Ah, the Chrysler 200 — the “luxurious” champion of rental car fleets the nation over; successor to the equally rental-esque Sebring, that sedan, coupe, and two-door convertible that lived from 1995 till 2010 when the then-new 200 picked up the baton for the 2011 model year. Though the 200 was a marked improvement over the Sebring in nearly every way, its styling was on the boring side of stodgy. Its interior, however, began to show off Chrysler’s helpful Fiat influences. While not stellar, the first generation 200’s innards were on the right track.

Now for 2015, Chrysler’s Fiat ownership is fully realized. The all-new 200 is a far cry from that rental lot appliance of yore. Its swoopy exterior design is considerably up-market in its styling while its interior looks as if it rolled off a Volvo assembly line. Perhaps if anything, it’s a tad overdesigned, attempting to overcompensate for the egregious fashion faux pas of years gone by — but that’s nothing to hold against the car.

I recently spent a week getting to know the new 200. My tester was the sportier flavor, the 200 S. It came well equipped with the range-topping, 3.6-liter V-6 and all-wheel-drive. The fantastic 8.4-inch Uconnect infotainment system and a very stylized gauge cluster dominated the dashboard while its sloping center console carried all the right knobs for safe, eyes-on-the-road driving.

So how’d it measure up after getting past its pretty face and improved interior? Well, continue reading to find out.

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  • 2015 Chrysler 200 S - Driven
  • Year:
    2015
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    V6
  • Transmission:
    Nine-Speed Auto
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    295
  • MPG(Cty):
    18
  • MPG(Hwy):
    29
  • Torque @ RPM:
    262
  • Displacement:
    3.6 L
  • 0-60 time:
    6.5 sec.
  • Top Speed:
    121 mph
  • Layout:
    Front engine; All Wheel Drive
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • body style:

TopSpeed Garage

Exterior

2015 Chrysler 200 S - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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2015 Chrysler 200 S - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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2015 Chrysler 200 S - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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At night HID headlights take over and quad fog lights down low really help light the road.

My tester came dressed in white with 19-inch Hyper Black aluminum wheels. Save for the colored lenses of tail and side marker lights, the car looks as if it lives in its own black and white movie. I like that though, as the crisp lines of the black front fascia, glossy-black window surrounds, and black rear bumper accent gives the car an uncluttered appearance. Bright-chrome accents do appear on the dual exhaust pipes and model badging.

The front end is accented by some swanky LED daytime running lights. At night HID headlights take over and quad fog lights down low really help light the road. Their aim is extra wide, assisting with sharp turns onto dark roads.

While it might be trivial, I also really like the shape of the side mirrors from inside the car. The glass is cut in an interesting way that adds character without sacrificing vision.

Interior

2015 Chrysler 200 S - Driven Interior
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2015 Chrysler 200 S - Driven Interior
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2015 Chrysler 200 S - Driven High Resolution Interior
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The 8.4 Uconnect has been my favorite infotainment system out of every system I’ve sampled.

Things inside the 200 S are rather nice. The S trim comes standard with cloth seats with leather trimmings. Leather also covers the three-spoke steering wheel, center console, and door panels. Other materials include soft-touch plastics and satin-chrome accents. It’s a very competitive cabin in relation to its competition.

My tester came equipped with Navigation and Sound Group I package. That includes the 8.4-inch Uconnect infotainment system and a nine-speaker Alpine sound system with SiriusXM. The 8.4 Uconnect has been my favorite infotainment system out of every system I’ve sampled. Its simple layout is clean and easy to figure out — so much so, I’m confident even the non tech-savvy would be able to move about its menus.

In keeping with the easy-to-use theme, Chrysler has included real-life physical knobs for the most used controls down on the center console. They include all the major HVAC controls and the radio volume and tuning. Simple, large buttons, and smartly placed. Thanks Chrysler.

Also easy to use is the rotary dial for the nine-speed automatic transmission. While it might take a few days to stop turning up the radio volume when switching gears, the learning curve is rather small.

I did have a few complaints about the interior. For me, the grayish-blue accent leather and plastic dash accents don’t look the best; just a personal preference. Secondly and more objectively, there always seemed to be a glare on the lower corners of the gauge cluster, even in low light. Also, the nine-speaker Alpine sound system and its 506-watt amplifier completely overpower the interior’s ability to remain snapped together. Inch up the bass and parts start rattling like a tin can. With the radio off, the interior returned to being church-mouse quiet, even on rough roads. Lastly, the rear headroom is rather cramped, especially when entering the back seats. I gave myself a pounding headache when my temple slammed against the sloping roofline. Ouch!

Powertrain

2015 Chrysler 200 S - Driven Drivetrain
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Sure, nine speed are great for fuel economy, but the resulting programmed-for-mpg feel makes the 200 S feel less than sporty.

Under the hood of the 200 S lies Chrysler’s omnipresent 3.6-liter, Pentastar V-6. Mounted in a transverse position, the engine connects to a nine-speed, yes nine-speed transaxle that, in this case, powers all four wheels. Front-wheel drive comes standard for those who don’t need the extra traction. In this application, the V-6 makes 295 horsepower at 6,350 rpm and 262 pound-feet of torque at 4,250 rpm.

While the engine may have darn close to 300 ponies, the transmission holds back all the fun. Sure, nine speed are great for fuel economy, but the resulting programmed-for-mpg feel makes the 200 S feel less than sporty. Granted, the car isn’t designed to be an M3 fighter, but the 200 S is positioned as the sportiest of the 200 lineup.

Around town, the transmission works to keep the engine revs down low. Gear changes happen with a certain mellowness rather than a direct feel. Things hasten up when under heavier throttle, but shifts won’t be confused as “quick.”

Driving Impressions

2015 Chrysler 200 S - Driven Interior
- image 577530
Cool, calm, and collected is perhaps the best catch phrase to describe how the new 200 drives.

Ok, so it doesn’t shift like a dual-clutch transmission. In my humble opinion, who cares? I see this car as appealing to the more mature sector of midsize sedan buyers — those who value comfort and quietness. They’re not looking to blast sideways around a corner with turbos-a-spoolin’. That’s not what this car is about.

Understanding whom this car is targeting, intentionally or not, makes its driving evaluation more relevant. Cool, calm, and collected is perhaps the best catch phrase to describe how the new 200 drives. It makes no fuss while moving down the road. Its electronic steering is nicely weighted and feels good on center, but don’t expect much feel in the corners. Its seating position is perfect for seeing out of the large greenhouse and makes getting in and out easy.

The throttle is very lazy to respond to inputs until you’re deep in its travel. The brakes feel great and offer a good initial bite and linear application. The AWD system is geared more for foul weather like the looming Polar Vortex. Its seat heaters are equally ready for the chilling weather. Any hotter and we’re frying bacon.

Body roll is well managed, but its not overly stiff. Bumps are handled with little complaint, though tire noise picks up on rough roads. Overall, the 200 handled well for your average four-door sedan.

Price

2015 Chrysler 200 S - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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The 2015 Chrysler 200 comes in four trim levels, the LX, Limited, S, and C, with prices starting at $21,700. My 200 S tester had a base price of $24,725 before its list of optional extras. They included the Comfort Group ($795), the Navigation and Sound Group I ($1,495), the Premium Lighting Group ($795), and the 19-inch Hyper Black wheels ($695).

Add in the $995 destination fee, and the total sticker came to $33,470.

Competition

2015 Buick Verano

2012 - 2015 Buick Verano High Resolution Exterior
- image 555317

So the Buick Verano doesn’t come with all-wheel-drive nor a V-6, but it does come with loads of equipment and luxury for less money than the 200 S. The Verano is close cousins with the Chevy Cruz but uses a 2.4-liter four-cylinder to make 180 horsepower and 171 pound-feet of torque. Buick foregoes a massive transmission, keeping instead a six-speed auto. That doesn’t hurt fuel economy either, as the Verano is rated for 21 mpg city and 32 mpg highway.

Pricing for the baby Buick starts at $23,700 but tops out just shy of $28,000.

Ford Fusion

2014 Ford Fusion High Resolution Exterior
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Sticking with the domestic market, Ford’s Fusion sedan does offer all-wheel-drive, though with no V-6 option. That’s fine however, as the 2.0-liter EcoBoost does just fine with its 231 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. Its EPA numbers aren’t phased by the added drive axle either, coming in at 22 mpg city and 31 mpg highway.

The Fusion is one of the segments best-looking cars, but doesn’t carry that same up-level feel as the Buick or even perhaps the Chrysler. Pricing for the Ford starts at $21,910. The top-trim level Titanium with no major options added comes in right at $33,000.

Conclusion

2015 Chrysler 200 S - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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The 2015 200 is far and away a better car than is predecessor. It surpasses it in every single way. Its exterior looks, its interior comfort and convenience levels, its powertrain, and lastly its value are all vastly improved. Besides the rattling interior bits with the stereo turned up and the tight rear headroom, my quibbles about the car were nit-picky. Driving dynamics are skewed to the comfort side, especially aided by the transmission.

While there may be a few negative remarks I’ve made against the car, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the 200. My week was an overall positive motoring experience. There’s plenty to like about Chrysler’s new entry level sedan.

  • Leave it
    • Transmission is slow to shift
    • Sound deadening issues with heavy bass stereo
    • Tight rear seat entryway
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