Chrysler 200 can stop pretending – Toledo Blade
The Chrysler 200S, on the grounds of Nazareth Hall in Grand Rapids, Ohio, is ready for a spin.
THE BLADE/JETTA FRASER
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The Chrysler brand has had an unfortunate penchant for pretending over the last few years.
Pretending the old 200 sedan could really take on the likes of Honda and Toyota. Pretending it was a luxury brand. Pretending no one would notice that neither of those things were true if the advertising was zippy enough.
That’s all in the past.
The completely new 2015 Chrysler 200 is an honest-to-goodness competitor in the midsize segment, blending good looks, good design, and good performance in a straight-from-Detroit package that’s worthy of a look.
The first-generation 200, which came out in 2010, was a heavily updated and facelifted Chrysler Sebring. That it sold as well as it did speaks volumes about Chrysler’s engineers, who somehow made it a much better car than the rickety Sebring, and Chrysler’s marketing people, whose “Imported From Detroit” advertising campaign is something that could one day end up in college textbooks.
Chrysleris still selling that Detroit theme — the city’s skyline is neatly molded into a rubber insert in the center console — but this car should be able to sell on its own merits.
It needs to. With Chrysler rightly repositioned as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ mainstream brand for North America, the 200’s success is absolutely critical.
We recently spent some time in a V-6 powered, granite gray metallic 200S and found it comfortable, well-powered, and relatively fuel-efficient.
The 200 comes in four trim levels. The LX is the options-light entry-level package, starting at $21,700. The Limited trim clocks in at a starting price of $23,255. The S — what we drove — is Chrysler’s sports-sedan trim. At $24,495, the car comes with leather-trimmed sport seats, a tighter, sports-tuned suspension, 18-inch rims, paddle-shifters, and dark-finished interior and exterior accents. More on all that later. The top-of-the-line 200C starts at $25,995, though if you feel like treating yourself, a checklist full of options can push the car well north of $36,000.
All 200s come standard with a 184-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and Chrysler’s nine-speed automatic transmission. The 200S and 200C are available with Chrysler’s award-winning 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6, which pumps out 295 horsepower. All-wheel drive is available in the 200S and 200C, albeit for an extra $4,200.
The 200’s interior is familiar in a good way. Like Chrysler’s other new products, a greater emphasis has been placed on interior design and quality.
The 200S’ interior is familiar in a good way. Its puck-shaped, rotary shifter, not shown, takes a little bit of getting used to.
THE BLADE/JETTA FRASER
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One of the more interesting features is the Chrysler’s puck-shaped rotary electronic shifter. While it’s a space saver, it seems as if it would be more at home in Joe Louis Arena than a midsize sedan. It’s smooth to operate, but it does take some getting used to. On more than one occasion, we found ourselves thumbing the fan control knob instead of the gearshift. That’ll get the wind in your hair, but you’re still not going anywhere.
Undoubtedly, daily driving would greatly reduce those misfires, but twisting a knob seems unlikely to ever deliver the same satisfaction as pulling a gear stick into drive, let alone pressing a clutch and working the shifter into the right position.
Still, the electronic shifter allows Chrysler to get nifty with its center console and carve out a pass-through between the driver and passenger. That gives extra storage, and the low profile of the console doesn’t make you feel as if you’re in solitary confinement.
The seats in the S are firm but quite comfortable. Interior space is quite good, at least up front.
The styling of the 200 makes it an attractive car. Some have complained that it looks too much like something else; but if that something else is an Audi or Hyundai Genesis and not the old 200, it seems as if Chrysler’s doing something right.
The downside to the swooping, I-really-want-to-be-a-coupe roofline is a sacrifice of rear head room. While the back seats themselves are comfortable, there’s not a lot of space for your noggin. Anyone over 6-foot tall is likely to have some complaints. Even if you’re a bit shorter, looking out the window may require a little ducking.
But heck, we’re up front driving the thing. What do we care?
And the 200 actually can be fun to drive. The V-6 has power-a-plenty and it works quite well with the nine-speed. So well, in fact, that the paddle shifters seem kind of pointless. Keep your expectations realistic, but putting the car in sport mode adds to the fun by changing up the throttle response andshift points and tightening the steering. The V-6 also sounds good, especially at higher revs.
The car feels quite solid through what mild curves we could find in northwest Ohio. The ride quality is OK, though the sportier suspension and larger tires do allow more road chatter to come up and say hello.
We also briefly drove a regular four-cylinder 200, which seemed a tad bit cushier. And while the four-cylinder isn’t going to win you any drag races, it easily has enough power for everyday driving.
Still, if you’re a car enthusiast who happens to find yourself in the midsize sedan segment, the optional V-6 is probably worth the $1,950 price of admission. With that option and destination fees, our tester clocked in at $27,440.
The 200 has some neat features. A long as you have the key fob on you, the doors can be unlocked just by pulling the handle. It’s great, observed a friend, if you’re being chased and need to make a speedy getaway.
Overall, the fit and finish of the car is good. It shows that Chrysler spent $1 billion dollars improving and upgrading the Sterling Heights plant.
The EPA rates our V-6 powered 200 at 19 miles-per-gallon in the city, 32 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined. In a little more than 200 miles of road testing, we returned 26.7 mpg, according to the on-board computer. On a short, 50-mile trip up U.S. 23 in Michigan, the 200 delivered just over 33 mpg. That’s a small sample size, but it makes the 32 mpg rating seem realistic.
The midsize sedan is a big category full of good cars. For the first time in a long time, Chrysler can be considered among them.
No pretending necessary.