2015 Chrysler 200 remake sweetly disappointing – USA TODAY
Looks cool, needs work.
The 200 has grown up into an attractive midsize sedan that Chrysler hopes will face off very well against the big dogs in the category — Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata.
Appearance and power are sufficient to do the trick. But our two 200 test cars had issues we thought would have been ironed out by now.
First, the good stuff:
Styling. Great job distinguishing the 200 from the many other midsizers that look like a worn bar of soap. The general shape is dictated by the need for low wind resistance, to meet tightening federal mileage standards. So it’s hard to distinguish your bar of soap from the next guy’s, but Chrysler does it well.
Ford’s Fusion, which Chrysler says is No.1 rival to the 200, likewise has great eye appeal.
Interior. The two well-furnished test cars had thoughtful and good-looking insides, as befits the higher end of the 200 model line. The wood trim is actual wood, not woodish plastic, Chrysler says, and that’s rare outside the luxury-car universe.
The multi-featured center console has several ways to hold phones, iPods, beverages, what have you, usually without interfering with each other or having to share space.
Seats were just OK on comfort. Your physique might find them swell. And they certainly look good in either leather or cloth upholstery.
Power. We drove no four-cylinder versions, so withhold comment on those. The V-6 is a howling good time under hard spur. It’s the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 (295 hp) used in many Chrysler Group vehicles.
Mileage. Good by our admittedly low standards. Both V-6 cars registered 19 mpg, one in heavy-foot suburban running, the other in a mix of city/highway.
The V-6 and four-cylinder both use regular gas, saving you a few bucks at the pump. And they are what they are: straightforward gas engines with good technology but eschewing turbo this and hoo-hah that. Those more exotic engines — which claim to sip like mini powerplants but go like mega muscle — usually do neither.
Infotainment. Chrysler’s true-blue Uconnect immediately paired with any phone we offered and stayed paired. Voice control was above-average in ease of use and speech intelligibility.
Still no match for Test Drive’s Garmin aftermarket navi, though.
Now, the not-so-good:
Trunk lid. Ouch. On neither test car would it stay partway open as you sometimes want, or assume it will. Nor did it rise all the way when you lifted it casually.
Bu the test cars were pre-production vehicles and Chrysler, alarmed by our report, checked them It said the trunk lid setting was incorrect and adjusted it to match cars in showrooms now. Much better.
Brake pedal feel. Numb. And once you can feel the brakes respond, it’s not in proportion to how hard or far you push the pedal.
Nine-speed automatic transmission. Shared with the Jeep Cherokee and the Dodge Dart, the gearbox was too busy in the test cars, shifting too often, and too noticeably as it moved among the gears. The programming kept the transmission in the lower gears a bit longer than seemed proper, revving the engine a little more than most people probably prefer in normal, low-speed driving — sort of a “sport lite” mode.
We didn’t notice those flaws driving the Jeep or Dodge.
Chrysler’s first with a nine-speed. But being first isn’t necessarily best. Ask people who owned inaugural versions of BMW’s iDrive control system. Or early adopters of Ford Motor’s Sync control setup.
Nor is being first a guaranteed flop. Chrysler Group was first to offer an eight-speed outside the luxury market, and it works very well.
Chassis. A bit jiggly on smooth roads, not especially forgiving over drainage channels. Not the just-so tuning we’ve felt on bigger Chrysler Group vehicles, such as the Jeep Grand Cherokee and even the big Ram pickup.
The 200 AWD car felt smoother, more composed, more comfortable over bumps, which could be a nod to its extra weight — though lighter cars usually feel better to drive than heavier ones.
The Chrysler 200 looks so appealing, the higher-level models have such well-done interiors, and the V-6 is so much fun that we’d love to offer a standing ovation. But the drawbacks make us wary.
We’d wait to see if the car gets better in Year Two.
WHAT STANDS OUT
Styling: Very appealing.
Interior: Roomy, thoughtful.
Drivetrain: Needs work.
ABOUT THE 2015 CHRYSLER 200
What? Full-on remake of the midsize, four-door sedan based on chassis derived from Fiat’s Alfa-Romeo Giulietta, and similar to that used for Dodge Dart and Jeep Cherokee. Available with four-cylinder or V-6 engine, front-wheel drive (FWD) or (V-6 only) all-wheel drive (AWD).
When? On sale since mid-May.
Where? Made at Sterling Heights, Mich.
How much? Base model, LX, starts at $22,695, including $995 shipping. Top-level C with AWD and every listed factory option is $36,265.
Well-equipped test cars: 200S AWD V-6, $33,470; 200C FWD V-6, $34,415.
What makes it go? Standard: 2.4-liter four-cylinder MultiAir2 rated 184 horsepower at 6,250 rpm, 173 pounds-feet of torque at 4,600 rpm. Optional, 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 rated 295 hp at 6,350 rpm, 262 lbs.-ft. at 4,250 rpm. Both use a nine-speed automatic transmission.
How big? Fraction of an inch longer, wider, taller than Ford Fusion, which Chrysler says is the chief rival. Despite 4.2-in. shorter wheelbase, the 200 interior is only 1.4% smaller than Fusion. Trunk is the same — 16 cubic feet.
Weighs 3,473 lbs. and up, depending on model.
Turning-circle diameter, 39.2 feet (FWD), 39.5 ft. (AWD).
How thirsty? Four-cylinder rated 23 mpg in the city, 36 mpg highway, 28 mpg combined city/highway driving.
V-6 rated 19/32/23 (FWD), 18/29/22 (AWD).
200C FWD V-6 test car registered 19 mpg (5.26 gallons per 100 miles) in suburban driving that included full-throttle bursts. 200S AWD V-6 tester showed the same 19 mpg in mix of city, highway.
Both engines burn regular; tank holds 15.8 gallons.
Overall: Looks sweet inside and out; chassis and drivetrain need refinement.