2015 Chrysler 200C Car Review / Test Drive

2015 chrysler 200C

To get from Alfa to Chrysler, they changed the Giulietta's length, width, and other dimensions, used a new suspension and powertrain, and changed the body and interior. Hence, “loosely” based on...

The 2015 Chrysler 200C was loosely based on the Alfa Romeo Giulietta and Dodge Dart, a relationship which helps with its fine handling. The 200 is far above most of its competition around sharp turns, yet the suspension is not punishing, a refreshing change from the numb Toyota Camry — though perhaps, for the segment, it should be more plush and less rush.

For feature-checklist lovers, the new 200 has a standard nine-speed automatic, and a host of modern safety-and-convenience gadgets too numerous to list here.

The old 200 had a somewhat old-fashioned approach to luxury, with lots of chrome, a 300C-like traditional grille, and a basic interior layout would not have stood out in 1996 or 2006. The new 200C, with its sleek lines, and driver-oriented, space-efficient interior, is a different kettle of fish. One exception to that rule is the overtly rocket-shaped roof antenna, seemingly a tribute to Chrysler's work on the Moon rockets.

head on viewWhile it may seem a bit generic at first, the front of the 200C is unusually well-crafted; it doesn't bring any new themes, as such, but integrates what it has well, with elements flowing into each other. The “face” is nearly vertically symmetrical; the flow of the DRLs into the headlights, and headlights into the grille, is what really sets it off, along with a smooth straight flow from hood to tail. The fog lamps are not large enough to integrate that well, but you can see that the stylists tried. After really looking at it for a while, the sculpted roof antenna is less surprising.

After looking hard at a 2015 Chrysler 200, the other cars in this segment just seem to be slapdash constructions, at least up front, with different styling elements thrown together for no apparent reason other than trendiness. Nothing is especially unique on its own accord, but it all works together, and was clearly designed for a reason. Well, at least, with the front license plate off.

Inside, the “center stack” is not really a stack; the sculpted dashboard yields to an angled surface for the climate and transmission controls, which merges with the spacious center console. The setup provides much more storage space just about any midsize sedan, yet looks sharper and pretty unique.

center console

One “cool” feature of the center stack is the moveable cupholders and armrest, which hide power outlets and audio ports, along with a surprising amount of space; and underneath the climate control/transmission console is space for a woman's handbag.

Quite a bit of space was freed up by getting rid of the console shifter, which takes up a lot of space but, in modern cars, is just a switch. Rather than returning to pushbuttons, Ram and now Chrysler have adapted a rotary shifter, used on some big rigs, with paddles on the steering wheel. The setup provides easy access to the Park-Reverse-Neutral-Drive settings, with the paddles providing low-gear settings.

dashboard

It takes little time to adjust to the rotary transmission shifter; my fingers learned after just two or three shifts to get from Park to Drive (or Reverse) without hesitation — or looking at the thing. (Getting to Drive or Park is easy since they're the last stop — the knob could go back around again, but it doesn't. Someone recognized Fitts' Law.) The knob gives good tactile feedback, with good gaps between gears, and clear but not stiff detents (stops). There's also a press-and-turn entry to Sport mode, which keeps the engine revving higher, shifts faster, and shuts off the stability control (you can override the latter).

The electric parking brake controller was less enjoyable. It quickly and efficiently cinches up the “emergency brake,” but I just couldn't get used to it, and don't see the advantage over foot-operated parking brakes. Electric parking brakes annoyed me when I first encountered them in a Toyota Prius, and they still annoy me today.

Powertrain: engine and transmission

Our test car was an all wheel drive 200C, which became apparent the first time we slammed on the pedal of the 295-horsepower V6, and all four wheels gripped the pavement and shot us forward. The all wheel drive made each launch just about perfect, and made foolish-fash starts with 90 degree turns all too easy. This should be one good snow car, too, though it's too soon to know that.

The car is front wheel drive by default, but the AWD option gives 60% of power to the rear wheels under most conditions, which makes it feel more like a RWD car. To save fuel, it switches invisibly to front wheel drive when there's no need to engage the driveshaft and rear axle, and if a particular tire starts slipping, it will automatically move power away from it.

engine

The throttle is fast and precise, and coupled with a low first gear and four-tire grip, gives very good stoplight response. Under less than optimal conditions, we recorded a 0-60 time of 6.4 seconds, measured via DashCommand, beating the big 300C eight-speed (rear wheel drive) by 0.2 seconds; the FWD version of the 200 could probably go faster, due to lower weight, if lack of traction doesn't get in the way.

As Patrick Rall wrote:

nameplateThe 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.

The wide-ratio nine-speed keeps the engine barely turning over at highway speeds; we saw 1,500 rpm at 75 mph, in ninth gear. On the highway, by the end of our test week, the transmission responded more quickly than the eight-speed in our 300, downshifting as needed to maintain speed on a grade or to suddenly grab power and fly; it can skip gears, going from 9th to 7th or 6th in one go. (At first, we found the car reluctant to downshift, but that quickly faded along with, apparently, the memory of a particularly gentle driver.)

car profile

Downshifts vary by how hard you're pressing your foot to the floor. A slight press and you may drop one gear (hard to detect, and worth just 500 rpm at highway speed) or none at all; a third of the way down, and you can drop two or three gears; floor it and you might drop by four. The severity of the downshift and resulting surge of acceleration is entirely in your, um, feet.

One has to be actively paying attention to detect the incredibly fast shifts. When you're using the paddle shifters, downshifts during coast-downs become obvious, as the engine matches revs before shifting, which causes the feel of coasting down to change.

  City Highway
I4 FWD 23 36
V6 FWD 19 32
V6 AWD 18 29

Gas mileage on the highway was better than we expected, given EPA ratings of 18 city, 29 highway (far from the four's 23/36); we were usually able to beat 30 without slowing down. The heavier, less aerodynamic Chrysler 300 V6 is rated at 18/31 with rear drive, just 1 mpg less than the far more slippery 200 (FWD V6); then again, the 200 seems faster, so maybe there's some gearing and calibration work that sets them apart.

Driving aggressively quickly drops efficiency, as one would expect, but you can get away with some stunts and still end up with a good 30 mpg in a highway trip — at 75 mph. For that, you can thank the nine-speed and surprisingly low aerodynamic drag, which also puts an end to wind noise. Road noise still comes in, especially on concrete and rough roads, but the wind is barely noticeable at normal speeds.

The paddle shifters worked easily and intuitively, push the left one to go down a gear and the right one to go up a gear, in either Sport or Drive. To get out of manumatic mode, hold down the right hand paddle shifter. These were mainly useful when you knew you wanted to accelerate soon, but the car did not; it was pretty good about downshifting automatically to maintain speed downhill. The car revs the engine on downshifts, to match the engine speed to the transmission speed, but only when using the paddles.

2015

Sport mode, which one must enter every time the car is shifted out of Drive, makes the steering and throttle control more precise (and the steering firmer, with less power assist), the nine-speed set to increase engine revs for faster response (and lower mileage), and biases the AWD more to RWD, to make the 200C feel more like a sports car. As Patrick Rall wrote:

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 AWD provides a rear wheel drive feel ... It is one of the most advanced Sport Mode setups in the industry and that shows on the road.

Controls and gauges

Perhaps, with the wide-range automatic and slippery skin, the car can reach the 140 mph on the speedometer. We hope so, because there should be a reason for crowding all the numbers into a small space, requiring either excellent vision, a long stare, or (easiest) reserving part of the trip computer for a digital speedometer. The tachometer, at least, ends at a reasonable 7,000 rpm — the next even number after the unmarked redline. We ended up showing the speedometer on the gauge cluster where you'll see the gas mileage below (in case you're wondering, we do get horrible mileage when doing photo shoots. Move the car here. No, here. No, here. Let's try this place now. Look for better numbers in later photos.)

oil life gauges

Chrysler has standardized on blue backlighting, presumably because that is the Color of Technology for Star Trek, Eureka, (etc) viewers.

Our 200C had a fancy trip computer — no longer a “configurable gauge cluster.” When there was a warning, the screen showed “orange shadows” on both sides, as though it was reflecting warning lights from underneath the physical gauges. It had 3-D graphics showing which doors were open, in addition to a simple red “doors open” indicator, because it can alternate warnings and you might miss the open door while looking at something else.

warning lights

The system is, in general, more fluid-looking and refined than most, though not necessarily more useful. Having the heat and fuel showing as bright blue filling in “tubes” is odd but not hard to read, and it's far more precise than the five-LED readouts on some cheap imports; and the gas gauge still points to what side of the car the gas cap is on. 

Buyers can customize the screen to show things like outside temperature, current speed, compass heading, and fuel economy (see video) in any of the top three positions; and the numbers are large enough for people with less than perfect vision. It's a gee-whiz feature, yet it's more useful than a standard EVIC... but it could still use a “multiple items in one screen” view or two. On a cold winter's day or in hot summer traffic, I'd like to monitor the antifreeze, oil, and transmission temperature, thank you.

dimmers

controlsThe controls are all sensible enough, and most are backlit. The steering wheel has voice command buttons clearly separated from gauge buttons on one side and cruise buttons on the other, with hard controls for the adaptive cruise control (more on this in the safety section). Audio controls are on the back, and paddle shifters peak out of the top. They are running out of steering wheel space, but it's better than the stalk proliferation some cars had a few years back.

The windshield wipers have their own stalk now, on the right, separated from the flashers and turn signals for no apparent reason other than symmetry; the 300 uses a single multifunction stalk. Or perhaps there is a reason — to avoid accidental wipes when one just wants to use the turn signal.

The 8.4 stereo has two knobs, for volume and tune/select, ending the “single knob for cheapness” period. There is another knob for the climate control, which includes Off and Auto buttons, and more buttons for key climate control features; the knobs are all knurled and large enough to handle with gloves. The one objectionable thing is the use of buttons for adjusting the temperature, rather than, well, yet more knobs.

Suspension, cornering, and ride

headlampsThe 200 felt quite a bit like the Dart, though they have different suspension designs. There is no comparing the 200 with the 300 in handling; the 300 handles well for its size, but the 200 feels like a small car as you whip it around turns, and it is hard to break its traction without resorting to dirty or wet roads. The small-car handling is a real departure from the 2014 200, which excelled in having a large-car ride that eliminated road imperfections, without being a Camry-style slop monster.

The emphasis on cornering is an interesting direction for Chrysler, since it seems to duplicate Dodge's feel, and spells the end of cushy rides for Chrysler buyers. It also seems to be the direction of the entire Fiat Chrysler hierarchy, from Fiat to Ferrari: coupling luxury with sport — a formula that works for Maserati, but may not be so helpful for Chrysler. Allpar folk who have driven both 200S and 200C say the differences are minimal.

This trend may not be in Chrysler's best interests; those who want a more plush ride will no longer have a Chrysler option, and the extra-capable cornering is not a sales point for many buyers.

Some cars have handling that can't be supported by their seats, but those of the 200, while generally comfortable, also have good enough bolstering to hold the driver in place. The car has little body roll, but still manages to dampen shocks and sudden pot-holes in a way the Dart can't.

Passengers may find that the ride is a bit busy, between the precise steering and throttle response and the sport-tuned suspension. Drivers are rewarded with fine handling through tight turns and confidence on the highway. Road feel comes in, dampened; the ride is a bit busier than the old 200 but the cornering is far better. Variable assist power steering helps the car feel stable and controllable on the highway, as does, I suspect, finely tuned downforce. The main drawback of the suspension was the rather large turning radius on our AWD car.

Automatic parking and safety gizmos

The 200C we tried out had the optional automatic parking system, which is, if not quite ready for prime time, at least closer than it was in the Lexus we tried out back in 2008. While the Lexus required flat ground, two lanes, and three empty spaces or so, the Chrysler can do its trick with a single parking space in a single lane; it's much faster in operation; it can work on an incline; and it just seems faster and more competent, swinging the wheel around quickly and providing both audio and video feedback.

It's a nifty trick that we would probably never use, and it's activated easily from a physical button. Press the button once, and when you pass a parking space (at under 15 mph), it will tell you to stop, then automatically park for you. The first time, it required a bit of back-and-forth maneuvering, and got us three inches from the curb. The second time, it was a single Reverse, a single Drive, and one inch from the curb. We took a video of the first and second time, please excuse the shakes...

The self parking system also works in perpendicular (parking lot) situations, and you can switch from one mode to the other by pressing the OK button. We found the perpendicular system to be a bit less well crafted than the parallel one, but it did work, even though it came awfully close to other cars at times.

buttonsThe safety gizmos include the Chrysler-first rear cross path detection, now being heavily advertised by Acura, which spots oncoming traffic as you're backing out of a space, using the sensors used for parking — there are a couple on the corners of the car, facing out to the side, as well as the ones facing backwards. These are very handy for avoiding crashes as you're blindly backing out from between, say, a pair of huge SUVs with black-tinted windows. The system includes a sensor to make sure that when you change lanes, you at least know that someone's in your blind spot; you can have it turn on a yellow LED in your mirror, or, if you feel lonely without beeps and buzzes all the time, have it give an audio alert.

adaptive cruise cameras

Up front, one finds the adaptive cruise control cameras. The best way to describe adaptive cruise: if you are cruising at 75, on autopilot, and the car in front of you slows and stops, you will also slow and stop. It maintains a space, as well as a speed, and there are three space settings (which I call Northeast, Midwest, and Montana).

driver assistThese cameras are quite likely the ones which also figure out where the lanes are, and try to keep you between them. You can shut off the “lane holding” feature, or you can dampen it down; when I first started driving the 200, it was set to strong response, and I was wondering why the steering wheel seemed to be yanking itself around from time to time. It definitely works, but I am waiting for the first lawsuit from the guy who sets the adapt cruise and the lane holding, then falls asleep until road construction yields a turn without any lane markings, or some such. This is why you're supposed to stay awake when using these systems, and the most important safety feature is a trained, alert driver.

tail-lights

Moving along, visibility is good day and night, the latter assisted by optional HID headlamps. The 200 may be somewhat more visible than many other cars due to its unusual front and rear side lights, which one almost never sees any more except on Dodge Challengers.

Interior space: storage and seating

The 200's trunk is quite large, with a small pass-through up front and the usual 2/3 fold-down back seats. We dramatically improved the stereo by disconnecting the subwoofer while we were back there taking photos. The hinges intrude into the trunk, but not into a part that you're really likely to be using.

trunk

Front seats are comfortable and maintained a balance of bolstering for skinny drivers and accommodation for wide ones. There is a large dead pedal for the driver, with map pockets in front and small door storage in rear; both front seats had leather pouches on the backs. A sunglass tray, finally lined with rattle-ending rubber, is in the overhead console (which, unfortunately, trades Chrysler's old “touch to switch” lights for “tiny button next to it” lights.) The center console has cupholders with bubbles to hold various containers, and an EZ-pass or pen rack.

spare tire

Critics have complained about the rear seat entry, and we can confirm that it might be hard for six-footers to get in without bumping their head on the roof. One of us, at five foot seven, got in easily; another, at five foot eleven, had to carefully duck, and then the roof was not far away — keeping in mind that the key measurement is butt to head, and people vary as to the proportion of leg length to trunk length.

seats and console

In short, though, one pays for the aero/fashion roof arc, but if you only keep kids (or median-or-lower-height adults) in the back seat, it works. In any case, the front seats are the place to be, because the rear seats are firm and not as shape-conforming, while the front seats put those of the 2014 300C to shame.

Stereo and luxury features

The stereo had fine sound fidelity, except for over-emphasized bass which continued after we disconnected the overactive central woofer (Chrysler made this easy to do). The surround sound is a good feature, but makes back-seat sound muddy; it's a shame they don't make it adjustable, as other automakers have.

audio inThe UConnect system has won numerous awards for its ease of use, and we found it easy to pair and use an ancient Motorola flip-phone; you can plug in a USB thumb drive with your music, too. It rejected the 32 GB thumb drive we normally use on our 300, but took an SD card hooked into a miniature USB adapter. Thumb drives are cheap and some experimentation may be needed, but using a thumb drive (or his-and-hers) is far better than locking up an iPod in the car. The system treats both well, using the folder hierarchy and filling in any gaps with Gracenote. It catalogued the disk remarkably quickly, as the Dart had (the Dart, by the way, took the USB drive. Go figure.)

navigation systemSatellite radio is well integrated, as you'd expect, and the car comes with a starter subscription to Sirius XM. If you let your subscription lapse, they usually cut the price to get you to come back. Or you can ignore it and use USB drives, because the satellite radio is highly compressed to fit so much data from so many channels into such a small bandwidth, and you can tell.

The Garmin navigation system is as easy to use as ever, and reacts more quickly than in older models.

Most common controls are on the steering wheel and/or physical knobs; but if you want to change bass and treble, or play with the fader and balance, you need to go to the UConnect screen.

Luxury features on this car included a heated steering wheel — unlike past models, the entire rim of the steering wheel is heated — and heated/ventilated front seats, with two levels of heat and ventilation. The high level is not as noisy as on the 2014 300C. The down side is there are no heated rear seats.

The navigation system includes traffic reports (though to keep them after one year, you'll have to pay SiriusXM), a Detour button, and an emergency feature which is duplicated in hard buttons on the mirror — one button for routine assistance (e.g. lockouts, out of gas), another to have an operator call 911.

headlights

UConnect 2 includes various apps; you can use your cell phone data plan to play music from Pandora and such, or use Chrysler's “Wi-Fi Hotspot” feature, which provides data access on the road, no matter where you are. This can be slower than dedicated cell data setups, but it's inexpensive and was designed to work well when the car is moving at highway speeds. An Assist app seems to do nothing but connect you to one of Chrysler's call centers.

Pricing and summary

The Chrysler 200 starts at $22,695, including destination charge, but the well-equipped AWD version of the 200C starts at $31,190.

Standard safety gear includes ten airbags (two front, two side, four side curtain, two knee bolsters), rear backup camera, stability and traction control, antilock disk brakes with “slam-it-on” assistance, an automatic parking brake (which you can use manually instead), and an alarm.

DRLs

safety settingsLuxury features include a remote starter, dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless entry and starting, cruise, six-speaker stereo with five-inch screen, USB port, voice control, and cell phone integration. Buyers also get the seven inch vehicle information display, leather-wrapped steering wheel, paddle shifters, express front power windows, and heated front seats.

Our test car had several option packages which boosted the price to $36,365, which is 300C territory. The most expensive of these was Navigation and Sound Group I, which includes the navigation system, eight Alpine speakers and a subwoofer which you may want to disconnect, HD radio, a 506 watt Alpine amp, the 8.4 inch display, and UConnect Access.

The next was SafetyTec, at $1,295, which included the automatic wipers, lane departure warning (with active “lane keep,” automatic high beams, forward collision warning with optional braking, adaptive cruise control that can stop and restart the car, blind spot and rear cross path detection (which are probably the most valuable part of the package), and parking assistance.

monroney sticker

seatsThe Premium Group, at $995, added better leather, ventilated front seats, “luxury” door trim panels, an AC outlet, memory for the outside mirrors, seats, and radio, heated steering wheel, and real wood which, with its matte finish, looked just like fake wood.

The Premium Lighting Group ($795) consisted of HID headlamps, LED daytime running lights, and LED fog lamps. This was more of a bargain than the $695 wheels, though at 19” x 8”, they certainly helped the cornering.

The whole package came with a five year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty with roadside assistance, and a three year or 36,000 mile basic warranty. The 200 is still built in Sterling Heights, Michigan, with 73% US and Canadian parts — including the engine (Michigan) and transmission (Indiana).

Overall, if you like a car that sticks to the road, the new 2015 200 is an incredible improvement on the old 200; but if you liked the old-fashioned road-smoothing feel of the old 200, you might not like the new one, at least not at first. The car is a major departure for the Chrysler brand, harkening back to the days when they had superior cornering and left wallowing to their competitors. It's ironic that Toyota has gotten softer and softer suspensions, and Chrysler has gone for the “Eurosport” feel; but 2015 200 owners may surprise a lot of “sporty car” owners on the twists and turns.

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

This page is in-image-ad-free, 50% of the time. Support Allpar by using our Amazon link

We make no guarantees regarding validity, accuracy, or applicability of information, predictions, or advice. Please read the terms of use and privacy policy. Copyright © 1994-2000, David Zatz; copyright © 2001-2016, Allpar LLC (except as noted, and press/publicity materials); all rights reserved. Dodge, Jeep, Chrysler, Ram, and Mopar are trademarks of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.


Price out the 2018 Jeep Compass
2018 jeep compass trailhawk
New vs old Compass “by the numbers;” videos

The next Jeep Compass is official
brampton-dodge-hellcat-web
Unifor set strike deadline for FCA

All Mopar Car and Truck News


2018 Jeep Compass  •  2007-10 Jeep Wranglers  •  2016 Allpar show-meet  •  41 years in Chrysler Engineering


Neon SRT4 Killing the buzzes Dodge pickup trucks, 1961-71