Poor Chrysler. If ever there was a company that has struggled with the mid-size sedan, its these guys. Do you recall the Sebring? Of course you don’t. Or if you do, its that of you rushing to the airport rental car desk desperate to rid yourself of that rolling disaster. In an effort to distance themselves from the Sebring, in 2010 Chrysler introduced a heavily revised Sebring, and renamed it the 200. With revised sheetmetal, new interior and V-6 engine, the 200 was a dramatic improvement, but still lagged behind the competition and remained the darling of rental car fleets.
In 2015 the 200 finally got a clean sheet. With the convertible gone, the 200 continues as a sedan only. Elegant, sporty styling is without question one of the 200’s strongest selling points. Our test car, finished in Vivid Blue seen above, was certainly easy to spot in a parking lot. Contemporary and not trendy, I suspect the 200 will age gracefully. Yet for as handsome as it is, I could not help but wonder if Chrysler designers aren’t sure just what a Chrysler is supposed to look like. Stripped of its badges, people will be very hard pressed to guess what it is they’re looking at.
The interior is where many a Chrysler has fallen down. Thankfully, a stylish, well executed cabin complements the exterior nicely. The driver is faced with easy to read gauges set against soothing blue lighting. Controls are easy to use, and the UConnect 8.4″ touchscreen remains one of the best in the business in terms of speed and ease of use. The rotary shift knob reminds one of the Jaguar XF. Although unusual, it was easy to get used to. Fit and finish cannot be faulted, and the quality of materials are excellent.
Our 200 was to be a getaway car for a romantic weekend in beautiful Essex, Connecticut. It was easy to find a comfortable seating position, and we arrived at our destination relaxed and refreshed. A six speaker stereo with Sirius XM satellite radio and easy connectivity to an iPhone made for stress free entertainment. The interior, by no means cramped, is slightly smaller than its peers, especially in the rear. If your backseat passengers are lanky teenagers, you may want to look elsewhere. On the plus side, the trunk offers generous size, easily swallowing our luggage and a weekend’s worth of shopping.
The 200 is available with a choice of two engines. Base cars have a 2.4L four cylinder with 184hp or a 3.6L V-6 with 295hp. Both engines are mated to a nine speed automatic, though V-6 cars get paddle shifters and a sport mode. All wheel drive is also available. Our car had the V-6, and from other reviews, this is the engine you want. Quiet while cruising, the V-6 produces a nice snarl on acceleration. Fuel economy is commendable, offering 19mpg city, 32mpg highway. Range was impressive. The transmission shifted smoothly around town and merging onto the highway, but in the twisting roads of Middlesex County, the 200 seemed challenged finding the right gear.
In the near limitless array of mid size cars available, the 200 without question leans toward the sporty end of the spectrum. Handling is enjoyable, the ride comfortable but taut. Buyers seeking a creamy ride will do better to find a Camry. Our test car had the standard 17″ wheels, which still gave the car a firm ride, but left me wondering what the 200 would be like with larger wheels that are available. The steering offers good feedback and is beautifully weighted. In all, the 200 is an enjoyable car to drive.
The 200 is available in four trim levels: base LX, Limited, which is expected to account for the majority of sales, sporty S and luxurious C. Our test car was a Limited, which has a starting price of $24,145USD and comes reasonably equipped. Options on our car included the Convenience Group (sun visors with illuminated vanity mirrors, body colored heated mirrors, power drivers seat), and Comfort Group (dual zone auto climate control, heated seats, remote start, dual exhaust, leather wrapped steering wheel, UConnect 8.4″ touchscreen, Sirius XM radio, auto dimming rear view mirror). Including destination, our 200 rings in at $29,370USD.
In a class where the default car is an Accord or Camry, the Chrysler 200 stands apart. Beautiful exterior styling complemented with an impressively well executed interior, powerful engine and excellent handling make for a compelling package for the buyer seeking something different. Still, the 200 is not for everyone. A firm ride and cramped rear quarters will turn away some buyers.
If the 200 sounds like a compelling choice, you may want to act sooner than later. In January, parent company Fiat announced production of the 200 will be ending this year. With a car that has been on the market only two years this may seem like a brash decision. So what happened? This is a great car, why kill it? For as fine a car as it is, the new 200 is selling about the same as the far inferior previous generation car. My reasoning is after years of offering such mediocre mid size cars, Chrysler has simply fallen off the radar of todays buyer. This will not be the first time a company offers a perfectly good car, but is ignored by buyers.