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Car Review - 2015 Chrysler 200S AWD By Henny Hemmes

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By Henny Hemmes
Senior European Editor
The Auto Channel is quite easy to take the 200S to triple digits

STAFFORD, VA. It is already a year ago, that the new Chrysler 200 celebrated its world premiere at the Detroit Auto Show. The new styling immediately attracted many of my colleagues, including myself. With the new face, the 200 showed the different design direction that the company had taken. And it was about time! Gone was the dull presence of the outgoing 200 and its earlier predecessor, the Sebring.

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During the unveiling, I stayed away from the big crowd and watch from the Mercedes display area. Then I saw a familiar looking man quite close to me. I was confused, he should not be here.. or should he… wasn’t he with Chrysler design…? “Do you like it..?” pointing at Chrysler 200 on the turn table in the distance. “Sure, it is very nice, but I will go back later to look at the interior.” Then it realized that I was talking to Klaus Busse, who had started some 10 years ago with Chrysler as head of interior design and who was appointed Vice president interior design of the Chrysler Group last spring He smiled and said: “Let me know….” Busse is a fun guy. I recently read a story about how he likes to incorporate small elements in vehicles, that point at well-know images. He calls those ‘Easter eggs’ and they remain little secrets which the buyers should discover on their own.

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I did not know about the Easter Eggs when I joined Chrysler last summer for the “What’s New” drives on their proving ground. There I had a short spin with the upscale 200 C, the luxury model with lots of chrome outside and inside with beautiful leather trim.

But when I had my test drive with the 200S AWD, I saw an example before I even realized is was such a hidden feature: the rubber mat with the outline of Detroit’s riverside in the small storage bin in the center console.

I started my drive with the 200S AWD in November in Virginia. I knew that I had to go south on the I-95 from the airport to Stafford. But that Saturday afternoon the weather was lousy and the area was full of traffic jams. The navigation system constantly asked me if I wanted a little detour and guided me on different country and through some unknown places along local roads.

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However, the navigation system did not zoom out long enough to give me an overview of a larger area, so I did not have a clue where I was and I started to hate the navi system… Let me see a map so that know where I am! At a certain point, I stopped to ask if I was heading the right way. I was indeed! With hind sight, it probably my fingers were not sticky enough to properly operate the (optional) 8.4-inch touch screen. It also proved that I should take the time to set up the operation of the Uconnect system and not jump into a car I am not familiar with and drive straight onto the Freeway, without even connecting my phone..!. When I would have taken may be ten minutes, I would have felt more comfortable. But… I still do not like the automatic zoom-in function!

Our Chicago Bureau Chief Larry Nutson has already covered details of the 2015 Chrysler 200 models, like sizes and fuel economy, therefore, I will simply stick to the driving experience.

Luckily, I could fully enjoy the test drive with the 200 S during the next day. Chrysler uses the stretched architecture of the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, that is well prepared for all-wheel drive and the optional 3.6-liter V6 24-valve VVT-engine with 295 hp and 262 pound feet of torque.

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When you are settled on the driver’s seat, have absorbed the really nice interior - that’s new to a Chrysler mid size sedan! – and start the engine, there is immediately something unexpected: the engine sound. It is low and prominent and when you push the throttle, it turns into an interesting howl. The engine is really willing to perform and it does so in style.

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Under normal circumstances, the standard 9-speed automatic transmission needs time to select its gears to correctly match the engine revs. Moreover, you do not get into 9th gear, so it may only be there for the sake of better fuel economy. You have to shift into sport and manual mode to inspire the automatic. Even then, it does not feel as quick and smooth as the unsurpassable 8-speed ZF-transmission. This may be solved by changing the changing the electronics in the transmission, and I hope the engineers will be allowed to work on this. The 200 really deserves a smoother and more accurate operating transmission.

This fling does not mean that the 200S isn’t fun to drive. It is! Admitted the electric power steering could give more feed-back in tight bends, but it works fast and precise.

The ride is firm but comfortable, even with the low-profile 18-inch rubber. With standard all-wheel drive that is incorporated in the specially tuned sport suspension, the 200S offers sporty handling, but do not expect a Sports car in the true sense of its name.

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When you really push the car, there is noticeable body roll in tight corners. With nearly 4,000 pounds, The 200 S AWD puts a serious weight in the scales, which is not adding to sports car qualities. Another point is that when AWD is not needed, the system disconnects the front and rear axles in order to send more power to the rear. This will be better for fuel economy, but it only reacts quickly if Sport mode is engaged. Then traction control turns off and you can make the rear end break loose.

Overall the 200S offers a confident drive with excellent stability, also at forbidden speed.

Customers who chose the S because of its sporty character, will have to keep an eye on the odometer, as it is quite easy to take the 200S to triple digits unnoticed.