Chrysler 200 is all-new for the 2015 model year. Distantly derived from an excellent Alfa Romeo sedan chassis, this all-new second-generation Chrysler 200 is going toe-to-toe with the best-selling mid-size sedans. Among them: Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Ford Fusion, and Chevrolet Malibu.
It better be pretty good, you say. And at a quick glance, the 2015 Chrysler 200 certainly looks the part. Its styling is crisply contemporary, as charismatic and eye-catching as anything in the category. From its forward-thrusting nose to the sleek faux-coupe roofline and cleanly understated tail, it has a chic world-car presence that will easily earn its place in the front row at valet parking.
The interior, too, is attractively done. Especially in the upper trim levels, the Chrysler 200 has a luxurious look and feel that easily matches its tried-and-true competitors. Available Nappa leather upholstery complements instruments with pleasing refinement, including swank touches such as a Jaguar-like selector knob for engaging the transmission. The seating is excellent, though not overly roomy in back, and road noise is extremely low.
But the key to any car is its road behavior. Here the 2015 Chrysler 200 has real strength. Its well-weighted steering feel and chassis responses are controlled and agile. Not surprisingly, given Chrysler’s Fiat ownership, the Chrysler 200 has alert European road feel. Excellent.
Chrysler 200’s two engines, the standard 2.4-liter I4 and the optional 3.6-liter V6, provide adequate acceleration and fuel mileage, falling mid-pack in the class. Only one transmission is offered, an ambitious 9-speed automatic.
Chrysler 200 is front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is available on V6 models.
First impressions can go a long way, and especially in pricier trim, there is only one word for this car's look: chic. Imported from Detroit it may be, but we find it hard not to believe these good looks weren't aided by a soft, elegant Italian breeze blowing in from Chrysler's new corporate owner, Fiat.
From its distinctive overall shape right down to its quasi-retro Chrysler wing badge brand identifier, the Chrysler 200 embraces an aggressively modern design language new to Chrysler. Its snarky signature LED daytime running lights and hungry grille present an attention-getting face, while its muscular flanks, sleek coupe profile, and full-sized, integrated rear spoiler fairly shout studio-designed.
The outward-arching rear spoiler lends the car's tail a wide, well-planted presence, implying confident athleticism. And contributing to the clean appearance, the Chrysler 200 features an extremely shallow bumper offset, effectively integrating the bumpers into the overall shape, though at the price, perhaps, of some cosmetic protection in daily driving. A shiny chrome strip surrounds the side windows, accenting the aero shape's rear-swept dynamism, while its steeply raked side mirrors complete the impression of forward thrust.
As all world carmakers begin to eye the giant emerging markets in the Far East, the international design language of the world-car becomes increasingly important to product planning. The 2015 Chrysler 200 is a proudly American car. But this is by no means a traditionally American car but an American-made car with its eye on the world market. Its chassis is closely related to the current Alfa Romeo sedan and the Dodge Dart, but its attractive looks and cutting-edge styling has world-car buyers in its sights. In its styling and presence, it is at least as eye-catching as any of its more entrenched mid-sized competitors. Whether its appearance can make up for its initial lack of market clout remains to be seen, but the designers have done their part.
Chrysler 200's interior makes a superb first impression in the up-level trim versions. Furnished with Nappa leather seating and a two and half foot-wide real wood applique on the instrument cluster, set off with bronzed chrome trim, this is a thoroughly impressive cabin.
If you wonder how a Chrysler, in the grandiose old sense, could be competing with Kias and Fords and other purportedly lesser devices (isn't that Dodge's job?), you have reason to be confused. Climbing in behind the leather-wrapped wheel of a well-equipped, elegant Chrysler 200C, yet one that is priced in the low 30Ks, will only add to the confusion. Chrysler is offering high value per dollar to attract new buyers, and at the higher end, the 200 delivers a degree of finesse that deserves careful consideration.
The 200's structure has, Chrysler reports, 6-percent greater torsional stiffness than the previous model and uses 60-percent more high-strength steel in the frame. This high-strength steel is of small section sizes, however, avoiding increased weight while still delivering improved strength. In our drives, the structure felt tight and was very quiet, thanks in part to special acoustic sound-deadening carpet. The rear suspension is attached with a special sub-frame, further isolating noise and vibration from the cabin.
Instrumentation was complete and handsome. The tachometer read to 7000 rpm but had no redline; the 2.4-liter I4 engine shifted automatically, however, at a peak of about 6200 rpm, the de facto redline. The information panel delivered all the usual data: trip mileage, fuel mileage, fuel economy, driver assistant (diagramming the road ahead), and vehicle information (coolant and transmission temperature, tire pressures, battery voltage, oil life, oil temperature), digital speedometer setting, gear indicator, compass, messages, and audio indicator. Water temperature and fuel level were indicated by bar graphs.
Keyless push-button start and passive entry are standard. Steering wheel controls accessed the information panel, phone, and voice activation on the left side; on the right side were adaptive cruise control, including three different interval adjustments. A remote trunk release is mounted on the dash. Two seating pre-set adjustments are provided, as well as an electronic parking brake, standard.
Interior space in the front is decent for any but really large drivers. However, with the front seats adjusted for even average drivers, rear-seat legroom is limited. And the sleek faux-coupe roofline has the inevitable penalty of limited rear headroom for tall adults.
The optional perforated and ventilated Nappa leather upholstery was beautiful. The seats were a good fit, with fine lateral support when driving aggressively. In the rear, a center elbow rest folds down and provides two convenient cupholders. However, the rather low rear side windows give backseat passengers a slightly claustrophobic view.
Materials throughout the cabin were of excellent quality. The switchgear had fine tactile sensation, most of it furnished with rubber knobs and surfaces. In the upper trim levels, the 200 is altogether deluxe. Lower trim levels are less so yet certainly respectable. The audio systems and connectivity were of good quality and straightforward, though pressing bar graphs to adjust audio tone is fussy in a moving car.
Cargo space was average, access was narrow by normal standards, and lift-over height was on the high side.
The Chrysler 200 is a great drive. Its steering is firm and accurate, with just the right amount of effort and feedback. The chassis is well controlled, delivering communicative road feel while dampening unruly surfaces. Driven enthusiastically, it has good roll control, remaining pleasingly flat and in command, and all the while, wind and road noise are banished.
Chrysler 200's I4 and V6 engines are what we would call adequate, right in the middle of the pack in many respects. They deliver competitive acceleration. Asked why Chrysler had not followed the current trend towards small-displacement/turbocharged engines, company representatives confided that at the time the new 200 was being designed, these two engines were the only choices available.
The 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine produces 184 horsepower at 6250 rpm and 173 pound-feet of torque at 4600 rpm, according to preliminary figures from Chrysler. The engine uses single overhead cam and redline is at 6500 rpm. The 2.4-liter I4 achieves an EPA rating of 23/36 mpg City/Highway. Unleaded Regular gasoline (87 octane) is recommended.
The 3.6-liter V6 produces 295 horsepower at 6350 rpm and 262 pound-feet of torque at 4250 rpm. Using double overhead cams (four camshafts) the V6 redlines at 6400 rpm. Fuel economy is an EPA estimated 19/32 mpg City/Highway, and Chrysler recommends Unleaded Regular gasoline.
The V6 is offered with an advanced all-wheel drive package. Its rear axle is able to completely disconnect from the drive unit when not needed, reducing parasitic drag and gaining back some fuel economy.
The ambitious 9-speed automatic transmission, standard on all Chrysler 200s, is available with paddle shifters. However, we found the paddle shifter delivered slow response times, and sometimes no response at all, even if your downshift was carefully within the correct speed range of the next gear down. It's a characteristic the driver would adjust to, but it wasn't the best of the paddle-shifter we've driven.
A long list of available electronic driving aids include adaptive cruise control, blind-spot and lane-departure warning, multiple electronic brake assists, park assist and rearview camera
Overall, we found the Chrysler 200 offers a European driving experience. It is more disciplined than the purely Italian model, as well-defined as the determined German model. It's a lively, precise car that engages the driver's attention, and that, in turn, heightens everyone's safety.
The Chrysler 200 is a stylish mid-size sedan with genuinely winsome strengths, including great looks and world-class over-the-road character.
Veteran automotive journalist Ted West filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com after his test drive of the Chrysler 200 near Louisville, Kentucky.