Before even seeing the 2015 Chrysler 200 in person for the first time, I already knew this was going to be the best mid-size sedan Chrysler has made in recent years. Why is that? Well as many already know, Chrysler doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to producing a mid-sized sedan that’s even remotely competitive with segment stalwarts including the Accord and Camry, and more recently, a tidal wave of new competitors. But an even bigger question was still left unanswered as I prepared to get behind the wheel, “Has the 2015 Chrysler 200 improved enough to finally be taken seriously in this ever-competitive class?”
Taking a brief trip down memory lane, over the past several decades Chrysler’s mid-size sedan efforts have always been somewhat lacking. Since introducing the 1983 E-body, its first sedan that would be considered “mid-sized” by today’s standards, Chrysler has struggled to produce a truly competitive mid-sized sedan. Over the years, there were some high points, like the 1995 JA Cirrus/Stratus/Breeze. But failure to address these cars’ shortcomings and continued investment in the JA resulted in a relatively quick fall from prominence. Follow-up efforts, if you could call them so, proved to be unsuccessful at capturing either a significant share of the market or measurable praise, their shortcomings all too obvious.
The 2015 Chrysler 200, however, is a fresh breath of optimism for the automaker. Built on a competitive global platform, with modern drivetrains, fresh styling, eye-catching interior, and numerous high-technology features, the new 200 has been turning heads and garnering positive buzz since day one. But the best way to form a conclusion is to experience it in the living flesh, and that’s just why I recently made a short trip up to Quirk Chrysler-Jeep in Braintree, MA, where I got behind the wheel of this Velvet Red Pearl front-wheel drive and V6-powered 200C, stickering at $32,380.
The new 200 cannot be discussed without first addressing its new looks. Externally, it ditches the previous 200/Sebring’s somewhat choppy, pieced-together styling for a far cleaner and elegant appearance. From the front, you’re instantly drawn is its bold upper and lower grilles that look like mirror images of one another. Its twin-projector headlights, with their LED outlines have the appearance of being part of the grille. With the headlights off, these LEDs have the appearance of chrome, further owing to this integral appearance.
In profile view, the 200 looks light years ahead of the clumsy-looking car it replaced. Its gracefully arching roofline seamlessly blends into the trunk, in true modern fashion. Chrome window surrounds are bold and classy, and sharp character lines provide some much needed break-up in the very tall space below the windows.
High beltlines have received sharp criticism for their interior draw-backs (heavily present in the 200), but this may be one of the first examples that beltlines have become too high from an exterior styling standpoint. The greenhouse is a major improvement over the old 200’s, although it doesn’t set any new trends, looking very similar to those of many cars, from Buick Verano to Ford Fusion to Toyota Avalon.
Around back is the only place where things really start to fall apart. The deck lid is very high, and its integral spoiler throws off the elegantly tapering roofline. Additionally, the short trunk makes for a stubby, insubstantial look. Personally, I really think that some more interesting taillights, possibly vertically oriented, could do wonders for this car.
(The Sebring Limited my mom and I rented in 2010)
Slipping into the 200’s very thickly-bolstered driver’s seat, I was instantly delighted that the interior neither looked nor felt anything like the 2010 Sebring my mom and I rented while touring colleges almost exactly five years ago. Plastics were of good quality, with plenty of rich-looking satin aluminum accents about. My tester’s faux woodgrain trim was a bit tacky, especially surrounding the instrument panel. Regardless, the way it wraps around the front door handles and disappears into the dash is pretty cool. Chrysler does offer genuine open-pore wood trim, which would be curious to compare.
Once in the driver’s seat, any indication of the car’s high hood is gone. With no part of it in view, and you feel very forwardly placed, whether or not this is true. I also immediately noticed how obstructive the forward-placed A-pillars are. Concerning the seats, I was frankly disappointed. While they are plenty supportive, I found them overly firm. Furthermore, I was immensely let down by the so called “Nappa Leather”, finding it very stiff and lacking any grain, it made me wonder whether it was manufactured by the Rubbermaid Corporation. Perforated leather is available with the premium package, which I imagine (and hope) would be a bit better.
Trim finishes aside, the instant you enter it’s interior, your eyes are drawn to the massive 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen and a center stack that looks like none found in any other car. Most controls do, of course, require interface with Uconnect, but thankfully important controls have redundant knobs and buttons on in the center stack.
Speaking of that touchscreen, I had mixed feelings on it. While its size allows for buttons that are plenty large, I did experience the anticipated annoyances of dust and sun glare, the latter of which wasn’t helped by my dark sunglasses which I wear about 90% of the time I drive. Graphics are beginning to look dated, as they haven’t progressed much in the last few years.
Appreciatively, the same cannot be said about the 7-inch display located in the gauge cluster – it’s fantastic. Graphics are far more crisp and up-to-date, and its opaque blue lighting is a nice contrast to the fine watch-like analogue instruments. This screen is used for a number of functions, displaying unbelievably detailed graphics for each.
As visually large as the center stack and console are, I didn’t find it obtrusive in any way, though larger folks may feel differently. Its size does not go to waste, as behind the cupholders is a massively deep storage compartment and underneath the control panel is a large passthrough storage space. Additionally, the rotary gear shifter and electronic parking brake free up vertical space.
In regards to my actual test drive, I’m sad to say it was a very quick one. It was quite busy that morning, so I don’t blame any salesperson for wanting to move on to someone with an actual interest in buying a car. Around town, the 200C provided both a smooth ride and an livable driving experience. There were no squeaks or rattles, and NVH was undetectable in the 200’s vault-like interior, something uncharacteristic of Chrysler mid-sizers of the past. Rather unexpectedly, suspension was very firm, something that may deter some mid-size sedan buyers preferring a more comfortable ride. Keep in mind the wasn’t even the 200S model and it rode on standard 17-inch wheels (18- and 19-inch are available).
Power is delivered efficiently from its 3.6L Pentastar V6, and I never had any issues with the car’s ZF-sourced 9-speed automatic. Shifts were smooth, though frankly a bit CVT-like. I personally prefer a little more rev, but the 200’s Sport Mode made up for some of this. With all those gears to paddle shift through, it provided more entertainment than expected.
The 200C is no sports sedan however, and rightfully Chrysler does not market it as one (though they try to play that card for the 200S). Steering is light, but not as numb as is in some competitors. For all that engine weight over the front wheels, the 200C’s torque steer was insignificant, and the car didn’t feel overly nose heavy. That being said, the 200 did feel like a very heavy car overall. Not in the sense that it’s sluggish or underpowered, but just in that driving it feels like you’re moving around a bigger car than the 200 actually is.
Overall, the 2015 Chrysler 200 is a solid and capable car. It may still have a few areas with room for improvement, but so long as Chrysler continues giving it the attention it deserves, with meaningful updates and upgrades over the next few years, the new 200 will only keep getting better. For mid-size sedan buyers seeking something with style and a wide variety of options to choose from, the 200 is seriously worth a look. Regardless, I think it’s safe to say we’ll be seeing a lot more 200s that don’t belong to Enterprise or Hertz on the road.
My Final Verdict: The 2015 Chrysler 200 is indeed a very much improved vehicle. Is it best-in-class? No. But has Chrysler finally produced a truly competitive vehicle in the ever-aggressive mid-size sedan segment? Absolutely.
I have to say, from a styling standpoint this is one of my favorite sedans currently on the market. It is one of the few designs that is clean and completely cohesive from front, middle, to back. No weird character lines or protrusions like on so many 2010s designs. It’s a bit derivative, sure. From the B-pillar back it looks just like a Ford Fusion – another one of my favorite new cars – but still a nice sleek design in its own way.
The interior is busier than I like, but I like that they’ve FINALLY done away with gear shift levers in automatic vehicles. So much free space in the console! The touchscreen and plethora of buttons are obnoxious, but short of buying a base model Nissan Versa it seems you can’t avoid that in any 2015 car, so I can’t single this one out.
I do have to wonder how a car like this will age, though. I’m sure it drives nicely now, but the lack of durability and quality was probably the previous Sebring’s worst issue of all. 9-speed automatic? With an unproven track record? From Chrysler? Yikes. It may turn out to be totally fine, but I’d wait 5-10 years before trusting such new technology from a third tier company.
This (excellent) write-up seems to fall in line with most magazine road tests I’ve read.
Too bad the capacity, or is it the cost, doesn’t allow Chrysler to include the ZF transmission with the 4 cylinder. But then, maybe Chrysler-Fiat are readying a fabulous new 4 cylinder to mate with that excellent transmission.
The only part of this article that bothers me is that Chrysler, like many other car makers (I’m talking about you, Toyota) can’t seem to figure out how to build a “sporty” version of the 200.
FWIW, with nearly all the 200’s competition switching to CVTs, I’d find it easier to buy this car if it had the ZF automatic.
And Max P. you are aware that the 9 speed automatic, built under license from ZF, is used in several brands of automobile? It is a newer design, but has already been put into hundreds of thousands….if not millions of cars and CUVs. I’d be more concerned about the V6 engine’s reliability/longevity.
I have a 2.4 Multiair TigerShark 200s in Ceramic Blue and it is paired with the Chrysler-built ZF 9 speed. Despite a number of concerns for this transmission, I have found it to be very smooth and it has adapted well to my driving style. If I switch it from D to S (sport) mode it basically becomes an entirely different vehicle. The steering immediately tightens up and the shift points are higher in the rev range and much firmer. I only wish it would have included an adaptive sport suspension that became firmer along with the steering effort but I know that would have added considerable cost to the car. The TigerShark is a wonderful 4 now and since I have removed the air cleaner resonator, the engine has a wonderful growl as one accelerates. At highway speeds I sense no droning but then I usually am streaming Pandora through the Alpine sound system upgrade. That system is actually very balanced and the surround sound system presents a great soundstage about halfway up the windshield. I’ve read a few comments negative about the Alpine, but I suspect these are individuals who are more about attention-grabbing bass than accurate reproduction of what was recorded in the studio.
I must say the thing that has impressed me most about this Chrysler is the quality of the paint finish. In a word, it is fantastic with minimal orange peel and it is easily on par with vehicles costing 10-15k more from my experience.
Back in mid-June, my article about my father’s cars may have referenced his curiosity about / desire for a Chrysler 200. So we researched these at length.
Not surprisingly, one has to opt for quite a bit before the V6 becomes available. My father is of an age where the terms “decent power” and “four cylinder” are still mutually exclusive, so he wanted the V6. As he is a bigger tightwad that me, it was not overly enticed by the Chrysler since he had to flip a lot more coin to get the engine he wanted. That said, his preference for a V6 would have rendered the same feeling about the Accord, Camry, Fusion, and most Passat’s.
Chrysler has been putting the 3.6 in Chargers, minivans, and pickups, and the ones I have driven have been quite nice.
Call me a wet blanket, but that rotary knob for a gear selector is an unsanitary fad. But I’ve been wrong before.
Dad didn’t get a 200; he found a 2010 Taurus with 26,000 miles in the estate of a friend’s sibling.
I hope you’re right on the shift “dial”. Paddle shifters or not it just looks cheap and I can’t help but to think it feels cheap too.
gear selector knobs/dials are likely to become more widespread. especially with transmissions/transaxles increasingly being equipped with electronic selector actuators, there’s simply no need for a lever anymore. not to mention that with 6, 8, 9 speeds the whole “P-R-N-D-L” thing falls apart. what exactly is “low” gear when you have nine of them?
> Call me a wet blanket, but that rotary knob for a gear selector is an unsanitary fad. But I’ve been wrong before.
I remember reading a comment on the RAM1500 article about the shifter knob being unsanitary because it can get dirty and looks difficult to clean effectively. That may be true for a pickup that gets used as a work truck, but I don’t see that as an effective argument here.
After a few years, a car’s steering wheel is probably loaded with bacteria. While it may be easy to clean, how often do most people actually do clean their steering wheels?
Very good point and I don’t disagree with what you say. My contention, be it from a point of beinfy old and cranky or simply resistant to change, is that unlike a steering wheel or gear selector the crevice beneath the dial will be a haven for debris. This funk will build up and decay. Debris on a steering wheel or traditional gear shift will fall off or be easily cleaned.
Ventilation knobs are prone to this also, but you have two touches guaranteed on the gear knob every time one is in the car.
I won’t argue about accusations of over reaction but this simply strikes me as unsanitary.
Jason: Did you ever see “Top Gear America” and the episode where the cast bought $500 or so cars to drive to SF ?
They did a forensic test on all the cars and the results would have had you bathing in antibacterial hand sanitizer. After you’d chucked your lunch.
The British Top Gear did a similar test, but on used personal luxury coupes like the Jaguar XK and Mercedes CL. I recall them finding traces of urine and fecal matter in both.
I didn’t see it and have no doubt about that being the case. All my cars get periodic wipe downs. I’ve driven too many fleet vehicles.
Truly, I’m not the germophobe it may seem.
BRB, I’m off to the store to buy antibacterial wipes…
Ewwww. If I don’t know about it, it can’t hurt me! Think about all the disgusting things we touch daily… Our mobile phones, work phones, keyboards, shopping carts, public transport seats. I’ll stick to my blissful ignorance, thanks!
I really don’t worry about this stuff. every surface of everything in the world (including you) is covered with bacteria and other microbes. I just make sure I wash my hands every restroom visit and before eating, and let my immune system do its job the rest of the time.
I use rubbing alcohol to clean my dash & controls, for it seems an effective solvent for “keyboard plaque.” Unsure if it damages plastic, but I’ve had no reason to believe it does so far.
I rented one of these for a whole workweek a few months ago. It was the 4-cylinder model, of course, but was pretty well equipped. I hated that rotary shift knob! Over and over again, I kept reaching for the fan control knob instead of the shifter when I needed to go from reverse to drive, etc! I can’t be the only one doing this. It does look nice (kinda) and it saves space, but ergonomically it’s a huge fail!
I’d have to disagree, since in the 60’s Chrysler got the SAME shade when they had the push-button gear selector (Which Lincoln now has in it’s MKZ) I too rented a 200 SE (Canada’s top-notch version) and I found it to be “Spot-on!” The dial and paddle shifts take time to get accustomed to, but when you master them the driving experience gains loads, I shan’t tell you that if you’re in ANY car, it isn’t exactly 100% Clean, so Ms. Thing LIGHTEN UP!!!!
I had a rental for 2 days back in March and I too would make changes to this knob. The main change would be giving it stronger holds on R and D. As it was I couldn’t switch between these positions without looking down on the dial.
The packaging on most cars these days means the V-6 is usually only available on a loaded high end trim car. I suspect that it’s CAFE related. If you are going to screw up a manufacturer’s CAFE numbers, it is going to cost you dearly.
I’d like to consider an Impala V-6 but I’d have to buy a LOT of stuff I don’t want to get the V-6.
My dad had the last two generations of Chrysler Sebring sedan. He moved from the 6 to the 4 with his second car. It was the only way he could feel comfortable with the price.
I really like the looks of this car and would readily choose it over a Fusion and especially an Altima at the rental counter. The faux Aston Martin look has grown tired very quickly as Ford applied it to not just to the Mustang but now also to its funny looking economy models, e.g., the Focus and Fiesta.
Like the other 6 cylinder competition tested elsewhere, I suspect the Pentastar 200 will be both quicker and more fuel efficient than the Fusion 2.0 ecoboost in real life. That plus unique good looks should make the 200 a winner.
I may not be fond of the new Mustang, but to say it looks like a “faux Aston Martin” is intellectually lazy. It’s like calling an interior “plasticky” or an engine “agricultural;” it lets someone say something without saying anything at all.
THe Fusion has often been criticized for the “faux Aston Martin” look and the new Mustang has been similarly criticized for having its front end adopt the Fusion look over the traditional front. That may be a stretch for you, but I’m sure others get it even if you don’t.
In contrast, Chrysler may have borrowed Bentley styling for the 300, but it didn’t apply it across its line like Ford appears to be doing w/ even the latest Taurus rehash not escaping the Fusion AM look.
the shape of the front end is 100% the result of Ford wanting to sell it in Europe. go look at every other global car out there and you’ll see the same high hoodline which droops down towards a flat bull nose. Chrysler’s not planning on selling the 200 in places which follow EU regs, so they don’t have that constraint. nor does Lincoln, for that matter.
Interesting, I had never considered the role of European pedestrian safety regulations.
go look at the profile/silhouette of a Mazda 6, Mercedes CLA, BMW 4-series, or Maserati Ghibli (as some examples.) they all have the tall cowl height, drooping hood line, and flat bullnose. as far as I’m concerned, globalizing the Mustang made it look like shit.
Maybe it’s because I’m old, but when the current Fusion was introduced -and derided for some because of it’s “Aston Martin” grille, I just didn’t get it. What I DO see is a clear lineage to Ford’s very own Mustang, 1967 Thunderbird and 1968 LTD with their big, wide grilles. Google the Aston Martin grille and you’ll find the similarity to Fusion is not really that great.
With pedestrian impact standards, every automaker has had to raise their hood heights and in my opinion done a great job by bringing back the “powerdome” and distintive grilles with heritage links from 30, 40 even 50 years ago. It IS confusing that the Chrysler 200 does not follow this trend.
I think the Mustang is a degree removed from the Aston look. Yes, it looks a bit like a Fusion, which looks a bit like an Aston, but I don’t personally feel the Mustang looks like an Aston. If that makes sense.
I really like the new Mustang but the sloping front bothers me. I’m sure it is due to European pedestrian safety regulations.
I’ve living in hope that the Fiat/Chrysler merger succeeds. Apparently financials are good for the entity so I’m heartened by this review. I worked with a guy who had the previous gen and it became a nightmare for him, IIRC engine problems.
I’m with Jason on the gear dial. Even when driving my auto, I like to occasionally rest my hand on the shift lever.
Nice piece Brendan.
I did too, but with the way they seem intent on sacrificing everything for Alfa Romeo, I no longer feel so good about them.
What have they sacrificed? Other than delaying the Grand Cherokee.
I agree, Don, I’m really hoping the merger succeeds. Chrysler needs a nice, stable partner and leadership team for once. They’re always going from boom to bust to boom again.
they’re delaying updates to the Grand Cherokee (which hasn’t had a significant refresh since 2011,) 300 (same,) Wrangler (2008,) and Ram (2009.) Starving your cash cows to try to raise unicorns is stupid. especially when practically no one gives a single shit about Alfa Romeo.
Not even Alfa gives a shit about Alfa (or trying to sell the brand). Not when a main dealer could not provide me with a test drive car for a cataloged model in… Austria (guess which country borders us to the south?). No such problems at Mazda’s main dealers. Yes the new Giulia is supposedly a wonder car but you need to sell the bread and butter first.
Very nice review – I drew the same conclusions – much, much better than the car it replaces, some areas still inferior to it’s competitors, but overall “in the pack” versus way behind.
Things to fix – as you mention, interior material quality and an update to the 2.4 Tigershark 4 cylinder – when equipped with that engine it is less competitive.
There are just a whole bunch of really nice vehicles in this segment now, my choice, though it would be close, would be the Mazda 6.
You are right, they are all so close I don’t know if it makes a whole lot of difference anymore. It’s not like there are any major differences in form or function or even overall design. My decision would probably come down to cost and what the dealers have available.
I have been interested in this car since before it came out. Not that I am in the market for something in this class, but because this is a segment where this company needs to compete.
I am curious about that 9 speed automatic. I can see where it might be of benefit with an engine with a narrow torque band, but I have trouble seeing the need for 9 gears with a torquey V6. My Kia has a similar V6 with a 6 speed, and I can’t see where it could put 3 more gear ratios to use.
As for the gear selector, I am a lever hater. Levers were fine when they were needed for a mechanical linkage, but everything has been electronic for years now. I prefer the pushbutton approach that Lincoln has used, but I am intrigued by the twist knob. Perhaps Chrysler missed an opportunity to make it out of plated metal or something that feels expensive.
Chrysler should have used a push button in light of its history, but I suppose that the CC reader buyer demographic that would understand that history is too small a market segment!
Having experienced this thing in a 2.4 version of the vehicle (my more detailed notes below in the comments), I’d say it has at least 3 gears too many as it constantly hunted for them, especially at crawling speeds. I literally got car-sick because of that rocking and tugging.
The thing about the electronic gear selector is that it likely will not last the life of the car, and good luck replacing that part. A mechanical linkage on the other hand has a good chance of going 200K miles or more (the mechanical gear selector on my 95 Volvo has 250K miles on it and works well, as does the mechanical gear selector on my 1956 Cadillac). This is not a knock on Chrysler per se, other OEMs are doing it also, but it is just another sign that today’s cars are disposable.
Too bad they aren’t selling for disposable prices though.
However, that electronic selector should be a lot cheaper to replace than (for example) the bushing that has failed in the shifter in my 93 Crown Victoria. Bushing (and even shift collar) failure is not an uncommon occurrence in these cars as they age. There are few bigger PITA repairs than those inside of a steering column. For all of the money saved in eliminating the multiple pieces involved in that shift linkage, I would think that OEMs could build a very high quality electronic shifter and still save a lot of cash.
The “mechanical” selector on my 08 Avenger broke at around 25,000 miles. What a pain that was. I had to take the consol apart and disengage the interlock every time I started the car. They repaired the broken part and it has lasted to 80,000 miles so I guess it is better. I have the4 banger but wish I had gone for the V6 as they seem to get better mileage and are a little peppier considering it is a 3500 pound car. Personally, I feel that the “modern” controls require too much vision use and are too distracting to drivers. Maybe that is why there are so many more wrecks of new cars.
Pete: how has reliability been on your 08 ? Everyone seems to loathe these cars and as always, they get points in my book for that, so I’ve been interested in replacing the ONION with one.
I have had no problems with it at all. Just change the oil every 3000 miles or 6 months. I did have a problem with the valve that alters the intake, but covered by the warrantee. I have had a problem that everyone with plastic headlight covers has :they are getting milky. I sanded and polished the ones on my Dakota and now the low beams are brighter than the highs were before the work. I will also have to do the Avenger. My question is why? The little side lights stay clear, but not the headlights. It must be a different type of plastic.
Thanks for that, Pete. I’ve read a lot of user reviews on all model years and
find the problems minimal. And no evidence of trouble on even those with the 2.7 offered early on.
It astounds me that “milky” headlights are not a safety recall issue. The array of light patterns are very specific for government approval, and the clouding aspect reduces that pattern intent. Again, I’m astounded it’s not a safety recall item…
“The thing about the electronic gear selector is that it likely will not last the life of the car,”
assumes facts not in evidence.
I don’t see how the gear selector knob is fundamentally any different from a rotary headlight switch or HVAC control. None of them are hooked up to any kind of linkage,it’s just electrical contacts in a circular formation. What would make this wear out? And even if it did what would make it particularly difficult to replace? I think most modern console levers are pretty much the same think just laid out in a linear formation.
There is one electro-mechanical component in the rotary PRNDL dial: the Park lockout, which prevents you from shifting out of Park unless your foot is on the brake. Out of curiosity, I tried this when I test drove a RAM1500 and it does indeed prevent the knob from turning.
Having said that, this rotary control probably less electro-mechanically complex than the steering column mounted ignition switch in an older vehicle. Those not only have electrical contacts to supply electrical power to the vehicle, ignition system and starter, but also the mechanical Park shift interlock.
I got over 20 years and 400,000km out of the ignition switch in my pickup truck before something broke internally and it had to be replaced. I was disappointed, but given the number of times it had been cycled in its life, I wouldn’t call that premature failure.
nevermind the fact that electronic throttle controls seem to have no problems lasting the life of cars.
I’m sorry boys. The 200 is still a terrible and uncompetitive car. Outside of a leftover Dodge Avenger, it’s one of the worst choices you can make at the rental counter.
I recently had one for a week. The sight lines and visibility are abysmal, the interior is very cramped, the materials were cheap, and the transmission constantly hunts for a gear. It drives likely car twice it’s size and weight. Also, I bashed my head on the A pillar every time I got into the car (and I’m only 5′-9″).
I get that the 200 is better looking and somewhat improved, but I sincerely don’t understand the enthusiasm here or all the hype from the auto press.
Your points about the sight lines and how it drives heavy are spot-on. If you can tell, I wasn’t too impressed with the 200 either beyond its exterior styling. Interior plastics were definitely an improvement, but beyond that, I was really let down by the interior, especially the seats. There are much better cars in its class and price range.
The attention and hype from many other sources of automotive journalism is because having a class-competitive sedan is a huge feat for Chrysler – sad, but true.
I agree that the 200 is significantly over-hyped, as it’s nowhere near perfect, but unfortunately that’s what often happens. Someone has an opinion, and everyone else hops on the bandwagon. If this car was from another brand, it likely wouldn’t be receiving this positive attention.
“The attention and hype from many other sources of automotive journalism is because having a class-competitive sedan is a huge feat for Chrysler – sad, but true. ”
I have to disagree here. Granted, I may be out of my element talking sedans, but how has Chrysler ever been uncompetitive? Just because the rags may have panned the last Sebring/200 doesn’t mean that’s the be-all/end all. Unless they were using carburetors long after EFI is the norm, or mechanical brakes or some such, Im just not seeing it. Granted, the JA cars had become a bit stale in the aughies, but they were just as sedan-ey as anything else out there. The outgoing 3.5L V6 gave up little to even some of the modern comparable V6s from the competition. The styling is a matter of opinion but for my money, 4 doors wth a fixed rear window and a trunklid is all the same, no matter how you slice it.
Maybe you meant ‘midsize’ sedans here, but lets not forget the LX cars and how they brought back ‘real’ American sedans, a wagon and later a true muscle car. The LX sedans are best in class for large cars.
First of all, I did mean “mid-size” sedans only.
At least in my opinion, and we’re all voicing opinions here and not necessarily facts, Chrysler mid-sizers have generally been behind most of the competition when it comes to refinement. Any generation Sebring sedan I’ve ridden in exhibited excessive NVH, unsupportive seats and uncomfortable seating positions, and a sea of poorly-fitting, hard, grainy plastics. Comparing them to same-year Accords and Camrys, I always found those cars to have higher-quality cabin, better seats, and a better sense of being screwed together right.
Going back even further, look at say, the 1994 Dodge Spirit and compare it to a 1994 Camry. The Camry could’ve been 10 years newer (in some regards you could say it was, as the AA-bodies were really updated Reliant/Aries). Ergonomics, ride quality, plastic quality, engines, etc. were all either more modern or of higher quality.
That’s really what I mean when I say uncompetitive.
I don’t get the automotive press. I’m still looking at minivans, and I have found the things they gripe about typically don’t matter one bit. For example, the Odyssey is very smooth and quiet…yet the interior looks and feels cheap and the cockpit is horribly cramped. You would never know that from 99% of the reviews. They are worse than worthless, they are often misleading because they harp on piddly stuff while glossing over major flaws. Sometimes I wonder if they even drive the vehicles they write about or just look at a spec sheet and pictures.
That’s why this 200 is the way it is. It was built to satisfy idiotic journalists who slobber over soft touch materials nobody actually touches and 9 speed transmissions that in the real world are always shifting. It wasn’t built with practicality in mind. Kind of a big oversight in a family sedan.
Not to pick on Chrysler, I can say the same of a lot, perhaps most, of today’s family cars.
outside of egregious examples like the previous Sebring, when someone calls an interior “cheap” it means they’re looking for something bad to say about the car, but they can’t come up with anything tangible. So they go to something which is “safe” to say.
it’s like Patrick Bedard @ Car & Driver, in the same issue of the magazine he called the interior of the (then-new) Malibu “dollar store” yet praised the Mazda 3’s all-hard-plastic interior as “world class.”
comments like that are safe to ignore, especially if they’re coming from an automotive journalist.
Anything with the magic ‘H’ badge can do no wrong…..
All of the new cars have heavy front pillars. None of them allow the visibility of older cars. That is something mandated by the NTHSB so the passingers can survive accidents in rollover situtations.
Sure, but the 200’s front pillars are especially huge, nearly horizontal and extend far in front of the driver. Visibility is further hindered by a giant plastic filler piece to which is mounted a too-small (but oddly wide) side mirror.
Good visibility and rollover safety are not mutually exclusive. Look at Subaru.
The example pictured is appropriately painted rent-a-car red.
A couple of years ago, I knew that I was going to have to bite the bullet and buy a car. Doing some research I found a lot of negativity about the Sebring derived 200 from the automotive press. This got me to wondering just how bad can they be. I took one for a ride and found it quite comfortable and even a bit luxurious. For my needs I could see myself owning one. Then over the next several months, whenever I saw someone getting in or out of one at the store, I’d ask them about it. A few people thought it strange that I ‘d ask but most people just gushed about how much they like them. After taking to about 20 happy owners I bought one slightly used. Now I’m one of those happy owners too. The moral of the story is that the press has to write something, and they will always have their favorites and they will always have a whipping boy. Like the Packard ad used to say “Ask the man who owns one.”
Exactly. I’m on the verge of buying a Town and Country, the minivan that for a few years now has finished in last place in every comparison I’ve seen. But I’ve researched, looked over and driven every van on the market quite extensively, even ran the numbers about 5 different ways. I’m convinced the T&C is still the best overall family hauler.
Phil, I have no idea where you live so this may not apply. I had a 2015 Grand Caravan for two weeks over Christmas immediately after having had a Grand Cherokee for the previous two weeks. Both had the same engine (which was great), however the minivan had the 6-speed transmission, the Cherokee had I believe the 8speed, what a difference. I used the minivan to roadtrip from Colorado to California. Fully loaded, the gearing on the 6-speed is abysmal, with shifts that were very rough and logic that had it downshifting and screaming at close to redline for long stretches on end while going over the mountains and constantly hunting for the “correct” gear. My current Chrysler 300c has the 5-speed which I have found drives much better than that 6-speed in the van did.
Take a long test drive over typical routes loaded how you might have it. Better yet, ask the dealer if you can drive a one or two year old used example to get a better idea of what it’s like after a while. The rental I had with 10k miles on it was extremely and noticably creaky over somewhat rough roads.
I still don’t dislike the Mopar vans, and think they do many things very well. As far as value for immediate cash money outlay is concerned they win by far. However for day to day usability and low aggravation factor, I would not have one where I live. Obviously, you probably live somewhere else in different conditions so none of the above may apply.
I don’t live in the mountains and have driven T&Cs quite a bit as my mom has one. It’s not my favorite transmission, but I don’t find it obtrusive either.
What I do find very obtrusive is the left foot rests in the Sedona and Odyssey, which make it impossible for me at 6’3″ to find a comfortable driving position.
The T&C is not the best driving van, but it does have a decidedly sportier feel to it than any of the others. It’s not like the others are perfect. The Sienna and Odyssey ride nicer but also tend to wallow. The Sienna, in particular, gives almost no feedback. It’s like the overboosted 70’s cars, you can steer it with your pinky.
And the interior of the T&C can’t be beat for family hauling. Hauling adults is another matter as it’s smaller in back. But the huge Stow&Go bins, available dual DVD/BlueRay with HDMI, overhead storage, dual gloveboxes, sliding and removable center console, and the easiest to use infotainment of anybody is what really make them appealing for our 5 hour drives to see Grandpa and Grandma. Nobody else comes close to the features for the money. Resale is also much improved from just 10 years ago, assuming you aren’t silly enough to pay MSRP.
So yeah, purely as a driver I would probably prefer a Sedona if I could remove the dang foot rest. But being a parent it isn’t about me, it’s about buying what is going to make travel with three kids the easiest (which, I guess, is about maintaining my sanity, so maybe it is about me). Chrysler wins by a mile in that regard, and I save enough money in the process (~$7000, street price) to buy a decent used boat. T&C + Boat + happy kids for the win. 🙂
At 6’4″, I have to concur. I test drove all of the other minivans and the T&C was the only one that fit me. I am not overweight, just taller than what the Japanese design for them, not us. The little salesmen talked great about a model, and talked up the options, but when my 6′ wife says it is too small, they just didn’t know what to say other than “we have a couple of Chrysler T&C’s over in the used lot with low miles.”
Yeah, as a Sedona owner (who is only 5’10”) I have to agree with you on the left footrest thing. That is really my only complaint about how the vehicle drives.
And you know Pete, the most frustrating thing about that is that the Odyssey has a lot more leg room in the middle and third rows than the T&C so there’s no reason it needs to be cramped. And even the T&C is rather small up front compared to my current ’05 Grand Caravan. I remember when the ’08s came out and the front seat legroom was a frequent complaint. Now it’s not mentioned, probably because the competition has gotten even worse. Reviewers always make a big stink over rear space but I usually don’t hear a single thing about front seat space anymore even as consoles and footrests get ever more intrusive. It’s frustrating.
I bought a ’10 T&C, the most basic one they would sell me. It’s performed flawlessly since I bought it, nothing but oil changes and snow tires. It’s comfortable, all my kids (and their gear) fit in it, it gets decent MPG (for being shaped like a brick, and having the base (3.3) engine. Freinds with Toyota (base-model 4-cyl) and Honda (loaded model) vans both paid significantly more, had mechanical issues (the Toy’s already had a new transmission put in and none of the electric doors work on the Honda). I just don’t understand why the Chryslers have the stigma they do.
Looking at used ones, I sometimes wonder if it’s a combination of two things.
First off, they are not as refined as the Honda or Toyota. This can often give the impression they will be less reliable. But refinement does not equal durability. One small example is that those leather seat backs may look nice, but the hard plastic seat backs in the Chryslers will hold up to kid abuse much better. And take a look at the HD brakes Chrysler has been using since 2013, very stout. They do keep improving.
Second, a LOT of Chrysler’s vans are sold to rental or commercial fleets. Like over half. These vehicles typically get abused and then go back into the used market after one or two years. I have seen some pretty beat up used ones compared to what I see in used Hondas and Toyotas. Has nothing to do with durability but how they were taken care of.
According to JD Power the Chryslers are just as reliable long term and have better initial quality than the Hondas. And when I look at Fuelly.org they seem to get the same overall mileage in the real world despite the significantly higher EPA numbers on the Odyssey. We can all pick and choose stats for this and that but in the end I don’t really think anybody is building junk these days and people should just buy what they like best.
I agree with you pbr. The press can be brutal and sometimes unfair. I have friends that owned many of the older Chrysler products and loved them. I am hoping that the newer Chrysler/Jeep products are going to become more reliable. I had a customer that had a 2015 Jeep Cherokee with 9,000 miles on it that was being bought back by Chrysler due to numerous quality issues and a serious vibration problem that could not be fixed. They told me that there were over 7,000 buybacks on these models in the last 24 months in the Eastern region alone. 7,000!!!!
Jack Baruth wrote a piece a while back about the “wobble.” You’ll rarely see a bad review of any vehicle from the mainstream automotive press, unless it’s one that is unquestionably inferior. e.g. the Sebring’s crappiness made the “200” refresh a safe whipping boy for useless auto-journos who needed something to trash so they could put on the appearance of being “unbiased.”
Scott Burgess at the Detroit News was an egregious example of this. His review of the 2008 Sebring Convertible was favorable, if not glowing. But then the (massively improved) 2011 200 was a piece of junk in his view.
automotive journalism is more or less by enthusiasts, for enthusiasts. The mainstream car buyer doesn’t give a s**t what they say.
That’s an interesting hypothesis, and it makes sense. If you always sound like you are hugely impressed with everything you drive, it makes you sound like a paid advertisement. Still, to do a full 180 and blast a car is just ridiculous. Why not just be a little bit more critical of everything, rather than a LOT more critical of one particular car?
The old 200 wasn’t even that bad. I’ve driven two four-cylinder sedans. Both were a bit noisy, the transmission wasn’t great and they didn’t feel especially powerful, but they had a smooth ride and a good quality interior. The V6 probably would have resolved my main gripes with it.
The other aspect is that standards change over time. By the time the 200 came out it was just a warmed-over Sebring and would be compared to actual ‘new’ cars. But the point remains, just as biases amongst journos or publications exist.
Another factor is the impression a new car makes compared with usually an older car you are coming out of. pbr did you drive any of the 200’s competition?
There also aren’t too many cars that would give you the impression that they are bad these days. We put a thousand miles on the old model 200 and it was ‘fine’. Not great, but perfectly adequate as a rental although I would not buy one compared to say the 1st-gen Mazda 6.
To be fair to the press, they are in the position of comparing new cars based on MSRP. On that basis, the 200 looks like a risky buy, and therefore a risky recommendation, compared to the “safe” Camcords.
Based on what they actually sell for, and especially based on what a 6-month-old, 10k mile ex-rental sells for, it’s a much better bargain.
the media doesn’t like Chrysler. They are all either Foriegn attracted or Chevy/Ford guys. I suspect that Chrysler is selling these models which is why I never see ads for them. After getting my Avenger a little hot in the curves with changes in elevations, I conclude that the car is a stiff car that with the right tires handles great.
Yeah, my Dad has had the last two generations of Sebring sedan. He liked the first one well enough to buy a second. It’s been a comfortable car for him and he is of the generation that still hears something special in the Chrysler name.
A buddy of mine bought one of the last loaded V-6 Avenger R/Ts in red with a black interior. Maybe not the most refined car, but sort of a guilty pleasure…..it really hustles and looks surprisingly sporty in an old school American way.
Cheap fun has its place!
Great write-up as always, Brendan. What I want to see from Chrysler is consistently reliable/good quality cars being built. Then and only then will they be a consideration on most shopper’s lists when buying a new car. All the flash and dash are fine when the car has 20 miles on it, but how will it be at 20,000 miles? 50,000 miles? Would I put out $32k for this car? Absolutely not. There are too many tried and true models and brands out there I can spend my hard earned money on. I know too many people that have had quality issues with their new Chryslers/Jeeps for me to have any faith in this product.
Interestingly enough, Chrysler’s U-Connect was one of the earliest mass-market infotainment systems. I believe it was first seen on the 2008 minivans. As far as I know, it’s held up pretty well. Their electronics are more tried and true than most others, who have only recently begun putting such systems in their cars. They are also among the very best in ease of use and functionality. Try comparing to the dual-screen Hondas which are absolutely atrocious.
As for the mechanicals, that remains to be seen. The Pentastar had some early issues but they seem to resolved now 4 years later. I don’t really like the 200, but not for those reasons.
Just curious where you are getting your info on the two screen Hondas and them being “atrocious”?
Personal experience and reviews. A mixture of touch screen and wheel controlled. The wheel for the top screen mounted below the bottom touch screen. It’s a chore to use. An example from TTAC:
“It’s confusing to know where to look for which controls, and some features require the control knob while others are driven via touchscreen. When using the audio screen there’s no tactile feedback, the layout is cramped, and it’s hard to stab the right spot when traveling at speed. It’d still be a bad idea even if the screen were responsive, which it isn’t. Using Chrysler’s UConnect will make an Odyssey driver fall to their knees, weeping”
They are. they’re horrible. inscrutable control arrangements, sluggish response that makes the first gen of MyFord Touch look responsive, and nevermind the whole disconnect of having two separate screens to display the same information.
the only thing worse is that disgusting “Enform” system Lexus has with that f***ing “Remote Touchpad.”
I haven’t extensively driven a new Honda/Acura product with the dual screens, but I found them pretty easy to use in the 2014 MDX I test drove last year. The only thing that bothered me were the blue graphics that look about 10 years old.
I recently had the opportunity to keep a 2015 Acura TLX overnight (loaner car), and the dual screens were a bit much, but I could imagine getting used to it pretty quickly. There is some redundancy between screens, but for the most part, the upper screen is for nav and the lower touchscreen is for audio and climate. There IS tactile feedback, at least on this 2015 version in this model. I agree that the graphic layout is cluttered, and a bit dated. The most elegant I’ve seen in that regard is BMW.
As an Acura salesperson for over one year, I have yet to have one customer complain about their dual screens. On the contrary, most of my customers love them! I think that the press has overly exaggerated how “difficult” they are to operate, which from real world experience is simply not true.
How’d you like the TLX? I’m likely replacing my TSX within the next year and it’s obviously on my list.
Brendan, I liked the TLX better than I thought I would! They told me it was the 4-cylinder model, and it felt so powerful I opened the hood to verify (it was)! I thought it had a very nice balance of ride, power and handling. I’m not that enthralled with the styling (kind of blah and Lexus-like) but no complaints about the way it drives, or luxury/comfort.
It seems that people are impressed by low gears to give the impression of power. That is what the car companies do to get you hooked. How does the car accelerate from 70 to 80 is a little more representative of the cars power. My Avenger does well up to 65, but after that it runs out of steam. On the other hand, my TC-3 does the 70 to 100 pretty quickly for a peppy car.
Good to know Chris. I’ve been meaning to take a test drive of it, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. My nearest Acura dealer is about an hour away.
Tom, my thoughts as well; I am perpetually skeptical of Chrysler products. Nowadays, dash electronics are a whole different sphere of reliability issues which have damaged the reputations of many other companies already (e.g. Ford). I am thoroughly disgusted with the software industry’s irresponsible QC, along with the public’s tolerance of it (Gimme more features, man!).
Hate the rotary shifter. Also hate the big touch screen. Styling is ok but don’t like the high beltline and low swooping roof. I am really not liking modern cars much.
As a semi-frequent car renter, I find the Chrysler 200 a fresh new entrant in the field, with a lot of promise. In fact If I were to base a buying decision on rental experiences, I would select it over the Toyota Camry.
The prior Chrysler midsize got a lot of bad press. Consumer Reports, its hateful, obscene fetish about “hard plastics” in dominance, ruined it as a family car. One handicap it had: Its styling was blocky and awkward, but the magazines soft-played that as something that came from the minds at Daimler, which to the automotive press can do no wrong. If anything, the recent styling direction at Chrysler, first with the Dodge Dart and now the Chrysler 200, is that Cab Forward Has Returned. But as a driver I did not find the Dodge Avenger to be really lacking. It did its job and the newer ones were more refined, smoother but not soporific. It had some spirit to it but was still civilized.
I do like the Chrysler 200’s touch-screen, more instinctive to operate than Ford’s, and better by far than BMW’s, even though that one has improved a bit over its maddening, illogical original version. “Ve are Germans. You vill like it Or Else…” At least Consumer Reports called THAT one right.
What does bother me about many American designs…they come out with rough edges that get redone in later model years, just in time for a redesign wherein the process starts all over. They don’t come to the market quite fully-fledged and the first-year owners become beta testers who have to pay out good money for the “privilege.”
The customer-as-β-Tester reflects the impatient, juvenile “I want it now” mentality common at least since Ford’s 1st production Flatheads. “Kicking the can down the road” occurs often where I work. Eventually the ? runs out & known defects, which might’ve been cheaply solved earlier on, stay in released products.
I agree, the “hard plastics” jibe is trivial unless it has NVH issues. A dashboard isn’t like a piece of furniture in constant contact with the human body; the only padding needed is for passive safety, which is already covered by testing.
I think hard plastics is trivial when it comes to the dashboard, but I do think door cards should be soft touch. I always rest my arm on the sill, in high beltline cars even I adjust the seat to the highest position just to get there rather than use the door armrest(which I personally find incredibly awkward and confining in every car I’ve ever driven). Resting my arm on hard plastic with a nasty crinkly texture really really sucks, I’ve ruled out buying new cars I’d otherwise be very interested in for that reason alone.
The other thing is that texture. I don’t know who got the idea that leathergrain is supposed to be abrasive and lumpy but seemingly every automaker simulates that with their interior textures now and it looks and feels terrible. I suspect it’s done simply to make the grain “pop” in ads so as to not look smooth(which leather pretty much is) in fear of being accused of looking “plasticy”. My 94 Cougar is soft touch pretty much everything – molded vinyl over a foam padded plastic core, it looks and feels pretty much identical to the leather on the seats, and yet the solid plastic pieces blended into the soft touch(glove box, center console, sail panels) all have a perfectly matched grain to them and feels soft when you touch it, even though it’s “hard”. IF modern hard textures were like those there’d really be nothing for the rags to complain about. “soft touch” doesn’t have to just mean padded.
You have a point about the doors. Related to this, cloth armrests & headrests hold dirt & grime easily, & I wish they’d keep using easier-to-clean vinyl in these places. No doubt it looks “fleet,” but it’s the most rational material & I never had a problem with it in my earlier cars. Cloth should at most be used on seating surfaces, but the mania for more luxury shows no sign of abating.
To be fair, the “cloud cars” (Cirrus, Stratus, Breeze) were competitive when they launched. Then they got derailed by Daimler and turned into cheap griefboxes in 2001. pretty much everything bad that came out of Auburn Hills post-2000 was the result of a deliberate effort to push them down-market. Gotta protect saintly Mercedes-Benz, ya know.
The Cloud Cars were easily one of the best Chrysler sedans in modern times. I’d still take a nice Cirrus LXi over a new 200.
My first car was a ’97 Chrysler Stratus (don’t live in the US) and it was great. It looked like no other car on the road and even at 14 years old it still looked like new inside and out. Its Mitsubishi-sourced v6 could be more reliable but overall quality wasn’t bad.
The new 200 is definitely a step in the right direction but it’s far from being as relevant as the JA cars were in their time.
My sister still has her 1998 Cirrus LXi and drives it daily (in ultra-trendy, ultra-phony Marin County, CA, no less). It came right off the dealer’s lot in the Champagne colour that seemed so popular (at least if you believed the Chrysler advertising of the time). Its styling still looks fresh today. The blocky, ugly look that Daimler foisted on Chrysler set them back ages. I have to believe it was done intentionally as part of the effort to put down Chrysler (“How do you pronounce ‘DaimlerChrysler?’ The ‘Chrysler’ is silent”) against the Mighty Mercedes.
Dodge/Chrysler was the “Truck” group, so everything had to be chunky and chintzy. I’ll never touch a German car after the debacle Daimler caused.
You know, for many years I drove Chrysler vehicles of many types. Yes, a couple of them were very good – for the time, and some were not so good. But back then I had more confidence in Chrysler than Chevy or Ford – OR I just fell under Iacocca’s spell. In any event, we and the cars survived.
I want Chrysler to do well, but I’m not certain of their future; after all it was given to Fiat, not worthy of a U.S. gov’t bail-out, and their cars seem to continually lag the competition and are the laughing stock of CR. Chrysler seems to be perpetually caught in a turbulent state like a log caught in roiling water near a dam and can’t seem to rise above and stand on their own two feet in today’s brutal marketplace. Will that ever change, or will they eventually fade away into history?
The last two Chryslers we owned were either traded or sold before they turned 3 years old because of fears of engine and tranny issues.
I hope I’m wrong, but I can’t ever see myself in another Chrysler vehicle. However, the new 200 is a fine-looking car and I hope it stands the test of time.
Love the idea of dasboard-shifted automatic, either by a knob such as this or by pushbuttons. This is a development whose time has come (again).
I hate the electrically controlled parking brake however. This would be useless as an emergency brake because you can’t regulate the braking force as you can with a manual foot pedal or hand lever.
Also, thanks to rear disc brakes,many parking brakes are implemented as a small set of drum brakes inside the rear discs. To keep them working well and preventing rust buildup inside the drums, it’s recommended to occasionally apply the parking brake lightly while in motion. How can one do that with an automatic parking brake?
I found inadequate holding power for parking brakes on rear-disc-equipped vehicles I’ve owned. Any contrary impressions?
No complaints with those on my wife’s 2006 CR-V, though that’s a stick so I can’t provide an impression of how well it holds when the vehicle is “in-gear”.
I recently purchased a newer vehicle for myself with rear discs and the same drum-inside-the-disc style of parking brake and I was thinking that I have to apply the brake quite firmly to hold it when in gear. (I don’t want to say what I bought because I’m pondering writing a “Guess what I bought!” article to submit to CC.)
Part of the reason could be that, with rear-drum vehicles, the correct way to set the parking brake is to press the service brake first to expand the shoes into contact with the drums. Then, while holding the brakes on, apply the parking brake to hold them there. Most of the time, when applying the parking brake you will already be applying the service brake pedal, so this happens naturally.
With drum-inside-disc separate parking brakes, only the mechanical parking brake lever is used to expand and apply the parking brake shoes. Also, the parking brakes are much smaller than the service brakes, so I’d expect they have much less stopping power.
I’ve never done a detailed comparison of this, but there are two strategies for parking brake implementation with rear discs: either to mechanically crank the rear calipers or, as BigOldChryslers says, to incorporate small integral drums, à la Corvette Sting Ray. I don’t see any particular reason the latter would be any less effective than any other rear drums for parking brake use, but the former can be troublesome, since discs don’t self-energize.
I’ve not driven one, but part of the problem with the 200 for me is that, while it’s an attractive design, it’s also a *very* safe one. Other than the grille design there isn’t anything distinctive about the styling. Granted, the whole mid-size market is suffering from this problem, but it would have been nice if it had some 300 DNA in it. Their lineup is not terribly cohesive sytling-wse right now.
I’ve never been a fan of those “cohesive” lineups in that every series from the company basically looks alike. I think that Audi and Mazda to a degree suffer from too much similarity between their models. One should not have to walk to the rear of the car to read a model name/number to know if that vehicle is entry-level, midrange, or the premium model. When I think back to the Plymouth line up in 1967 they produced a successful range of Valiants, Satellites, and Furys and there was very little similarity beyond the brand emblem and a Pentastar coachmark on the right front fender. I think the success of BMW in the 1980’s is what really made manufacturers think about having a strong Identity for the “Brand” vs the individual series. Indeed, Acura made a marketing misstep when they discontinued the very successful model names of Integra and Legend. The reason? Owners usually referred to their cars by the model name instead of the brand name, Acura, when asked what they drove. My guess if you asked a 328i owner what he or she was driving the response would be, “I drive a BMW.” Alpha-numeric names always emphasize the Brand over the model especially since much of the newer combinations are making less sense. But to tell you the truth, I think the strategy backfired for Lincoln, To this day I can’t tell you the names of most of their lineup. At least the Chrysler-adopted 200, 300 follows the logic of a number reflecting the relative position in the lineup. I also like that they revived two model names from Packard that started in 1951 (I know that the 300 was used by Chrysler but only after Packard changed their 300 to the Cavalier and the 200 to the Clipper).
I had a 2015 200 as a loaner for a few days last October while the dealer was performing warranty work on my ’14 300. It was an LX with about 5000 miles on the clock. I had no significant complaints about the car outside of the constant shifting of the 9 speed. The 2.4 Tigershark isn’t Honda refined, but it’s responsive and delivered almost 40 mpg at 70 mph on flat roads. From what I’ve read, it’s a very robust motor and it doesn’t require an expensive timing belt replacement.
My LX rode firmly but not overly so. Perhaps the tested C model has slightly firmer suspension tuning.
As mentioned by everyone else, the sightlines and visibility are compromised by the greenhouse styling, and the beltline is very high. What modern midsize is any different? Rear seat access is very tight, I think even worse than the Dart. I found the seats softer and more comfortable than those in my 300.
The rotary knob gear selector is strange at first, then it just becomes habit. The console is clever but too high and wide. This car would do much better with a pushbutton shifter and a narrower, lower console. Or none at all. Instrumentation was a little garish, and I found the “tachometer” and “speedometer” labels ludicrous.
I liked the 200 LX very much, and I think it represents a great value. I would most definitely consider one for my next car.
The surprising thing I noticed about the new 200 in the flesh is just how large they are, whereas the old one was small and looked it, much closer to compact than mid-sized. The 17″ wheels this example wears look like 14 inchers would on a cloud car.
I don’t have much to comment on about it overall though, design wise it has all the proper amorphous blob with a big fat butt traits all modern cars now have, so it certainly seems competitive there. This is my first real exposure to the interior and while I think it looks pretty decent I’m not too fond of the dashboard shape, which is extremely organic around for the instrumentation and center stack, yet at the passenger side there’s just massive monolithic hunk of plain dash for the passenger to look at, the recently revised Charger/Challenger interiors are the same way. Also, the trend of placing buttons such as the redundant HVAC controls and gearshift knob on a nearly flat plane like this seems like a really bad idea. It’s pretty much like a keyboard for a PC – any spill of a drink and it’s going to seep all the way into those button crevices and they’ll never work the same again, if they even work again. Won’t be as cheap or simple to replace on a car I bet…
This makes me sad, for among the sort-of-lookalike midsizers out there, I like the exterior styling of the 200 best. But aieeeeeee! that interior A pillar. That thing could put your eye out.
Thanks for the review, Brendan, it’s always nice to get a perspective unbiased by marketing dollars.
Advice/question: I strongly believe that any car review should compare the car to its peers and offer a conclusion along the lines of “For the same money I would (not) buy an Accord/Camry/Phantom/whatever.” So how does this rank against the class leaders?
I do wonder why the company which gave us the space-efficient miracle of Cab Forward is now offering a “mid-sized” car with class-below rear seat space.
Thanks for that good recommendation. That will be something I can easily include in future new car reviews (have another one I’m finishing up now).
If I were to answer that question for this car, I would likely purchase something else for this car’s stickered $32,000. In terms of mid-size sedans, I’d be more inclined to purchase an Accord. An EX-L V6 with navigation has similar features and power, but much better seats with higher-grade leather, better visibility, and a smoother ride.
Conversely, if one was married to getting a 200, I’d recommend forgoing the 200C, and springing for a 200 Limited V6. With comfort and convenience packages, it include most of the same key features (but not the horrible leather) comes out to just about $25,000, a much better value in my eyes.
Love this design. The front is cohesive in a way that the Malibu [many others] is not.
Tail lights are okay but seem to come from “Universal Tail Lights Corp.: one size and shape fits all”.
I don’t think there’s been a decade since 1957 that Chrysler wasn’t trashed in the press for it’s quality, or at the bottom of the reliability rankings. Decades of negative perception to overcome.
Chrysler Corporate ran a copy of their “Thank You America” ad on it’s website in 2007 after getting another “bailout”. The comments started with ” **** you. You’re not welcome ” and went downhill from there. I read every one of them. And the moderators of the site left the page and commentary up for an entire weekend before they took it down. Scathing.
That Chrysler ever came back from that point is amazing in itself.
Brendan: I also notice that the ignition switch seems to be in the dashboard as opposed to the column. A favorite feature for me, like in some Malibus and the old Sebring/200s. Is this correct ?
Yes, the ignition is located in the dash, not the steering column.
I owned a used 2003 mini van with the 3.3. It was the short version. We had wonderful luck with it,..so much so we bought a brand new 2010 dodge mini van with the same engine. Big mistake. It was a tank that barely had enough power to get out of its own way….and when you wanted to stop, the undersized, pitiful brakes took a pounding. We took it in at 10,000kms for a new trans (under warranty), and as I was on my way to pick it up from the dealer, 3 weeks latter, the shop person backed it out of the bay and slammed it into a concrete post….such luck…not even an apology from the dealer…We traded it in at 78,000 Km’s, for a new Kia Soul. Never buying a new dodge, Chrysler product again.
I suspect, these 200’s will be filling up the used classifieds shortly,…good article though.
These are nice enough for what they are (midsize sedan) which is about as vanilla and appliance like as you can get. I hope FCA sells a million of them, because from an enthusiast’s perspective cars like this are a necessary evil. You pimp em out, cash in and then those profits are used to develop the ‘good stuff’ like the Challenger, Wrangler, SRTs, Viper, etc.
Ive read both praise and criticisms of these cars. I wouldnt worry about the ‘hard points’ such as the engine/tranny. When Ma Mopar gets the drivetrain right, its VERY good. Its the electronic doodads that would concern me…true, the UConnect setup seems proven, but complexity breeds gremlins.
What I absolutely CANT see is that pricetag for a basic bread n butter grocery getter. For about the same coin, I can get a base V6 Challenger…IF I were to want the crummiest version of a muscle car. Thats really apples to oranges, of course. Im not a sedan guy to begin with but if that were the case, Id ante up a few bones and get the 300S. More car and more in the vein of what appeals to me: rwd, available V8 and styling/presence that no appliance like midizer could hope to match. Of course, thats my humble opionion. Im seeing a LOT of these 200s out and about and if they prove reliable, that can only be good for Ma Mopar.
I agree, there are much better values for $32,000 in other cars.
As I mentioned above, what these sticker at and what they sell for with incentives are two different things.
The fact than an automaker must rely on steep incentives year round to sell their cars isn’t a good sign, and makes me feel less confident in the car.
A bridge-center console, like in the first gen Toyota Auris. Although that one was taller than in the Chrysler. Toyota abandoned the idea later on, with a return to lower consoles.
Looks like a cross between the Matrix/Vibe shifter pod and the Prius console.
The “bridge-console” with storage accessible from the open sides -as in the 200, Fusion and MKZ just doesn’t cut it for me. Have human arms developed a side-bending elbow since I was born in 1950?
Ditto, I drove one for work and did not like it. You lost useful storage space and the area under the bridge was small and hard to access.
On the Corolla/Auris, there was also the slight movement between the large plastic pieces coming down from the dashboard and up from the centre console, just to remind you a car body is not 100% rigid…
The layout of this 200 dashboard doesn’t work for me either, the control knobs and buttons are lower than they could be, even the screen could be raised to accommodate. The rotary shifter and electric parking brake aren’t too compact in their ‘space saving’ layout either. Another gripe – the steering wheel spokes are very thick due to the number and size of buttons.
Brendan, nice review. I always appreciate that you give us your opinion and the basis for it – we can agree or not. I hope you get an A3 to test soon. I like it, even what you describe as its “chunky” look. At least you can see out of the damned windows!
I’ve liked the automatic gear selector on the floor/console since it first appeared in American cars like the Olds Starfire and Pontiac Grand Prix in the early 60’s (was the 53 Corvette the first?). I even special ordered a Granada to get a floor shift. It just seems handier to me. I don’t like the rotary shift selector in concept but am sure I would get used to it. I don’t have to look down to use the gear selector on the G37 – it appears to me that you would have to do so using this knob, a disadvantage. If I’m to lose the floor/console shifter, I would prefer pushbuttons or the Mercedes wand to the knob. And reduce the size of that console for more space and a sleeker look!
These cars have an eye-catching appearance on the road but I’d never go for styling that so impaired visibility. I’m currently re-reading Unsafe At Any Speed and finding it still contains a lot of wisdom 50 years after publication.
Thanks. I do really hope (and plan) to test drive the A3 soon, especially before I forget every detail about the CLA. My test drive this past weekend was of the Lexus NX 200t, and I’m in the process of writing it up now. Visibility of course was horrible, but other than that I actually really, really like that car. Haven’t driven the IS yet, as I want to wait for the turbo later this year, but I imagine it has all the NX’s good virtues and naturally better performance.
The mid-size segment is so competitive and, while I think the 200 is a big improvement, it wouldn’t be my first choice.
I checked some out at the NYIAS last year and they are noticeably smaller in the rear of the cabin than most cars in the segment. But that Pentastar V6 is the most powerful V6 in the segment.
If I were shopping for a car with just the base engine option, I’d be looking at Mazda6, Accord or Fusion. With an up-level engine, the Accord would likely be my pick too. I’d never been a huge Accord fan but this generation just works! They have clean and elegant styling inside and out, and you can still get a V6.
I’m very curious to see how the new Malibu will be received, and I’m very curious to test one myself when I’m back in America. I was pleasantly surprised by the current generation, and the new one fixes my main gripe with it: exterior styling.
The Accord would be my first choice as well. Very understated style that will age well; note how the 2010 Sonata was a stunning design but now seems stale.
It seems the sight lines are the best in the Accord as well….it appears to have the biggest greenhouse in this class.
Good job on this review Brendan!
Both this and the Dart (which I guess is structurally related) are good-looking cars externally. I don’t like the interior design at all — from the photos, I’m not sure what’s going on with the speedo/tach surrounds, but it looks very busy.
I am also really not a fan of the semigloss silver plastic surrounds of which many manufacturers currently seem enamored; my car (2005 Mazda3) has an instrument cluster surround like that, which I strongly dislike. (It doesn’t help that the surround feels flimsy, to the point that I’m wary of accidentally snagging it with my microfiber dusting clothes and either pulling it off or cracking it.) If it’s going to be plastic — which it probably is, both for cost reasons and because having actual metal trim on the console is not such a happy thing when it’s very warm or very cold out — I’d just as soon it be the same black or gray as the rest of the panel. Or why not a contrasting color rather than this weird silver? It reminds me of cheapo ’90s stereo equipment.
I also have a bit of sticker shock, although most of that is in the options list; I would want none of those add-ons, and $26.5K is easier to swallow.
I agree on the interior – I thought it looked a bit cheap when I took this photo at the LA Auto Show last fall. The console is rather odd looking, kind of makeshift (this one perhaps suffers from having the cupholder insert removed) and not integrated with the dash. I don’t care for the open space below (as mentioned by someone above, not handy to use).
Is the console trim silver plastic, plastic chrome, or actually chrome? The highlights in your photos look like it might be either of the latter, but Brendan’s make it look like the aforementioned silver-colored plastic.
I’m pretty certain it’s not chrome – not at this price point and due to weight considerations (although my G37 has real aluminum trim inserts throughout the interior, the console’s trim piece surrounding the aluminum, added for the 2010 model year, is plastic chrome). Otherwise cannot say for sure about the 200’s trim – it’s been many months since I sat in one. I thought the trim looked a little different in his photos than in mine – why I posted this one.
I have mistook the 200 and the Ford Fusion for the Hyundai Genesis. More than once.
I think it’s an attractive car, but I also think that the styling is derivative of the Sonata, Fusion, Impala, etc. – styling that is seemed the Sonata started, probably a generation back by now. Nice look, but several years old now.
I’ve sat in the back seat of this car at my CJP emporium with the front seat adjusted for my 6’1″ height. The backseat would be useless with me driving. To me, that puts this car in the class of the more poorly designed compacts.
That makes it a complete miss in the mid-size segment where the Camry, Accord, Altima, Fusion (in roughly that order) are very comfortable, or at least comfortable for four normal sized adults.
I’m one of the outliers that would actually prefer the previous 200 over the new one. I have a 2013 200 Limited and I am not compelled at all to replace it.
The current 200 looks too much like a Hyundai/Kia in many ways and in no way resembles a Chrysler. The interior, while upscale in materials, is a little too gimmicky and complicated. The interior of the last-gen 200 is great. Snazzy electronics and wood appliques aren’t always necesary for a good interior.
Honestly, I can’t say there’s a single new 2015 car I care for. I guess I’ll hold on to my 2013 200 for as long as possible.
Interestingly, my week-long experience with a Houston renter was exactly opposite.
I don’t care about appearance, especially so that one can pretty easily mistake it for an Impala or a Mondeo/Fusion.
It easily won the accolade of the worst new car I’ve ever driven (the renter had only several hundred miles on it).
Among the worst gripes:
– the 9-speed AT paired with a trigger-happy throttle caused me feeling car-sick in a crawling traffic.
– Trashy visibility – the A-pillar is thicker than in my 04 Ram, the interior mirror hides a good chunk of what is at 45deg front-right of you. There is simply no use in the rear window. It is a joke.
– gear selector – I did twist it once instead of a heater control. At least it is better than that rocking abomination of a shifter in the Chrysler 300.
– the seat was uncomfortable.
– Underdamped, crashy and clunky suspension.
– Terrible headlights.
– Those fancy bluish cluster lights are actually quite annoying when you drive extended periods in the dark.
– Cheap phenolic plastic smell – I thought they found how to do without since the 90s.
I really want to like this car. When I first saw it at our 2014 rinky-dink car show here in Grand Rapids, it was just a display model, meaning you couldn’t open the doors and try on the car. I saw it again at this year’s show, it was a production car and I liked what I saw.
Like Zackman, I owned some Mopars back in the 80’s and 90’s and even with their faults, they were good cars for us. The Daimler and Cerberus eras ruined a lot of cars for me personally, I don’t think I even want to try them as used cars.
I’m interested in this new line of cars from FCA, as I see a lot in inventiveness and choice in a market that is very much into conformity. While Sergio gets a lot of credit for sprucing up the Cerberus-era cars, I wanted to see what *actual* new cars we’d get from Fiat; so far, so good. FCA has a lot to prove and I certainly hope they do it. We need more choice in the market, not less.
For the first time in easily 20 years, I’m seriously looking at Chrysler products again. With the loss of Oldsmobile, Pontiac and Mercury there aren’t a whole lot of domestic cars that I’m that interested in. Most of the German cars are too rich for me and the mainstream Japanese cars are too, well… mainstream. This is where I can confess I miss Mitsubishi from the 1980’s, innovative and technically advanced cars.
I really like the looks/features of the 200 S, but for similar money as the featured car, I think I would rather a Cherokee TrailHawk. Much more capability for about the same money (at least the 4 cylinder version).
the first time I saw one I thought it was a new Sonata
In all honesty, from far away I think it looks like a 4/5th scale Fusion from the side and rear.
Much improved? Perhaps so, but it’s not going to make me want to trade off my paid for, barely-broken in, 45K, 4 year old Toyota Camry….that cost $18,900 brand new, in 2011;
You’re probably good for another 100kmi at least, but even then, who knows? It’s a Toyota.
I guess this vehicle predictions didn’t end well 🙁
“… safe to say we’ll be seeing a lot more 200s..” [prediction from 6.5 years ago]
Wishful to say the least. Brought out in winter 2014 as an early ’15, was announced to be cancelled only 24 months later, by the late Sergio M. “This car was the worst flop…”
The Sterling Hts. MI plant was re-tooled for trucks since.
While market did move to SUVs/trucks, car buyers couldn’t care less. Also, loyal Mopar car buyers want huge rebates, and the “new improved 2015 200” cost too much to the penny pinchers. After selling Avngers/200’s with 5000 rebates, the $30k stickers were high voltage shocks to the “buy a car, get a check” customers who came from K-cars.
Also, the rear seat headroom was like a compact, not true mid size. But now, late 2021, 200 has been off market since fall 2016, and rare to see anymore. Local Hyundai dealer has one on used lot, wonder how long?