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2015 Chrysler 200C Review by Carey Russ +VIDEO


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2015 Chrysler 200C

Chrysler 200 is a serious competitor in the mid-size sedan class

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS

         • SEE ALSO: Chrysler Buyers Guide


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2015 Chrysler 200C

The past is history, the present is all that counts. In the past, Chrysler's mid-sized offerings were unlikely to make anyone's "best cars" list. They were competitive on price, and offered good styling, but got long in the tooth and were missing on detail execution. To be fair, during that time Chrysler was usually in survival mode, with little to spend on development and improvement. First there was DiamlerChrysler, with the "Daim" from Daimler and "ler" from Chrysler, and then ownership by Cerberus Capital. Look up its mythical namesake…

With the creation of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), Chrysler was off life support and could start developing its cars again. If the first 200 was really nothing but an updated version of the aging and mostly-unloved Sebring, its name brought it in line with the flagship 300. Only that name remains the same with the 2015 Chrysler 200.

Now based on the same Compact US Wide platform as the Dodge Dart and Jeep Cherokee, the second-generation really is all-new. It is still built at Chrysler's Sterling Heights, MI plant. But that facility has gotten some major upgrades -- over a billion dollars worth -- all the better for improved quality of its products. Trim levels are LX, Limited, S, and C. S is the sporty model, with C offering more luxury.




All are front-wheel drive in standard form, with all-wheel drive available on the S and C. The 2.4-liter, 184-horsepower "Tigershark" MultiAir four-cylinder is standard in all front-wheel drive versions, with the 3.6-liter, 295-hp Pentastar V6 standard in AWD S and C models and optional in the FWD versions of those. The only transmission is Chrysler's nine-speed automatic. Brakes are antilock disc and suspension is fully-independent, with the S tuned a bit more firmly.

I first saw the new 200 early last year at an event with multiple cars from all regular manufacturers. Rear view… A3? trunk is too round to be an Audi, what is that? Oh, Chrysler 200. Looking good… but looks don't necessarily translate into roadworthiness. The only seat time I managed was a short drive literally around the block. Which was enough to realize that this was a major step forward, but I couldn't honestly say more than that at the time.

After a week with a well-equipped four-cylinder 2015 Chrysler 200C, I can say more than that. Yes, it's a middle-of-the-road family sedan, neither expressly luxury or sports in its equipment and demeanor. But it's far from a boring transportation appliance. The new 200 shows just how good an "average American car" is today. As equipped, with nearly everything in the way of contemporary comfort and safety items -- leather-covered seats, heated and ventilated in front, navigation, backup camera, advanced electronic safety systems like collision warning and adaptive cruise control, and HID headlamps with LED running lights -- the bottom line (minus tax, license, and whatever else your local authorities will add) was under $32,000. That was entry-luxury territory -- fifteen years of inflation ago. Ride comfort and handling characteristics were surprisingly good, no numbness here. The four-cylinder engine was far from "merely and barely adequate" and returned respectable mileage with low twenties in mostly city driving. That went up to a 27-mpg average for the week with a hundred miles or so of highway travel. Which was in some nasty wet and windy weather. Not a problem for the 200C, which was snug, secure, and comfortable throughout. Congratulations to Chrysler!

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2015 Chrysler 200C

APPEARANCE: Chrysler claims that this is "the new face of Chrysler", inspired by classic American design in the form of Chris Craft wooden boats and Airstream travel trailers. PR hype, sure -- but it is distinctive and handsome. The overall shape is smoothly rounded, with strategically-placed character lines providing contrast and adding visual interest. From the front, a new winged interpretation of the Chrysler logo is featured in the upper grille, which itself echoes the wing shape as it blends into the headlights. Optional LED running lights add a contemporary upscale touch. The lower grille is a near inverse of the upper, blending into the foglamps. From the side, the passenger cabin dominates, with the base of the windshield near the front wheels and a near-fastback roofline that makes for an almost coup-like look. The high rear deck ends in an arched ducktail, and LED taillights define the rear view. S models have gloss black grille and side window trim while others get chrome. The C also get chrome-trimmed door handles.

COMFORT: Inside, the 200C is comfortable and elegant. Especially as my test car was equipped, materials are first-rate and fit and finish very good, with minimal panel gaps. In style it copies no one. Textured soft-touch materials on the instrument panel top and passenger-side face reduce glare, while the open-pore wood on the driver's side and around the center stack and on the console adds interest. Chromed bezels are found everywhere possible. At 200C level, leather is standard for seating and the steering wheel rim. An information screen sits between the blue-backlit analog tach and speedometer. The center stack touchscreen controls the Uconnect system that integrates navigation, audio, and various Bluetooth phone-based apps. All current varieties of audio entertainment are here, except for a CD player. Which some consider not to be current… Front seat comfort is very good, and the rear contoured bench has plenty of room and end of console air and floor heat vents for passengers. The seatback folds 60/40, and a center armrest and ski-passthrough add further convenience. But the best feature of the interior is allowed by the rotary shift knob on the console. If that seems a bit too gimmicky, it's less so than some pushbutton implementations. Yes, shift commands are all electronic now -- and that means the 200 has The. Best. Center Console. Yet. A quick look shows cupholders and some open storage ahead of the console box lid. Typical… but what's the latch at the front? Move it back, and a forward extension of the console box is revealed, large enough for all sorts of things. Need more? Look ahead of that and below -- there's a large high-sided tray between the front positions and a 12VDC power outlet in the passenger-side footwell. All of this in addition to the usual door pockets, locking glove box, and good-sized trunk.

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2015 Chrysler 200C

SAFETY: All 2015 Chrysler 200 models have frontal, front-seat side and knee, and full-length side curtain airbags plus child-resistant rear door locks and LATCH child seat tethers and a security system. A rear-view camera is standard in the C and optional in most other models. The C's SafetyTec option package includes adaptive cruise control, advanced brake assist, the Blind Spot and Rear Cross-Path Detection system, full-speed forward collision warning, Lane Departure Warning Plus, Parallel and Perpendicular Park Assist Plus, rain-sensitive wipers, and SmartBeam headlamps.

RIDE AND HANDLING: Chrysler has taken a Fiat-sourced platform and made it its own. It's already been proven in the Dodge Dart and Jeep Cherokee, and works very well here. Attention to detail means very good levels comfort and response from the fully-independent MacPherson strut front, multilink rear suspension and low noise levels inside. In premium C form the 200 compares well with entry-luxury cars in those parameters. Steering effort is appropriate, not too light, and the brakes very good. I had a long drive in a drenching and windy rainstorm, through which the 200C tracked true and securely, with good stability in bad weather.

PERFORMANCE: The new 2.4-liter "Tigershark" four-cylinder engine works well in the 200. If, with 184 horsepower (at 6250 rpm) and 173 lb-ft of torque (at 4600 rpm) it doesn't seem all that powerful, the nine-speed automatic transmission compensates for that handily. Lower lows, a direct-drive fifth, and overdrive sixth through ninth (a massive 0.48) mean good acceleration around town and when merging into highway traffic and efficient highway cruising. It works, with low twenties around town early in my week increasing to a 27-mpg average after a hundred miles or so of highway travel. Which had plenty of elevation change and nasty head- and cross-winds. Yes, acceleration at speed can be leisurely, but if you want or need more power it's readily available with the 295-hp V6.

CONCLUSIONS: With its all-new 200, Chrysler has a serious competitor in the mid-size sedan class.




SPECIFICATIONS

2015 Chrysler 200C

Base Price $ 26,225

Price As Tested $ 31,700

Engine Type SOHC 16-valve aluminum alloy inline 4-cylinder with MultiAir variable intake valve control

Engine Size 2.4 liters / 144 cu. in.

Horsepower 184 @ 6250 rpm

Torque (lb-ft) 173 @ 4600 rpm

Transmission 9-speed automatic

Wheelbase / Length 108.0 in. / 192.3 in.

Curb Weight est 3500 lbs.

Pounds Per Horsepower 19.0

Fuel Capacity 15.8 gal.

Fuel Requirement 87 octane unleaded regular gasoline

Tires Goodyear Assurance 215/55R17 94V m+s

Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, ABS, BA, TC, ESC standard

Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut / independent multilink

Drivetrain transverse front engine, front-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 23 / 36 / 27

0 to 60 mph 8.5 sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES

Safety Tec -- includes: Advanced Brake Assist, rain-sensitive windshield wipers, Lane Departure Warning with Lane Keep Assist, automatic high-beam control, Full-Speed Collision Warning Plus, Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop and Go, Blind Spot and Cross-Path Detection, Parallel and Perpendicular Park Assist with Stop $ 1,295

Premium Group -- includes: premium leather-trimmed ventilated seats, premium leather seat cushion, ventilated front seats, luxury door trim panel, 115-VAC power outlet, exterior mirrors with memory, exterior mirror and driver's seat memory, heated steering wheel real wood and bronze chrome interior accents $ 995

Navigation and Sound Group 1 -- includes: Harman (Alpine) 9-speaker system with GPS navigation, Uconnect® 8.4AN AM/FM/SXM/HD/BT/NAV, 506-watt Alpine amplifier, 8.4-inch touchscreen display, Uconnect Access with 1-year free trial, 5-year SiriusXM Traffic™ and Travel Link™ subscriptions, floor mats $ 1,395

Premium Lighting Group -- includes: HID headlamps, LED daytime running lights, LED foglamps $ 795

Destination Charge $ 995