A few months ago, I had the chance to spend about 20 minutes in the new Chrysler 200C, and I liked it very much. Now after spending a week with the car, I can confidently say that it will be my choice for Car of the Year. And I suspect that it will garner many votes from journalists for that title. It’s that good.
The first generation of 200 sedans was offered in 2011, and were a good improvement over the Sebring models it replaced. But these new 200 sedans, labeled as 2015 models, takes the 200 to another level. Unfortunately, no convertible model will be coming any time soon, if at all.
The 200 line is being built at Chrysler’s Sterling Heights, Michigan plant where they have spent nearly a billion dollars to make that plant state of the art. All that money invested in the plant is not to allow Chrysler to build the cars faster, but rather to build them better. The campus is a Fiat-inspired “Metrology Center” which is designed to detect and correct any potential fit and finish problems before any car leaves the factory. And upon close inspection of the cut lines of the car, where the hood meets the fenders, and the doors meet the center pillars etc., are all precision fit. The same can be said for all of the interior trim. This 200 sedan is built as well as any car at twice the price.
Since Chrysler is now owned by Fiat, there is a lot of Italian flair inside and out, as well as the chassis which is based upon some strong selling Fiat’s for the European market. The exterior features fluid crease lines from the front fender and up along the shoulder line, ending is a nice swoop of the rear fender. And character lines just above the door sills also add to the fluidity of design. The profile is coupe-like, which fits into the current fashion, and an aggressive front fascia and rear deck sets the 200 apart from the long list of midsize competitors.
The cabin is even more attractive. Everything is laid out well for the driver, and the entire look is upscale. Our test car came equipped with the reasonably priced( $995.00) Premium Group which includes leather heated and cooled seats, heated 2-tone leather steering wheel, luxury door trim panels, and real wood trim. And that real wood actually looks and feels like real wood – unlike those in most luxury cars that have enough coats of urethane to make then look exactly like plastic.
Both the heated and cooling features of those seats worked very well, as did the heated steering wheel. And the beige colored perforated leather seats have black piping around them, and black double stitching to add to the Italian styling flair usually reserved for more expensive cars.
The Customer Preferred option package offers a host of safety goodies, including Rain Sensitive Wipers, Advanced Brake Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control, Collision Warning System, Blind Spot and Cross Assist Warning, and the best Lane Departure Warning Assist I’ve ever encountered. Should you become distracted, which isn’t difficult with all the connectivity options you get in the car, this system will tug at the steering wheel like a dog at your pant leg to pull you back into your lane, and then let up the pressure so you don’t go weaving down the road.
There is plenty of room for 4 inside the cabin, which is one of the roomiest in the class., and the middle seat passenger can also be comfortable for an hour or so. The rear seats fold down to allow the already spacious trunk to expand the cargo capabilities. And the cabin is very quiet while cruising down the road.
The 200 sedan is a heavy car, but in a good way. It feels solid going down the road, with a pleasant ride quality that smooths out bumps and broken pavement easily. Steering feel is good and the car has a fairly tight turning radius. It will corner without too much body lean, and hold its line until you get some tire squeal. The All-Wheel Drive System, which is an unusual option for cars in this class, adds some weight but aids in handling, and will be a welcome feature in the snow belt areas of the country.
The base engine is an inline 2.4 liter unit that makes 184hp and 173 ft. lbs. of torque. The optional engine, and the only one offered on the AWD model, is a 3.6 liter V-6, which pumps out an impressive 295hp and 262 ft. lbs. of torque. Fuel economy is 18 City/29 Highway. The power is fed through a 9-speed (no that’s not a typo) automatic, with paddle shifters.
The shift mechanism is a dial on the console, which is both easy to use, and takes up less real estate, so the console has more storage and cup holder features.
There is a Sport setting on the tranny which shuts off the traction control, and makes the transmission shift at higher rpm, for a sportier driving experience. And the paddle shifters are tuned for quick shifting which adds even more to the fun factor. This is not a sport sedan in the German Audi and BMW definition, but it is closer than other offerings in the class, and with a full complement of luxury amenities, the Chrysler 200C AWD is a terrific value.
Base models, with the 4-cylinder engines, start at $22,695, and go up to $31,190. Our fully equipped test model had a sticker price of $36,365 including Destination Charges.
I would advise anyone looking for a mid-size sedan to visit a Chrysler dealer before making any final decisions. This model will be an eye-opener for any shopper.