so calm and quiet that it is one of those cars that can suddenly catch you off guard in terms of the speed at which you are driving. It doesn't take much effort by the Pentastar V6 to push the new 200 well beyond the speed limit; it has no problem keeping up with even the fastest moving traffic.

Bolstering the performance of the 2015 Chrysler 200 is the new 9-speed automatic transmission, with the steep lower gears helping to provide serious acceleration. Many people have voiced their concerns about a 9-speed transmission being too busy, but the shifts are quick and smooth enough that you really don't think about it shifting so many times. When you are leaving a stop in a hurry, the shifts from 1st and 2nd, 2nd to 3rd and 3rd to 4th are distinct as the car shifts hard to improve performance. However, the numerically higher gears hardly draw any attention when it is moving between gears – particularly the 7th, 8th and 9th gears when traveling at highway speeds.

dash

Unless you are paying attention, specifically looking to notice the shifts, the fact that this car features a 9-speed transmission will go unnoticed by most drivers and passengers. There is really no downside to the new 9-speed transmission as it affords the new 200 strong low and mid range acceleration while still allowing the 3.6L V6 to run at very low RPMs on the highway – making this new sedan incredibly efficient on the highway.

When cruising, the all wheel drive system stops sending power to the rear wheels for even better mileage. I was unable to measure the fuel economy during my few hours of drive time, but the on board information system indicated that I was getting better than 30mpg on the highway under normal driving circumstances. There are no official figures yet, but Chrysler expects around 31mpg on the highway for a properly equipped 2015 200 and based on what I saw, I believe that owners will be able to eclipse 30mpg even with the V6 AWD models. (The Chrysler 300C V6, which is heavier and less aerodynamically efficient, is rated at 31 mpg on the highway.) Update: ratings for the four-cylinder are 23/36; for the front-drive V6, 19/32; and for the AWD V6, 18/29.

200 interior

Those 2015 Chrysler 200C V6 and 200S drivers who want a more engaging and more spirited drive will also benefit from a new Sport Mode. With the push of a button, the steering system tightens up and becomes more precise, the throttle responses increases noticeably, the 9-speed transmission adjusts shift points to improve performance and the all wheel drive system adjusts the power distribution – all of which work together to really bring out the “driver's car” aspects of the new 200.

In normal driving mode, the 200 offers a good driving feel through the steering wheel, but in Sport Mode, the steering has less power assist and gives the driver a much more direct feel for the road. Sport Mode shifts are a bit stiffer and the lower gears are stretched out a bit; but not to the point of being too hard.

The throttle response is acute in normal drive mode but in Sport Mode, there is little hesitation from the point when you put the pedal down to the point when the 200 has shoved you back in the plush sport seats. When combined with the altered shift schedule of the Sport Mode, the throttle response provides instant-on power at any speed while the Sport Mode AWD shift provides the rear wheel drive feel that I love – with the positive traction attributes of a high tech AWD system. I spent the vast majority of my drive time in Sport Mode and were this to be my daily driver, Sport Mode would become my norm. It is one of the most advanced Sport Mode setups in the industry and that shows on the road.

back seat

So the 2015 Chrysler 200 has gobs of power for a midsized sedan, a new 9-speed transmission that improves efficiency and acceleration and an advanced all wheel drive system that offers incredible power distribution characteristics – but what about the ride and handling?

The 2015 Chrysler 200 has a sport tuned suspension that makes the car a ton of fun to drive on twisty roads, but the engineers were able to achieve these drive characteristics without hurting the ride quality. Many vehicles with sport tuned suspension systems – even those in the high end luxury world – have a rigid ride that is stiffer than some luxury car buyers want. Over the past decade, there has been a clear shift from the luxury car that feels like you are always floating along the road to something with a great deal more road feel, but some automakers take that to an extreme.

mopar 200S

The new 200 handles beautifully through tight, twisty turns and on the long, sweeping turns of the highway at much higher speeds. In some of the most demanding back roads with lots of hard, lower speed turns, I felt comfortable pushing the 200 harder through the turns, something that I cannot say about many cars in the midsized sedan segment. You can throw the new 200 into a tight turn and with the help of the all wheel drive, the sporty new Chrysler will power through the corner with just a touch of understeer when you push the 200 a touch too far. Fortunately, even when you push the 200 beyond its comfortable realms of performance, it is very easily to pull right back into shape. More importantly to some, the 200C rides like a dream on the open road even in areas with less than impressive road surface qualities. You can feel the roughness in the road a bit through the steering but the driver and passengers will not notice the vast majority of bumps on the highway.

200S

After spending a couple of hours driving the 2015 Chrysler 200C V6 AWD, I swapped to a new 200S with the Pentastar V6 and front wheel drive. The ride quality between the two was nearly identical, with the biggest difference coming on hard launches. While the AWD 200C effortlessly ripped away from a stop, the FWD models like to spin those tires a bit before gripping and driving away. You don't get the rear-drive feel without the AWD setup, both during hard acceleration or under hard cornering.

The FWD 200 tended to understeer a touch when pushed hard, but in normal driving situations on a 70 degree day, the difference between the FWD and AWD 2015 200 was hardly noticeable. I would go so far as to say that unless it was raining hard or snowing, most drivers wouldn't be able to tell the difference between the two different drivetrain layouts unless they were launching hard enough to spin the tires…which isn't a normal driving situation for most people. This is a good thing, as many front wheel drive cars which also come in all wheel drive feel heavier and a little more sluggish, but Chrysler did a good job of providing both FWD and AWD 200 sedans the same great driving characteristics shy of the obvious upsides to all wheel drive.

tail

The 2015 Chrysler 200C V6 AWD is a car that people who love to drive, will love to drive. The new 200 looks like a luxury car on the outside and it feels like a luxury car on the inside. Best of all, the new 200 has the types of power and performance that you would expect from a modern midsized luxury sedan while still being remarkably efficient. Due to the low price of the new 200, starting in the low 20s and extending up into the low 30s, the 2015 Chrysler 200 is compared to vehicles like the Toyota Camry, the Hyundai Sonata and the Honda Accord but smart shoppers will find that this car is so well appointed inside and out that it is better compared to vehicles from the likes of Lexus, Acura and maybe even Audi.

If you like how the 2015 Chrysler 200 looks inside and out – go drive one once they hit dealerships. My guess is that anyone who enjoys driving will instantly fall in love with the new 200 just like I did.

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.

head

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.

head shots

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.

door opening

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. But after over a decade of bad reviews, horrible ratings, and such, Chrysler is not even on the radar for most midsized shoppers.

2015 CHRYSLER 200S
Engine: 3.6-Liter V6 24-valve with Variable Valve Timing, 295 hp, 262 lb-ft torque
Transmission/Drivetrain: 9-speed 9HP48 Automatic Transmission/Front-Wheel Drive
Plant Sterling Heights Assembly Plant, Sterling Heights, Michigan
Price 200S: $24,495 + $6,030 in options and $995 in destination charge, $31,520 as tested
Fuel economy: 19 mpg City; 32 mpg Highway; 23 mpg Combined
Key standard features: Keyless entry; air conditioning; steering wheel-mounted shift control; cruise; tilt/telescope steering wheel; 8-way power driver's seat; power windows.
Options: ENGINE UPGRADE ($1,950): 3.6-liter V6 engine with upgraded brakes. LEATHER ($995) ventilated leather; 6-way power passenger seat; upgraded trim. COMFORT ($795): Dual-zone automatic climate control; heated front seats and steering wheel; rear vents; humidity sensor; back-up camera; remote start. NAV/SOUND I ($1,495): HD radio; high-power amp; 9 speakers with subwoofer; 8.4-inch touchscreen; navigation; LIGHTING GROUP ($795): HID headlamps w/LED DRLs and foglamps.
Why we'd buy it: Comfortable family car with good power and nimble handling; quality interior materials; good fit/finish; like the rotary gear selector.
Why we wouldn't: Rear seat access for adults; limited colors for base trim line.

2015+ 200:
MainTest Drive • SpecsLaunch • Chief Engineer • Rumors200 vs The World
Making 200s
The First 200 • Building 2015s (photos+story) • Body Shop • Making 2010s
Components
2.4 engineV6 engineFour SpeedSix SpeedNine Speed • UConnectFactory
2011-14 200:
Sedan • Convertible 200 ReviewConvertible Review • 200 vs Sebring

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