Archive for the ‘Chrysler’ Category


For as long as most people can remember, a Chrysler  mid-size sedan has been the darling of rental fleets. Coarse powertrains, cheap plastics, uninspiring  and sometimes harrowing driving dynamics are what you’ve come to expect from a Chrysler Group product at the airport rental counter.  Around Los Angeles, if you saw a Dodge Avenger or Chrysler Sebring, it was much more likely to have a bar code taped to a side window than a license plate frame from a dealer. The expectations were set pretty low by our friends in Auburn Hills.

When Fiat was given a stake in Chrysler during the 2009 bankruptcy, one of the promised products was a competitive mid-size sedan.  Fast forward to 2014 and Fiat has purchased 100% control of Chrysler. The new group was renamed Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, incorporated in the Netherlands with a tax (dodge) domicile in the U.K.  Arrivederci, Turin. See you later, Auburn Hills – but don’t worry, FCA will be listed later this year on the NYSE and the Milan Stock Exchange.

2015 Chrysler 200

2015 Chrysler 200

The 2015 Chrysler 200 fulfills the promise of a mid-size sedan, competitive with the likes of the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima or Ford Fusion.  It’s built in Sterling Heights, Michigan, on a platform donated from sister company Alfa Romeo, running either Fiat’s thrifty 2.4L I-4 Tigershark Multiair II (184 hp, 173 lb-ft of torque) good for up to 36 mph or Chrysler’s outstanding 3.6L Penastar V6 (295 hp, 262 lb-ft torque) good for up to 31 mpg. Either engine is mated solely to a 9-speed automatic transmission manufactured under license from Germany’s ZF.

I took a quick test drive in a 200C with the 3.6L Pentastar V6. It’s the same engine in my 2012 Dodge Charger; however, it’s more lively in a smaller, lighter car with front drive. That said, I couldn’t stop comparing the front drive 200 to my much heavier and larger Charger.  I didn’t miss the size or weight, but I definitely missed the linear neutrality of rear-wheel drive. Such is my cross to bear.

2015 Chrysler 200S

2015 Chrysler 200S

The 200 inspires lazy driving. With 9 gears, under normal driving, you have no clue what gear you’re in unless you look at the dash read out. When you mash the go pedal down, it jumps to life and quickly overtakes anyone dawdling along in traffic, but then you settle back to a relatively uninvolved driver interface.  I didn’t detect much torque steer, but then again, the electric power steering didn’t provide much road feedback.  I did, however, hear more road noise than I expected, on par with the noisier Mazda 6 I drove earlier this year.

You can opt for a panoramic glass sunroof. It makes for a light and airy interior.

You can opt for a dual pane panoramic glass sunroof $1,495. It makes for a light and airy interior.

The front of the 200S is modern if not exactly distinct.

The front of the 200S is modern if not exactly distinctive.

The suspension is definitely not sports-tuned. To that end, it soaked up the a rough patch of road with ease. Hard turns weren’t its strong suit either – but it’s not supposed to be a sports sedan.  I got the sense that it would make daily commuting and long drives a comfortable affair.

Visibility was generally decent, but I found the A-pillar to be rather long and thick which is a byproduct of the steeply raked windshield.  The fastback coupe-like silhouette makes larger rear blind spots, very much like a Ford Fusion. But I guess that’s what things like blind-spot monitors are for, right?

The gear selector is a large rotary knob on the center console. Other Chrysler Group products as diverse as a Ram 1500 pickup truck and the new Jeep Cherokee use the  same setup. It’s in a good location, but I doesn’t provide any noticeable indentations or stops between Park, Reverse, Neutral and Drive. That makes fast flicking between drive and reverse difficult when you’re in a hurry to do maneuvers like a 3-point turn or parallel parking on a busy street. It’s annoying.

The rotary gear selector looks good and feels like a nicely-weighted, machined knob. It just doesn't "rock" well between gears.

The rotary gear selector looks good and feels like a nicely-weighted, machined knob. It just doesn’t “rock” well between gears.

But where the Chrysler 200 shines is its lovely new interior. Each new product under Fiat’s ownership have demonstrated quantum leaps in quality and ergonomics from previous generations and this 2nd Gen Chrysler 200 is no exception.

The plastics are far better than the econo-box junk Chrysler previously churned out. Soft touch materials are in the right places. Harder plastics are reserved for areas you don’t see or touch.

This is a detail of the interior door trim/pull handle. The memory power seats are an upgrade to the top-of-the-line 200C.  The simulated open pore wood trim is nicely done.

This is a detail of the interior door trim/pull handle. The memory power seats are an upgrade to the top-of-the-line 200C. The simulated matte open pore wood trim is nicely done.

There are plenty of hard-wired buttons, knobs and switchgear in addition to Chrysler’s excellent U-Connect touch-screen infotainment system. It’s nice to have easy to reach controls for volume, changing channels and climate control functions in addition to redundant controls on the multifunction steering wheel and the 8.4″ touch screen.

The cockpit of the Chrysler 200 is a nice place to spend time.

The cockpit of the Chrysler 200 is a nice place to spend time. Note the tasteful blend of a large touch-screen and physical controls.

Garmin still supplies the navigation system, but the graphics have matured and are much clearer and better rendered than before. I didn’t try the voice recognition system. The one in my 2012 Dodge is useless. Hopefully the new generation is much better.

The clever center console has cup holders that slide back to reveal a cave, complete with USB port, for your phone, tablet or other assorted stuff. Of course, there is also some room in the armrest, which also adjusts – a nice touch whether  you’re tall or small.

The 2015 200 sports a slick new center console.

The 2015 200 sports a slick new center console. Note the electronic parking brake next to the gear selector.

The 200 also offers the latest array of nearly autonomous safety features. Opt for the $1,295 Safety Tech package (on the 200C) and you get the latest generation of Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop & Go. The car will stop itself completely and then resume following the car in front when traffic moves again.  Advanced Brake Assist in concert with Full-Speed Forward Collision Warning uses both radar and cameras to detect an imminent collision and applies extra braking force to automatically completely stop the car. Blind Spot and Cross Path Detection are more advanced and work in concert.  Lane Departure Warning with Lane Keep Assist looks for lane drift with stereo cameras and can nudge the car back into its lane. Parallel and Perpendicular Park Assist do exactly what’s advertised. And to round off the package (a true bargain) Chrysler throws in rain-sensing wipers and automatic high beams.  Remember, this is all for $1,295!

The democratization of technology is moving faster than anyone predicted.  The Chrysler 200, properly equipped, is nearly capable of autonomous driving. It’s just a few thousand lines of software code and a couple sensors away from driving itself.

The back seat wasn’t particularly spacious and the swooping roof line made getting in back somewhat difficult for my 6’1″ frame.  I seem to fit better in back of an Accord or Camry, then again, I rarely ride in the back of my own cars. The scooped out left/right rear seats made the theoretical center 5th seat only good for a small child.

2015 Chrysler 200 Back Seat

2015 Chrysler 200 Back Seat. The rear wheel wells cut into the door opening making it a bit harder to get in.

The sporty seats in the 200S are surfaced with perforated leather. You can option them with seat coolers as well as heaters.  Great for hot weather in Southern California and those cold winter mornings.

The sporty seats in the 200S are surfaced with perforated leather. You can option them with seat coolers as well as heaters. Great for hot weather in Southern California and those cold winter mornings.

The exterior styling of the Chrysler 200 looks like a cross between a Ford Fusion and a Hyundai Sonata. While I think it’s pleasing to the eye, I also think it’s so derivative that it doesn’t stand out in the crowd like the sexy Mazda 6.  I think a more emotional or futuristic design would have helped to attract new customers.

There is one feature that could set the 200 apart from the competition.  In the crowded mid-size segment, all-wheel drive is a rarity.  The Subaru Legacy has the company’s symmetrical all-wheel drive as standard equipment and Ford offers an AWD option on the Fusion.  Chrysler offers AWD on either the 200S or 200C, but only in conjunction with the V6.

Note the AWD badge on back of this 200S.

Note the AWD badge on back of this 200S.

Chrysler wants you to forget everything you thought about its former entries in the mid-size market. The 2015 200/C/S is a competitive entry worthy of consideration with the heavy hitters (Camry, Accord, Sonata, Altima, Fusion, Optima) and even an alternative to a niche vehicle like the Subaru Legacy.

You can never have enough safety features these days. Air bags are everywhere - which is pretty much a given in today's hyper-competitive mid-size family car segment.

You can never have enough safety features these days. Air bags are everywhere – which is pretty much a given in today’s hyper-competitive mid-size family car segment.

As we say in Hollywood when it comes to award season: For Your Consideration. The new 200 is worth a look and maybe even a few awards.

The 2015 Chrysler 200S in Vivid Blue Pearl Coat and on the right, the 200C in Granite Crystal Metallic Clear Coat.  Ready for a close up. Ready for your consideration.

The 2015 Chrysler 200S in Vivid Blue Pearl Coat and, on the right, the 200C in Granite Crystal Metallic Clear Coat. Ready for a close up. Ready for your consideration.

2015 Chrysler 200 Trim Levels (add $995 destination charge to any level):

  • 200 LX from $21,700
  • 200 Limited from $23,255
  • 200S from $24,495
  • 200C from $25,995

It’s nearing the end of high season in Palm Springs. Our many Canadian and other cold weather refugee friends are preparing to go back to their thawing northern homes. The temperatures are in the upper 80s and it’s between The Dinah and the White Party.  About 40 miles east, young hipsters and A through D-List Celebrities are dancing, partying and passing out from the heat during the second weekend of the world-famous Coachella Music Festival. So what better time than to showcase antique (read: Classic) automobiles from the glory days of the American auto industry – primarily 1950 – 1972. First Annual Palm Springs Region Antique Automobile Club of America

The setting was Sunrise Park in the heart of Palm Springs on the northeast corner of Ramon Road and Sunrise Way on the lovely lawns between the Palm Springs Library and the Boys and Girls Club.

I’m not sure this event was organized well as there were only a few dozen cars on display. I’d seen many of them before at the annual Casual Concours from the gay car club Great Autos of Yesteryear. This simple Ford Coupe wasn’t in the show – it was parked in library lot.  It certainly qualified as an “antique” (in my mind) more than some of the “classic” cars on display. I loved the license plate from the World’s Fair in California in 1939.

1939 Ford Coupe. Check out the original gold and blue California plate commemorating the 1939 World's Fair!

1939 Ford Coupe. Check out the original gold and blue California plate commemorating the 1939 World’s Fair!

The turquoise and black color scheme of the Studebaker Hawk is wild.

The turquoise and black color scheme of the Studebaker Hawk is wild.

The quilted pattern upholstery inside this Studebaker Hawk was flawless. I don't know if this was an original feature, but it sure looked great.

The quilted pattern upholstery inside this Studebaker Hawk was flawless. I don’t know if this was an original feature, but it sure looked great.

I'd never seen this car before. It's a 1952 Cunningham C-3 Coupe. These cars were hand-made in Florida.

I’d never seen this car before. It’s a 1952 Cunningham C-3 Coupe. These cars were hand-made in Florida.

The fastback style of this 1952 Cunningham Coupe reminds me of the brand new Rolls-Royce Wraith.

The fastback style of this 1952 Cunningham Coupe reminds me of the brand new Rolls-Royce Wraith.

Great badge, huh?

Great badge, huh?

This 1960 Chevrolet Impala Hardtop Coupe was terrific in this fire engine red color.

This 1960 Chevrolet Impala Hardtop Coupe was terrific in this fire engine red color.

You just don't see interiors like this anymore. Everything matches the exterior color. Check out cast steel gauge cluster. You don't want to hit your head on this! Hard to find hounds-tooth fabric in a car anymore.

You just don’t see interiors like this anymore. Everything matches the exterior color. Check out cast steel gauge cluster. You don’t want to hit your head on this! Hard to find hounds-tooth fabric in a car anymore.

No expense was spared for the interior of these Cadillacs.

No expense was spared for the interior of these Cadillacs.

Ah, for the good old Atomic/Jet Age days. I love the Impala logo integrated into a stylized jet.

Ah, for the good old Atomic/Jet Age days. I love the Impala logo integrated into a stylized jet.

A 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Seville was the top-of-the-line for Cadillac. These beasts cost a fortune.

A 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Seville was the top-of-the-line for Cadillac. These beasts cost a fortune.

No expense was spared for the interior of these Cadillacs.

No expense was spared for the interior of these Cadillacs.

This was one of the most beautiful Cadillacs ever produced (IMHO). This is a 1967 Eldorado.

This was one of the most beautiful Cadillacs ever produced (IMHO). This is a 1967 Eldorado.

There are no bad angles for this gigantic front drive car - a rarity in 1967.

There are no bad angles for this gigantic front drive car – a rarity in 1967.

A 1951 Studebaker Commander.

A 1951 Studebaker Commander.

I believe this is a 1958 Chrysler New Yorker. Love the fins.

I believe this is a 1960 Chrysler New Yorker. Love the fins.

The Gen II Corvair was my favorite body style. This 1966 Convertible looks sharp in aqua.

The Gen II Corvair was my favorite body style. This 1966 Convertible looks sharp in aqua.

The Corvair interior was simple but well sorted. The thin steering wheel, horn ring and shifter gave the interior a light, airy feeling.

The Corvair interior was simple but well sorted. The thin steering wheel, horn ring and shifter gave the interior a light, airy feeling.

This Corvair has the turbo flat 6 engine making a powerful 180 hp.

This Corvair has the turbo flat 6 engine making a powerful 180 hp.

Chevy made some amazing muscle cars in the 1960s, This 1967 Chevelle Super Sport had the 396 engine option.

Chevy made some amazing muscle cars in the 1960s, This 1967 Chevelle Super Sport had the 396 engine option.

The interior of the 1967 Chevelle Super Sport.

The interior of the 1967 Chevelle Super Sport.

The hood stretches out for miles on this 1970 Ford Thunderbird. Underneath, it was a Ford LTD.

The hood stretches out for miles on this 1970 Ford Thunderbird. Underneath, it was a Ford LTD.

2014 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Ford Mustang. This lovely 1969 Mustang GT still looks amazing in its blue suit.

2014 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Ford Mustang. This lovely 1969 Mustang GT still looks amazing in its blue suit.

Under the hood is a 351 Cleveland.

Under the hood is a 351 Cleveland.

The aftermarket wood steering wheel looks period-appropriate in the 1969 Mustang GT. Some will lament that it has a 3-speed automatic transmission, but it makes for a great cruiser.

The aftermarket wood steering wheel looks period-appropriate in the 1969 Mustang GT. Some will lament that it has a 3-speed automatic transmission, but it makes for a great cruiser.