It has been a turbulent few years for the Chrysler 200. When the current generation model first appeared, Chrysler was banking on the 200 being able to take advantage of high gas prices while also making people forget about the past sins that the old 200 and its ancestor the mediocre Sebring wrought on buyers during their respective times in production. Unfortunately the recent drop in gas prices as well as the spike in SUV/CUV demand caused the 200 to fall short of its sales targets. With the 200’s time in production coming to an end later this year, we went for one final spin to see whether the car deserved a second chance at redemption.
Our Granite Crystal Metallic tester was a Touring LX grade car which is one step up from the base LX model. The exterior styling of our tester still looked handsome, and was a textbook example of how much difference the proper paint color makes with the metallic hue on our car looking much better in person than a standard color like white. The front fascia of our tester had a subtle hint of aggressiveness but it is clearly focused on looking futuristic and elegant. Our car did not have the LED accent lighting found in higher 200 trims for its headlights, but it still managed to look sharp especially at night. The side profile of the 200 is a no nonsense affair, and nicely flows out to the bland rear fascia which features LED taillights, and allowed the car to be slightly reminiscent of recent Hyundai products. It is also a major improvement over its predecessor which had no problem displaying its Sebring based heritage, and looked unbalanced as a result. Granted higher trim levels bring more chrome and nicer materials, but it is refreshing to see that even in near base trim, the 200 still looks handsome and fresh.
The interior of our tester was a mixed bag in some areas but it is still a massive improvement over the compromised accommodations that once defined the 200. There are copious amounts of soft touch plastics and thankfully fewer hard plastics than its predecessor. Our tester had the $495 Touring Preferred Package that brings a leather wrapped steering wheel to the cabin which felt great in my hands and was neither too big or too small. The cloth seats in our tester had good amounts of support and were comfortable on long trips especially a trip out to Holly with my girlfriend to attend the Michigan Renaissance Festival. Ergonomics is also another strong suit with many buttons and switches within easy reach of the driver. Front head and leg room was good, but the sloping roof line did cut into rear headroom somewhat, and rear legroom is a bit on the tight side.
Chrysler engineers opted for a rotary shifter instead of a traditional floor mounted unit for the transmission, and the end result helped increase storage space thanks to a small cubby that is mounted underneath the center stack. This space is big enough for small bags and even features a small relief print of the Detroit skyline in the center. The gauges are clear and comprehensive with blue back lighting that makes them standout during night time driving. And for those unfamiliar with their names, Chrysler designers were kind enough to add labels for them in the lower corner of each gauge.
However the interior of our tester also exposed a number of curious quirks. For instance Bluetooth is not standard equipment in lower grade 200s with our tester only getting it as part of the fore-mentioned Preferred Package. A rear view camera is also not standard equipment, and its absence was noticed during tight parking maneuvers where the compromised rear visibility and blind spots made parking unnecessarily frustrating at times. The Uconnect 5.5 system in our tester did a good job displaying information, but the touchscreen is smaller than most, and as a result, some of the functions were spaced too close together for our tastes. Lastly our tester had standard push button start and keyless entry (a big plus in a lower trim car,) but the entry system’s reliability proved to be erratic at times with the system sometimes locking the car with one press of the door mounted button, and other times taking as many as three to four presses before finally locking. We suspect that it was due to a faulty proximity sensor in the door handle, a known issue in other Keyless Enter-N-Go equipped FCA products.
Performance for the 2016 200 comes from either the 2.4 liter Tigershark four cylinder engine or the optional 3.6 liter Pentastar V6. Our tester had the 2.4 liter Tigershark four cylinder which is good for 184 horsepower and 173 lb-ft of torque. These figures are pretty decent for a four cylinder, and actually help the 200 perform admirably in urban driving. However, the engine is handicapped by the 200’s nine speed automatic transmission. When this transmission first appeared, it was the first production nine speed to be offered in a production automobile. Shifts are smooth but the transmission did occasionally hunt for gears, and the result was acceleration that produced alot more noise than actual movement especially during freeway driving. Thankfully the combination does deliver 36 mpg on the freeway which allows the four cylinder equipped 200 to be a great choice for fuel conscious buyers. However buyers looking for more performance will be pleased with the optional 295 horsepower 3.6 liter Pentastar V6 especially when equipped with all-wheel drive in “S” guise.
Handling in our tester will never be mistaken for a sport sedan with our tester probably being the last choice for a spirited jaunt through twisty back roads. However, when tasked with navigating the hustle and bustle of a busy commute, our tester did a good job absorbing bumps, and had good ride quality overall. The steering didn’t offer that much road feel but it is on par with other offerings in the mid-size sedan segment with only the Mazda6 standing out in regards to its handling prowess.
Pricing for the 2016 Chrysler 200 starts at $22,115 with our Touring LX tester starting at a slightly lower $21,995 with the $495 Touring Preferred Package and the $995 destination fee pushing the final price to a reasonable $23,485. This pricing is on par with other near base entries, and while the bulk of new car buyers will go to the 200 Limited, the Touring LX does represent a great value for young drivers especially buyers looking for a vehicle that has a balanced amount of equipment and efficiency, but will not overwhelm them with too much horsepower or electronic gadgetry.
As for whether the 200 deserved more during its brief time in production? We certainly think so, and while FCA is putting more of its focus on its popular lineup of SUV and pickup truck offerings, hopefully there will eventually be room for a repeat performance, and we look forward to sampling the next chapter in the 200 story whenever that opportunity comes.