2015 Chrysler 200 Test Drive Review

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2015 Chrysler 200 Test Drive Review

Look and Feel 9
Performance 7
Form and Function 8
Technology 10
Safety 9
Cost-Effectiveness 6
8.2 10 Overall Score

You shouldn’t pay more than invoice for a 2015 Chrysler 200, and that’s after pocketing the rebate money. Trust me on this—the dealer really wants to sell you this car.

The 2015 Chrysler 200 looks and feels terrific. While small rear seats and poor outward visibility might give some potential buyers pause, and though a few tweaks might be necessary to make the driving experience a little more satisfying, Chrysler’s effort to make the 200 into a world-class family sedan is an overall success.

Look and Feel

9

Out of 10

There are many steps to earning the respect of a teenager. The fastest route, though, is to look good. Thus it was that my teenage nephews looked up excitedly when my 2015 Chrysler 200C test vehicle pulled up to the valet station after a family lunch: “You have a Tesla Model S for the week?!”

No, but you can understand the confusion. The grille may be completely different, but the 200, with its elliptical headlamps, aggressive stance and coupe-like silhouette, does bear more than a passing resemblance to the awe-inspiring electric car, despite its base price of $21,700. You can call this Chrysler sedan sexy without fear of ridicule.  

But, of course, Chrysler didn’t build the new 200 for a teenage audience. It built its 5-passenger sedan to transport families in ease and comfort. And, perhaps, to lay to rest the ghosts of mediocre Chrysler sedans past, such as the Sebring and even the first-generation 200.

Chrysler offers the 2015 200 in four trim levels: LX, Limited, 200S and 200C. You can also choose between an inline 4-cylinder (I4) and a V6 engine, and depending on the trim level, this car is available with a choice between front-wheel and all-wheel drive.  

The base 200 LX starts at $22,695, including a destination charge of $995. Most buyers will likely step up to the 200 Limited ($24,250), which includes a voice-controlled 5-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth connectivity, one-touch operation for the front windows and upgraded trim inside and out. This version of the car also has LED running lights and a set of 17-inch alloy wheels, and it provides access to a broader array of options.

For a bit more athleticism, look into the 200S model ($25,490), which upgrades the car with a firmer suspension, manual shift controls on the steering wheel, dual exhaust outlets, heated side mirrors, darkened exterior trim, fog lights and unique 18-inch wheels. This model also includes cloth- and leather-trimmed sport seats, an 8-way power driver’s seat, acoustic front door glass for a quieter cabin, upgraded interior trim and one year of free satellite radio.

The flagship trim level is the 200C ($26,990). This version swaps the 200S trim’s sport suspension for a ride and handling tuning treatment, and comes standard with leather seats, a 6-way power front passenger’s seat, dual-zone automatic climate control with a humidity sensor, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel and rear-seat heat and air conditioning vents. The 200C also includes an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, a universal garage door opener, a 7-inch information display nestled between the gauges, remote engine start and a reversing camera. Satin-finish wheels, brighter exterior trim and side mirrors with turn-signal indicators identify the 200C from the outside.

My test vehicle was the top-of-the-line 200C with nearly every option, painted Velvet Red and including a V6 engine, all-wheel-drive and 19-inch wheels. It had the Premium Group Package, Premium Lighting Group Package, SafetyTec Package, Navigation and Sound Group Package and a panoramic sunroof. This means that it stickered at $37,860, quite a bump up from the base price.

However, you can definitely see where the money went. This loaded and stylish 200C sure looks and feels like an entry-level luxury car.

Performance

7

Out of 10

Chrysler inserted an excellent 3.6-liter V6 into the engine bay of my 200C. It moved the sedan with plenty of enthusiasm, thanks to broad-shouldered power accessible across the rev range. According to Chrysler, this engine will outgun all its midsize sedan competitors.

Tamping things down a bit was a 9-speed automatic transmission that sent power to my test vehicle’s optional AWD system. While it is refined, it does get a bit confused on occasion, taking its sweet time to engage Reverse or Drive, and at times pausing for too long before downshifting. Nine speeds? What is this, a bike? I do applaud Chrysler’s use of a space-saving rotary dial to choose gears, mounted on the center console where it falls readily to hand.

I found it best to engage the 200C’s Sport mode and to use the paddle shifters when traveling the twisty sections of my test loop. Independent publications have pegged the 200’s zero-to-60 acceleration time at less than 6.5 seconds with the V6 engine, which is speedy for a midsize sedan. And happily, I averaged 22 mpg during a week of driving, which is exactly what the EPA said my test car should average. That doesn’t happen very often, and it’s always a nice surprise when the numbers on the window sticker match reality.

Still, the 200C is not a car that inspires you to take the long, scenic way home. While overall ride quality is decent, especially around town, taking on the mountainous roads near my house revealed that it’s not as tossable or as fun to drive as other midsize sedans. The AWD system, combined with my test car’s 19-inch wheels and tires, provided plenty of grip when thrown into a turn, but the 200C’s ride-and-handling suspension tuning proves a bit skittish in this environment, at times exhibiting too much body roll and lateral motion during maneuvering while letting too much road feel invade the cabin. The overall result is a jittery ride quality that doesn't suit this particular trim level. I’d be interested in checking out the 200S with its tauter suspension to see if it’s the better solution.

The 200C’s steering felt reasonably tight and accurate, demonstrating almost too much heaviness when the car is placed in Sport mode. The brake pedal needs additional attention to calibration, though, as it feels positioned too high compared to the accelerator pedal and frequently delivered inconsistent response depending on the driving situation.

Another issue of note is the 200’s long front overhang. While it adds to the car’s dramatic look, it also requires a deft touch on dips in the road and steeper driveway aprons. Often, when turning into my subdivision, the front air dam scraped loudly on the run-off channel at the entrance to my street.

Form and Function

8

Out of 10

Chrysler put lots of attention into the look and feel of the 200’s cabin, and it shows. Most of the materials appear to be of high quality, and I could find no significant flaws in terms of assembly. My test vehicle’s two-tone Black and Linen color scheme looked very upscale, and all of the surfaces were nicely textured, complemented by real wood trim.

Chrysler takes a unique approach to the car’s center controls. Because a rotary dial is used for gear selection, the automaker is free to design an angled console containing it plus the climate-control knobs and electronic emergency-brake button.

Beneath this control panel is a large storage area accessible from both the driver’s and passenger’s sides of the car, and the top of the console, where the cupholders are located, slides back to expose a hidden storage area complete with USB charging ports, an auxiliary input jack and even a 115-volt 3-prong power outlet. A pass-though allows electrical cords to be fed from the power outlet and charging ports to the underlying storage tray.

If the interior doesn’t supply enough storage space, know that the trunk is capacious, providing 16 cubic feet of cargo space. A 60/40-split folding rear seat and a center pass-through add flexibility when it comes to carrying people and/or stuff.

The driver and passenger benefit from supportive front seats with heating and cooling options. And hooray, a seat-height adjuster is included for the 200C’s front passenger seat! My biggest gripe with the driver’s seat has to do with the 200’s rather restricted visibility. With a high belt line and huge roof pillars all around, I constantly felt like I had to peer around to get a sense of my surroundings. The reversing camera was put to good use, as rear visibility is also limited.

Those who regularly carry rear passengers will want to note that the 200’s rear seat is less accommodating than that of most other midsize family sedans. Legroom is tight, and the sloping roofline places the headliner too close for taller people’s comfort. While children will have no trouble with their accommodations, full-size adults are likely to complain. To drown out the whining, open up the panoramic sunroof and crank up the premium sound system’s volume.

Tech Level

10

Out of 10

With the new 200, Chrysler offers myriad ways to be as connected as you possibly can so that you won’t have to spend a minute of your drive within an entertainment vacuum.

My test car’s outstanding Uconnect Access infotainment system included an 8.4-inch color touchscreen, Bluetooth connectivity with text messaging support, a navigation system, remote access to certain vehicle features and smartphone integration to stream music and access supported mobile apps, including Yelp, Pandora and iHeart Radio. Plus, this setup turns the 200 into a mobile Wi-Fi hot spot. In my opinion, this is one of the best touchscreen infotainment systems on the market, proving easy to use and featuring great graphics combined with clearly labeled virtual buttons that are readily responsive to the touch.

Chrysler’s Driver Information Display (DID) digitally displays pertinent information within the instrument cluster and can be customized so that you can access specific information and change the color scheme according to your mood. I like having information like exterior temperature and average fuel economy so easily accessible. The DID obliged.

Our family also took advantage of the remote start feature during the week of a blazing late-summer heat wave. From the comfort of your home, simply push the engine start button on the key fob, and the engine starts, cooling the vehicle prior to driving. This also comes in handy on brutally cold mornings. Just make sure the car isn’t parked in the garage when you’re using it.

Safety

9

Out of 10

The Chrysler 200 is available with all kinds of active safety technology… as long as you choose the most expensive trim. My 200C test vehicle was bedecked with Chrysler's exclusive SafetyTec Package, which includes adaptive cruise control with stop and go capability, a frontal-collision warning system, a lane-departure warning system, a lane-keeping assist system, a blind-spot and cross-traffic detection system, rain-sensing wipers and automatic high-beam headlights. While several of these features are available only on the 200C, the fact that the SafetyTec Package costs just $1,275 presents an exceptionally strong value proposition.

Additionally, this package includes a self-parking system that can steer the 200C into a parallel or perpendicular space while the driver operates the pedals and transmission. I’m not sure when the latter maneuver became so tricky for drivers as to require electronic assistance, and I didn’t have any need for either of these features, which tend to take time and space to activate and use, causing ire in fellow motorists who are forced to wait while you compensate for your lack of driving talent. Just give me parking sensors and a reversing camera, and I’ll be fine, thanks.

A blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert is also available for the 200S model, but not any of the other SafetyTec Package features. Given that Chrysler believes the 200 Limited will be the volume seller, this exceptionally useful technology really ought to be available on that version of the car, too, and I’ve knocked a point off the 200’s rating for this omission.

As far as crash protection goes, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has bestowed a Top Safety Pick rating upon the new Chrysler 200. Get the Safety Tec Package, and the car earns a Top Safety Pick+ rating.

Cost-Effectiveness

6

Out of 10

The good news is that it shouldn’t cost much to own a Chrysler 200. I easily matched the official EPA fuel economy rating, and Consumer Reports predicts that overall ownership costs should prove to be lower than average. Plus, Chrysler supplies three years or 36,000 miles of free roadside assistance. This new version of the car should easily improve on the previous model’s dismal 1-star depreciation rating from ALG, too.

As far as reliability is concerned, we can’t rate the car. The previous 200 proved average or better in this regard, but it was also a far simpler machine. My test car’s build quality sure was impressive, though.

Where Chrysler needs to get more competitive is with regard to the 200’s price. Although dealers are offering a $2,000 rebate or 2.9% financing for 60 months plus $500 bonus cash, the deals available on several competing models are sweeter.

Chrysler also needs to improve the 200’s lease program. You can get a 200S 4-cylinder for 24 months for $179 per month, but the lease requires a down payment of $2,999, which makes it less appealing compared to what’s available for several other midsize sedans.

In any case, you shouldn’t pay more than invoice for a 2015 Chrysler 200, and that’s after pocketing the rebate money. Trust me on this—the dealer really wants to sell you this car.

Updated

Liz Kim has worked within the world of cars for 15 years, at various points reviewing and writing about, or analyzing and marketing, everything automotive. It’s no wonder that she married a fellow automotive journalist. Liz can be found examining and assessing the latest vehicles when she’s not busy keeping the peace between, and the schedule for, her two young daughters.

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