Review: 2013 Chrysler 200S Convertible

2013 Chrysler 200 S ConvertibleI cannot recall the publication, but I certainly remember the article. Jeremy Clarkson, the opinionated and outspoken host of the popular BBC car show ‘Top Gear’ had flown to the US, and the rental car awaiting him was a Chrysler Sebring convertible. He reviewed it. To put it politely, he did not have anything nice to say about the car. He completely trashed it. In car journalist circles, there is a term regarding a review where you “kill a car”. With the Sebring, that’s essentially what Clarkson did. And Chrysler knew it too. Yeah, Clarkson’s biting, scathing review does not account for the fact that Chrysler was undergoing long-term neglect from its parent Cerberus.

As we all know, Chrysler was saved when Fiat came in and bought a substantial share of the Pentastar. The Sebring was a disaster of a car, but time and money constraints required immediate action, and not enough for an entirely new car. Chrysler wisely ditched the Sebring name, and for 2011 introduced the 200 sedan and convertible. Though not all new, the car did undergo a very heavy revision, aimed at addressing the sins of the outgoing car.

For as hard as the media in general has kicked the Sebring around, it was fundamentally not a bad looking car. The reborn 200 retains the basic shape of the outgoing car, but has been thoroughly refreshed and presents itself as a contemporary car. Still, the 200 has a deserved reputation as a favorite among, ahem, a slightly older demographic, as well as a favorite rental car in sunny climates. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Chrysler was well aware of that too, and wisely came out with the 200S, which takes the styling updates of the standard 200 a step further. A black finish grille, black headlight and fog light bezels with 18″ polished and painted alloys are subtle changes that worked to great effect. Our test car came finished in a gorgeous coat of Billet Silver Metallic clear coat. To sum, wherever I went, I didn’t feel like I was giving people the impression that I was driving my Dad’s car.

2014 Chrysler 200 ConvertibleInside, the 200 offers a roomy and relaxed cabin. I appreciated little details like crisp LED interior lighting, soft ambient lighting, and the analog clock. White stitching on the seats and silver trim brightened up our all-black interior. It’s easy to get comfortable in the 200. Easy to read gauges, supportive seats and fairly intuitive controls add up for a pleasant experience. Unfortunately, the 6.5″ touch screen color display controlling the audio, communication and nav looks hopelessly outdated, and is a tad clunky in some operations. Chrysler has addressed this in new models like the 300, so I see this as a problem with a solution in sight.

My Chrysler 200S would be my transportation for the annual International Motor Press Association’s two day gathering known as Test Days. On a lovely evening late September, I left my home on the Connecticut coast and headed northward for the bucolic scenery of the Catskill Mountains in New York state. With the top down, heat blowing, and heated seats on with my favorite satellite radio station on, it was time to hit the road. The 200 proved its mission as a relaxed, comfortable, yet competent cruiser. By the time I arrived in Newtown, CT, it was dark, temps dropping, and it was time to hit the interstate. I raised the top, and traveled into the night in quiet comfort. In fact, the top is so well insulated, I question why anyone would want to go with the extra weight and cost of the optional retractable hardtop.

The 200 is available in three trim levels, Touring, Limited, and S. The Touring comes standard with a 2.4L four cylinder rated at 173hp. Optional on the Touring and standard on the Limited and S is a 3.6L V-6, good for 283hp. For 2014, both engines are paired to a six-speed automatic. The V-6 sounds good under hard acceleration, and the car can hustle merging into highway traffic. My drive to the Catskills consists of curving and undulating roads, interstate travel both smooth and rough, and finally off the highway, a 15 mile blast on broad, smooth as glass and sweeping corners on my approach to my hotel. The 200 took it all in stride. This is no sports car, mind you, and it never pretends to be. What Chrysler offers is a confident budget grand tourer.

2014 Chrysler 200 S Convertible and SedanOur top=spec 200S test car starts with a base price of $32,820USD. Standard equipment includes Bluetooth, power cloth convertible top, power and heated front seats, leather seating surfaces, Boston Acoustics audio with SiriusXM satellite radio, auto climate control and remote and push button start. Our car’s only option was Chrysler’s UConnect with integrated Voice Command and Navigation. Including destination charges, total price rings in at a still respectable $34,610.

While the 200 can hardly be considered cutting edge, it does represent a remarkable value for what you get. Convertibles have a bad rap as compromised cars. You have to sacrifice something for that fun in the sun when it is warm, but not too hot, not too cold. I never got that impression during my week with the 200S. Top up or down, I was able to maintain a comfortable environment in the cabin. Top up or down, there is plenty of room in the trunk for luggage for a weekend getaway. Most modern convertible tops take up a lot of space in the boot, forcing you to keep the top up for the trip. The Chrysler’s trunk is big enough I can keep my luggage in the trunk, and keep the top down. I mean, that’s the point, isn’t it? It also bears mentioning the 200 has a usable rear seat, where real adults can sit without fear of them cursing you under their breath.

In sum, the Chrysler 200S Convertible represents a great value, slick styling, competent performance, with an unexpected level of trunk space and interior roominess not normally associated with convertibles. The lemmings may follow the gospel of Jeremy Clarkson or back off on seeing so many of these things on rental car lots, but the reality is the 200 Convertible no longer deserves all the crap that has been dished out. Chrysler fixed the flaws of the Sebring as best they could, and the car now deserves a second chance.

 

Chrysler Debuts 200S Special Edition

2013.5 Chrysler 200 S Special Edition

Alright. I confess. I am a closet Mopar guy. Sure, when it comes to my wallet I favor European metal, but my Grandfather’s unrelenting loyalty to Dodge and Chrysler, even in the worst of times left an impression on me. My Grandmother’s last car was a Chrysler LeBaron four door-a car the 200 can trace it’s family heritage to. For those of you not in the know, the Chrysler 200 is a revised Chrysler Sebring, which had ‘rental car’ written all over it. One Super Bowl commercial with Eminem at the wheel, the improved Chrysler 200 proved to be a very successful car.

Continuing on marketing the company’s motto of being ‘Imported from Detroit’, Chrysler has paired up with Carhartt, a world-wide known manufacturer of clothing for the working man, based in Detroit, established in 1889.  The 200 S Special Edition sports unique 18″ alloys, special front and rear fascias, and Carhartt’s special touch on the interior with their signature grey stitching.  Now in its last year of production, the Carhartt/Chrysler collaboration signifies a dignified ending to a car which had a humble start. Pricing starts at $28,870USD. The Chrysler 200 S Special Edition will make its debut at the 2013 New York International Auto Show.

2013.5 Chrysler 200 S Special Edition

New Details on Chysler/Jeep/Dodge’s Future

What a ride it’s been at Chrysler these past few years. Neglected by parent Daimler and subsequent owner Cerberus, Chrysler was on the brink of collapse and on their knees in front of the US Congress begging for a bailout. Ironically, Fiat, a company who fled the US in the early 1980’s turned out to be Chrysler’s savior. And so far, the results have been encouraging. The bottom-feeder Dodge Avenger has been enormously improved. SRT is reviving the almighty Viper. The highly anticipated Dodge Dart with full Alfa Romeo DNA intact will be hitting showrooms soon.

There is no question that Chrysler had a myriad of problems, and it appears that Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne is still at work at revamping the beleaguered company. According to a post from Autoblog, Marchionne confirmed the Jeep Compass will be killed off in 2014.  In spite of its 2011 redesign which modeled itself after the Grand Cherokee, Jeep’s attempt at targeting young urban types-especially females appears to have fizzled. The more successful Patriot, which shares the same mechanicals to the Compass has sold far better, with more traditional Jeep styling, but it is unclear what the future of the Patriot is. Still, these cars are dinosaurs, based on the now extinct Dodge Caliber which was mercifully let go in favor of the upcoming Dart.

The next casualty is the Chrysler Town & Country minivan. The Dodge Grand Caravan remains, which makes sense since the Caravan was the first minivan. Ever. Kudos to Sergio Marchionne for telling Chrysler it makes no sense selling the exact same car under two brands. Brand engineering is what nearly ruined the American auto industry, so killing off the Town & Country makes perfect sense to me.

In other related news, it appears there will be an SRT high performance version of the Dodge Dart that will sit above the Dart R/T. No word yet on what will sit under the hood. In sum, I find the news from Chrysler encouraging as failing and redundant cars are cut off, and under the control of Fiat they definitely appear to be a more focused company. The future looks bright.

The Power of Advertising

The Super Bowl is in the history books, and by now reporters at ESPN and NFL Network have discussed every minute detail of the game. For those who spend money-and I mean a LOT of money to advertise during the Super Bowl, the stakes are enormous. Expectations are sky high, the challenge is great. You need to grab the viewer, hold his attention, and, most important-make him remember what the product is, while competing for this urge to a) Go to the bathroom, b) Grab a drink, c) Grab some food, or d) All of the above.

Come Monday morning, a clear victor emerged (to me at least). Chrysler ran a full two-minute commercial titled “Born of Fire” featuring movie-quality scenes of Detroit, and a narrator telling the viewer, essentially, what hasn’t killed Detroit, or Chrysler, only makes them stronger. Night falls, cue Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”, with said Eminem driving the streets of Detroit in the new Chrysler 200. “That’s nice” you might think, but how does that make Chrysler the victor, when Audi and VW ran interesting ads as well? Simple. According to CNN, ‘Chrysler 200 ‘was the top search on Google Monday morning.

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Chrysler Debuts All-New 300

Chrysler’s flagship sedan, the 300, is finally getting a long over-due makeover. The last 300 debuted as a 2005 model, and wowed buyers and critics alike.  For over two decades, American auto manufacturers had been trying to emulate their Asian and European competition-with typically less than stellar results. But Chrysler all of a sudden remembered what American car companies were renowned for building-a big, rear wheel drive sedan with presence and swagger. And they gave us the 2005 Chrysler 300. It was all that and more. Gangster looks, a Bentley-esque grill, and available Hemi power. It was old school American iron in modern packaging.  And it was a hit.

Sadly, as is often the case with Chrysler, it was a brilliant idea, but with little money to develop and improve the 300, the car fell off the radar of buyers. Finally, Chrysler is introducing an all-new 300. Is it enough to keep the flame that burned so bright back in ’05? Hit continue to see what the new 300 offers. [Read more...]

In Retrospect: Chrysler PT Cruiser

The car in my garage last week, a 2010 Chrysler PT Cruiser Classic, technically shouldn’t have been there at all. You see, last year, with Chrysler bleeding bad, racing towards bankruptcy and on their knees in front of the US Congress looking for bailout money, promised the slow selling PT Cruiser would be killed. Not so fast. Enter savior Fiat, and the PT Cruiser gets a stay of execution, and lives on for another year.

Before we talk about the initial success of the PT Cruiser, it’s worth noting this car had a rough start from the get-go. In the late 1990’s Chrysler realized they had allowed their Plymouth brand to languish and get stale. The retro hot-rod Plymouth Prowler was the first salvo to revitalize the tired brand, and the follow-up was to be another retro-inspired car, the PT Cruiser. Then came the merger with Daimler. The Germans took one look at the state of Plymouth, and killed it. The PT Cruiser was spared, and debuted as a Chrysler.

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Editorial: To All the Mopar Haters…

I spent a good amount of time reading about the Detroit auto show, especially about Chrysler. With nothing new to show, Chrysler arrived in Detroit tooting about revised model lines, new standard equipment, etc. Hardly exciting stuff. Checking out the responses from readers at various auto-related blogs, a good deal of the general public seems certain that Chrysler is still going down. A strong opinion indeed, especially since no one has seen how the merger with Fiat will work out.

Personally, given the awful year they suffered through, and a long-neglected product portfolio, I thought it took guts and courage for Chrysler to set up a booth in the first place. The easy thing to do would have been to bury their head in the sand, and claim  for cost-cutting reasons, they couldn’t show. But they did, and Chrysler did the best they could with what limited resources they had. Facing the media could not have been a simple task, but I applaud Chrysler.

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Name that Mopar

If the curves behind the lovely lady don’t look familiar, you would not be unlike many of the journalists at the Detroit auto show over the past couple of days. The car is clearly not a traditional Chrysler, yet it is wearing Chrysler badging. There are no signs anywhere near it and no nameplate.Curiously, there are also no Chrysler people anywhere near it to answer the “What is it” question that seems to be asked constantly.
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Dodge Refreshes Nitro Line

When former Chrysler parent Cerberus was asked to show what new cars were in the pipeline to the US Government, the news was worse than expected-there was virtually nothing, especially for Dodge. With new cars from Fiat still a couple years away, Chrysler must make do with its current stock. In hopes of sparking interest in Dodge’s entry-SUV, the company has revised the model line up and added equipment with Heat, Detonator and Shock models.

Introduced as a 2007 model, the Nitro is essentially Dodge’s version of the much more recognized Jeep Liberty. The base 3.7L V-6 has been dropped, so all Nitros share a 4.0L V-6 rated at 260hp, coupled to a 5-speed automatic. Buyers have a choice of rear wheel or all-wheel drive. At this time it is unclear if Dodge will eventually replace or discontinue the Nitro, but for now, click the link for the new model details.

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Forgotten Sporty Cars: Chrysler Laser

Welcome back to Forgotten Sporty Cars at The Garage! In this space we recall an era where small, economy car-based based vehicles were sold with zippy styling. Whether there was any substance to the sizzle we’ll leave for you to judge.

1984-1986 Chrysler Laser

1984_Chry_Laser_color

Imagine for a moment you are Chrysler in the early 1980’s. The automotive industry has been in a performance car coma for years, but there are flickering signs of life at rivals Ford and Chevy with their Mustang GTs and Camaro Z-28s. Money is tight-the US Government just bailed you out in 1979. So, you work with what you have, which in this case the front wheel drive K-car platform.

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