Posts Tagged ‘200’


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
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The dust has settled around Super Bowl XLV and the public has voted.  Volkswagen of America took the top honors for favorite car commercial.  “The Force” appeals to the generation of parents who grew up on the Star Wars films. People know the characters, lines from the movies as well as John Williams’ iconic scores, including “The Imperial March.”

The commercial advertises the upcoming 2012 Passat sedan, built in VW’s brand new North American facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  I’m not sure if it will sell the Passat (whenever it arrives later this year), but the little kid in the Darth Vader outfit is beyond adorable.  The commercial itself cost almost nothing to cast and shoot, but I’m sure Lucasfilm Ltd. got a big fat check for the use of the character and John Williams for the music.  It cost VW $6 million to air the one minute commercial; but with a Super Bowl viewership of 111 million and nearly 30 million views on YouTube, they got a huge bang for their buck.

The most surprising commercial was Chrysler’s two minute film entitled “Born of Fire” or “Imported from Detroit” featuring the music, image and voice over of  the brilliant, supremely talented, but troubled Detroit-based rapper, Eminem (Marshall Mathers).  The images of Detroit are rich and dark, uplifting and sobering. It shows a city that has been through hell and is only now emerging.

The problem with this beautifully-shot and well-written “feel good” commercial is that it features the wrong car. The car should have been for the revamped 300C, not a face-lifted Sebring, renamed the 200.  The Chrysler 200 is not a luxury car, so when the video talks about luxury, you have to scratch your head.  The screaming headline in this week’s issue of Automotive News says “Super Buzz: Chrysler dealers aim to cash in on the surprising 200 commercial.”

Not so fast.  As only Peter De Lorenzo,  the Autoextermist.com Editor, can put it:

But I am now going to throw some icy cold water on this spot — and the reaction to it — because it’s simply out of hand. Our local media in particular has been flat-out sickening in its gushing, over-the-top praise, as if it was the only spot worth talking about on the Super Bowl. Well guess what? It wasn’t. And it does no good for people in this town to say how great the spot was because ultimately what the people in this town think about it doesn’t matter. It’s what everyone else across America thinks about it. And by the way, Chrysler choosing the pathetic 200 for the spot was a monumental miss. The 200 remains a rolling monument to automotive tedium and no matter how much make-up and lipstick you put on a pig, it’s still a pig. The spot should have featured the 300 or shouldn’t have mentioned a specific car at all. It would have been just fine as a Chrysler corporate postcard to Detroit and leave it at that.

I couldn’t agree more with Peter. This commercial isn’t going to sell the 200. It will take a miracle to sell more units to customers than to rental fleets.

Here’s the commercial; see what you think.  (And if you want to learn more about Eminem, you should check out his October 2010 interview on 60 Minutes with Anderson Cooper.)