2015 Chrysler 200: First drive review
The new Chrysler 200 shows flashes of brilliance but still needs some refinement.
The Chrysler 200 has aimed to become a major player in America's midsize sedan segment for over 10 years now, but it has found only middling success. The all-new 2015 200 offers something for everyone between its four trim levels, two engines and either front- or all-wheel drive, along with Chrysler's new 9-speed automatic transmission. Is the 200 finally for real?
The 2015 200 will be offered in four trim levels: LX, Limited, S and C. Standard features include 60/40 split-folding rear seats, ECO feedback display, a slide-open center console, a rear-seat armrest, tilting-telescopic steering column, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, USB port, audio jack, electronic parking brake and Chrysler's Uconnect infotainment system.
LX trims have a 3.0-inch Uconnect touch screen, where Limited, S and C trims have a 5.0-inch Uconnect with Bluetooth and voice command. The 200S comes with unique leather-trimmed sport bucket seats and black chrome interior accents, while the 200C is top-of-the-line with dual-zone temperature control and a 7.0-inch premium instrument cluster. A battery of available safety systems and features include a backup camera, park assist and forward collision warning.
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Under the hood
The standard powertrain for all trim levels is a 2.4-liter Tigershark inline 4-cylinder engine rated at 184 horsepower and 173 lb-ft of torque. It sends power to the front wheels. The 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 is available as an option with either the 200S or 200C, producing 295 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque.
The available all-wheel-drive system is interesting. It completely disconnects the shaft via a wet clutch, so when you're not using all-wheel drive the extra rotating mass is not spinning and sapping up gas mileage. The system engages and disengages by itself; yaw and electronic stability control trigger it. In all-wheel-drive S and C trims, there's an "S" position on the gear selector. When engaged, the all-wheel drive is more performance oriented, and can send up to 60 percent of torque to the rear if needed.
The big tech news in the 2015 Chrysler 200 is its new 9-speed automatic transmission. The 9-speed is mapped to work differently with each engine, and it comes standard with paddle shifters on all-wheel drive variants of the 200S and 200C, and in 200C front-wheel drive versions equipped with the Pentastar V6. We're waiting for Environmental Protection Agency figures, but Chrysler estimates the inline-4 engine at 35 mpg highway and the Pentastar V6 at 31 mpg highway.
There is a lot to like about the 2015 Chrysler 200's interior. Soft-touch plastics make up the buttons, switches, knobs — basically every surface you come into regular contact with — and they're very well done. The center console is the biggest we've seen in the midsize segment, providing a huge amount of storage. The 200's extra shoulder room compared to others in its segment (58.5 inches up front, 56.7 in the rear) gives a great sense of space.
After testing a nearly fully loaded 2015 200S, though, the Limited definitely felt like a downgrade. The 200S has sports seats so good they make the $1,200 premium worth it all on their own; the seats in the Limited seem to have no sweet spot where you can comfortably settle. Our 200S test car had the optional 8.4-inch Uconnect touch screen, which makes the 5.0-inch screen on the Limited feel a little cheaper by comparison.
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I have a 2012 200, cheap to buy, decently appointed, good power and decent handling. Best buy in this segment of the market. I would consider buying another one. Best of all, does not look like every other car out there.