It's been a while since I've had someone come up to me and gush over one of my test cars. And, I have to admit, that I was a bit surprised that the car evoking such a strong reaction this time around was the all-new Chrysler 200C.
This happened not once but three times.
The first time I was at a Target parking lot, and a man stepped in front of me and said: "Hey!" I'm immediately looking around for help should this guy become a problem. But instead, he continues: "Did you just drive up in the Chrysler? The 200?"
He says: "Is that a 2015 model? Is that a C? What do you think of it? It's gorgeous."
As I was heading into Target, I could see him heading over to the test car to get a closer look.
When my husband and I picked up his parents at the airport, it happened again. As they climbed in the back seat, the first question they asked was: "This is a Chrysler?"
Then my in-laws proceeded to talk about how attractive, roomy and quiet it was.
Lastly, when I pulled into the valet at a Hilton, as I was gathering my purse and preparing the exit the vehicle, the valet beelines not for my car door but for the front of the vehicle. Then he did a 360. Twice.
When I opened my own door, the valet said: "They've really done a nice job with this car."
As the valet and I were chatting, his manager came out and said: "I just had to check this out up close. I can't believe this is a Chrysler. This is amazing."
So, Chrysler, if you're reading this: I think you've got a winner on your hands.
When the 200 first entered the scene in 2011, it was basically a re-badged Sebring. And it felt like it. It had some upgraded materials, but it looked and felt like a, well, Sebring.
With the entry of the all-new 2015 model, there is no mistaking this for anything but a 200.
The front end is both bold and elegant, and the sweeping headlights flow directly into the lean long lines that encircle the vehicle.
I always thought the previous generation 200/Sebring had a bubble-like shape. But the 2015 model is smoothed out and elongated, creating a sleek curve from front grille to rear decklid.
My one critique on the exterior design is the rear entry. My mother-in-law hit her head when she was entering the back seat due to the steeply sloped C pillar. Once she was in the back seat, however, she and my father-in-law (who's over 6-feet-tall) had plenty of headroom and legroom. The test vehicle was a 200C, which came standard with leather seats. I loved the two-tone black-and-linen interior, and the reverse stitching completed the picture giving a very up-level look and feel. The behind-the-wheel gauge cluster is visually appealing, and the center stack has just the right mix of in-screen controls versus redundant dials and buttons on the dash. I appreciate the fact that there is a dial for both the radio tuner and the volume, but I do have to note that placing the climate control dial between them often had me turning up the air when I meant to change the radio station. What's more the climate dial is also situated above the gear-select dial. And at least once, I turned up the air instead of putting the car in drive. Luckily, I never put the car in reverse when I meant to turn up the air. Overall, the interior touch points are solid and attractive, and the overall look and feel is upscale.
Ride & Handling
The first thing you'll notice when you slip behind the wheel and begin to drive isn't how the car handles. Though, I have to admit, it handles pretty darn well. No, what you'll notice is the incredible, deafening silence.
I actually spent most of the test week with the radio off just so I could "listen" to the silence. The utter lack of engine and wind noise entering the cabin was pretty amazing.
This is something you'd expect from the likes of Lexus or Audi. But with Chrysler, it's a pleasant surprise.
This silence actually helped me enjoy the ride and handling that much more.
From highway onramps to pot-holed city streets, the ride was impressive. A much higher caliber than you'd expect from a car that has a base price of $22,695. It was smooth and confident, grippy around corners and stable over pockmarked streets.
The 200 gives a direct connection to the road that actually had me enjoying my 45-minute commute. Without music.
The 2015 Chrysler 200 has two engine options: a 2.4-liter Tigershark 4-cylinder and a 3.6-liter Pentastar 6-cylinder. The test car was a 200C with the V-6 and all-wheel drive, and it was pretty phenomenal. Delivering 295 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque, the Pentastar has just the right amount of power to merge on the highway and pass slower traffic. It is very peppy and adds a lot of fun to the drive.
While I haven't tested the Tigershark, I have a hard time believing that 184 horsepower and 173 pound-feet of torque is enough power for this midsize car. Though, as you'll see in the fuel economy section below, the 4-cylinder engine does reap benefits elsewhere.
With the base 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder engine, the Chrysler 200 gets pretty decent mileage for a midsize car. EPA estimates 23 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. Of course, if you upgrade to the 3.6-liter, 6-cylidner engine, EPA estimates drop to 19 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway. Add in all-wheel drive, and it drops a little more to 18 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway.
Tech & gadgets
Since the test car was a top-of-the-line 200C, it came equipped with standard tech features such as a rear back-up camera, remote start and Uconnect voice command with Bluetooth connectivity for your phone.
Then it added some key optional equipment that upped the number of gadgets significantly. The SafetyTec package ($1,295) added the coolest features with lane departure warning, lane keep assist, full speed forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, blind spot monitoring, cross path detection and park assist.
I didn't find these systems overbearing, and you can always turn them on and off at will. Cross-path detection is a personal favorite when backing out of parking spots in crowded, fast-paced lots.
The Chrysler 200 comes in four basic trim levels:
- LX: $21,700
- Limited: $23,255
- S: $24,495
- C: $25,995
The LX is a front-wheel-drive only configuration and comes with the base 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder engine. There is no option at this level to upgrade to the 3.6-liter, V-6. Other standards include: steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, Uconnect, cloth seating surfaces, keyless entry and push-button start. Note: Bluetooth connectivity is not standard at this level.
The Limited model adds automatic halogen projector headlamps, chrome accents, Uconnect with a 5-inch touch screen, Bluetooth, six speakers and a compact spare tire.
At the S level, you finally get the option of adding all-wheel drive or the 3.6-liter, 6-cylinder engine, but the base price starts with the 4-cylinder and front-wheel drive. Standard additions at this level include: 18-inch Satin Carbon Aluminum Wheels, black cloth sport seats with leather-trimmed bolsters and an 8-way power adjustable driver's seat.
The top-of-the-line C goes all-in adding 17-inch Satin Silver aluminum wheels, leather-trimmed bucket seats, heated front seats, remote start, rearview camera, dual-zone automatic climate control, touring suspension and sunvisors with illuminated vanity mirrors.
While there are some pretty spiffy optional features on the Chrysler 200, the true measure of a car's safety is standard. Luckily, the 2015 200 is chockfull of standard safety features at the base LX level.
These days you'd expect front multi-stage airbags, stability control, traction control, front and rear side-curtain airbags and supplemental front seat-mounted side airbags to be standard. And they are. The surprising standard features: driver and front passenger inflatable knee-bolster airbags and keyless Enter n' Go.
My one disappointment: A rearview camera is not standard until you get to the 200C trim, and it's only available starting at the 200S trim.
A few of my favorite things
A big hit with me is the standard keyless entry with push-button start. I hate it when companies half-do this feature, giving you either keyless entry or push-button start. Whyyyyyyyy!?! You get the key out for one or the other and then what do you do with it? I'd rather put it in my purse, computer bag or pocket and leave it there.
I also love the fact that the 200 is so incredibly quiet. The silence when you turn off the radio is encompassing and peaceful. It had me focusing on the road and kept me calm during a sometimes frustrating commute.
What I can leave
There isn't much I didn't like about the 200, actually. But if I had to pick something, I'd like to see a standard rearview camera across the board.
The bottom line
Chrysler really did this one right. From the smooth looks to the amazing fit and finish, to the luxurious ride I really like this car. It will absolutely give cars like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry a run for their money, because this car is the opposite of boring.
If you're looking for a midsize car, the 200 is a must test.