By Bill Clark
- Eager V6 engine
- Quiet interior
- Sporty handling
- Clueless transmission
- Clueless climate controls
- Clueless seats
I’ve got to hand it to the Chrysler marketing team. Their Superbowl ad sure left me yearning in anticipation to check out the “all new” Chrysler 200. Those momentary glimpses of smooth, flowing black lines and chrome accents really piqued my curiosity. Chrysler’s full-size 300 has been a major success and I think was instrumental in resurrecting the brand. Would the new 200 be any less game-changing than the 300?
The competition in the mid-sized car market has escalated to unprecedented levels over the past two years, especially with the newcomers from Korea like the Kia Optima and the Hyundai Sonata. Could Detroit, with its giant iron fist, be delivering a lethal blow to the overseas competition? I sure hope so. It’s about time!
I had a great opportunity to put the 200 through its paces and even stretch it’s capabilities a little. We had family in town again and they wanted to see the BIG redwoods, so a trip from the San Francisco bay area up to Calaveras Big Trees State Park in the Sierras was in order. This road trip gave us a mixture of straight highway driving, curvy mountain roads, and 4000-foot elevation gain. One of my back seat passengers was 6’3” and 280 pounds.
We were fortunate to receive the Chrysler 200 in touring trim with the optional 3.6 liter V6 VVT Pentastar Engine ($1,795) and 6-speed auto transmission. That’s a mouthful of an engine name, but let’s just say it provides more than adequate acceleration and still allows great gas mileage. We averaged 26 MPG with my lead-foot, climbing up to 4000 foot elevation, and with the car weighed down with passengers.
The 200 was very well-mannered on the road. The first thing I noticed was how quiet the cabin was, even at cruising speed. Straight line tracking was very precise, although pavement grooves caused the car to dart around a bit. This could be a tire dilemma. The only downside to the ride is that it seemed to feel fairly rough over rough pavement. But once we hit the twisty highway 4, the car was very confident around high-speed sweeping corners and exhibited little body roll, even through tight corners. I’d go so far as to call it fun to drive.
The brakes were a mixed bag. On short around-town trips, the brakes seemed a little weak in both initial bite and modulation, sometimes alarmingly so. Surprisingly, once the brakes heated up, initial bite and modulation seemed very good and they inspired confidence. The VVT V6 engine is a real gem. It accelerates effortlessly and seems quite eager to please the driver with muted, but sporty sounds. Overall, the 200 was very sporty-feeling for a mid-sized sedan.
Interior and Exterior Styling
Speaking of mid-sized, my first impression of the 200 was that the outside dimensions seemed to be pretty small for a mid-sized car. I remember mid-sized American cars like the 2001 Oldsmobile Intrigue or 2004 Chevy Malibu, so I was expecting something that size. Maybe compact is the new mid-size, but the interior still felt very small for a mid-sized car. The dash board is big, bulky, and in your face; even intrusive. It even felt a bit claustrophobic inside. Maybe that was the style they were going after. The rear seats have adequate leg room for taller passengers, but the sloping rear roofline, while stylish, makes for very tight clearances for rear seat passengers. Styling seems to have required some trade-offs.
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