As we all know most valued items of possession simply get better with time. Whether it’s aging wine, a classic car collection or the evolution of your new smartphone, time seems to progress the very elements that are near and dear to our hearts. Well, we can say the same with one of Detroit’s finest which comes in the form of the latest Chrysler 200. With a sport progressive style, power when needed, safety technology typically expected from the Germans and an interior that welcomes you with open arms, the 300’s younger sibling is properly equipped to take on some traditional greats.
Louisville, Kentucky was the city of choice to explore the new features of the 2015 Chrysler 200 due to its very aggressive roads and upwardly trending culture. And since the domestic midsize sedan is now enhanced with optional all-wheel drive (AWD), in addition to its typical front-wheel drive layout, the landscape was as fitting as orangutans in the Borneo and Sumatra rainforests. Of course, Chrysler felt the pressure in ascertaining their latest was ultra competitive in a field which sees an average of 2.3 million units sold annually. With no specific rush to judgment, the American manufacturer took its time and utilized a full three years to bring the 200 to market. Structured from the architecture of corporate cousin Alfa Romeo, the vehicle is larger in and out, inherits a new design theme that will represent future models and is paired with a 9-speed automatic transmission. To ensure extremely high levels of quality in the 200, Chrysler built a $1 billion Sterling Heights Assembly Plant outside of Detroit featuring a new robotic body shop. For the metropolitan area, this plant contributes 900 jobs.
On first approach I couldn’t figure out what other vehicle the 200 resembled since it is rare to find a mass-produced auto design revolutionary in today’s cluttered market. With strong fenders, stubby rear quarter, coupe like silhouette, integrated trunk spoiler, and shiny but attractive rims, the Buick Regal came to mind, with the only major difference between the two being the front fascia where the Regal has a large, one-piece waterfall grille and the 200 has two smaller, split grilles with the Chrysler wing sitting dead center on the upper grille. You can say this resemblance is a compliment since the Regal is a very spicy and fun to drive vehicle. LED headlamps, foglights and taillamps bring out the zest of the 200’s edgy character lines. In addition, Chrysler says a lighter weigh-in and firmer construction was crucial so the 200 now hones 7% better torsional stiffness with 60% of the panels comprising high-strength steel. A total of 11 exterior hues are available to differentiate your vehicle such as Velvet Red or Bullet Silver.
Starting at $21,700, the 200 will be presented as LX, Limited, C and S models. We had the pleasure of evaluating the C and S variants in Kentucky with the selection of both the 2.4-liter Tigershark MultiAir2 4-cylinder engine (expected to be 70% of sales) with 184 horsepower, or the 3.6-liter V6 Pentastar with 295-horsepower and 262 lb.-ft. of torque. The smaller engine in the 200C we began the journey in offered minimal performance and its acceleration was flat with limited power on demand, though it achieves an estimated 35 mpg on the highway. In all, our option packages on the 200C totaled $32,465 including $995 destination, $1,295 for the Safety Tec Package, $995 for the 19” rims, a $1,395 Navigation and Sound upgrade and $995 for leather seats, heated leather steering wheel and wood panels. However, driving through northern Kentucky in horse country we enjoyed the above average V6 acceleration of the 200S, which also allows the owner to pair with the upgraded $2,200 AWD system. Chrysler says their system delivers as much as 60% torque towards the rear and can disconnect the rear axle when traction is not needed to improve fuel economy. In “sport” mode several modules are altered for a more spirited drive including a truly rear biased AWD experience. In addition, throttle response increases, shifts are faster and sharper and power steering becomes tighter and more connected. Our S model also added steering wheel shift paddles, 19” Hyper Black spins, gloss black trim, dual exhaust tips, sport seats, Ambassador Blue touches within the interior such as the instrument panel bezel and firm steering. We did not experience any bloating when taking sharp corners at high speeds. But all of this will cost you. The 200S driven came in at $34,465. Chrysler hopes the S model will bring in a younger demographic.
The interior feels like the end result of a European mastermind. Chrysler’s goal was to create an inspirational design impact. Its “American Design Story” consists of woods inspired by furniture where American locations were the stimulus for its colors such as Detroit for the S Model. The large steering wheel presents an upmarket look and feel and is populated with almost every button to control all of the vehicles activities such as adaptive cruise control and Uconnect. The 200 provides drivers and passengers plenty of interior storage and connectivity options as well as an 8.4” Uconnect screen and a 5” or 7” cluster LCD. The touch actuated Uconnect is one of the best multi-media systems in the industry and very simple to operate with large input icons and plenty of apps. Sadly, the upgraded audio was subpar and rear head and legroom was limited.
Safety is the future of the industry and the 200 delivers it with aplomb. The aforementioned Safety Tec Package is inclusive of Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop and Go which can fully brake the vehicle, Lane Departure Warning with Lane Keep Assist that alerts driver via steering wheel inputs and helps bring vehicle back in its lane, Full Speed Forward Collision Warning that fully stops the car at low speeds, Park Assist, and Advanced Brake Assist.
It’s a new day for Chrysler and the 200 is ready to battle with the best of them!