Chrysler’s 200S – an excellent touring machine
FiatChrysler’s 200 midsize sedan has come a long way, baby. No longer the doyenne of the rental car fleet, the 200’s looks have improved, the drivetrain is light-years better and the suspension has segued into world-class territory. On top of that, the Chrysler 200S has an interior that is comfortable and inviting for all ages and caliber of drivers.
The opportunity to test this 2015 Chrysler 200S AWD came during a trip to and from Philadelphia, when we attended the NHRA Keystone Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway. We arrived during a massive rainstorm that made driving, at rush hour, a real challenge. Fortunately this Chrysler’s navigation system was well up to the task of getting us from the airport to Limerick, where the first-night’s lodging awaited.
Dressed in a non-metallic ceramic blue exterior with a combined black and ambassador blue leather interior, the 2015 Chrysler 200S appeared calming from the get-go, just right for coping with crappy weather and the attendant “anti-destination league” of drivers. Honestly, they’re the same everywhere – scared to death of inclement weather! Taking surface streets for the first part of our journey allowed acclimation to the interior of this sedan, which has improved ergonomics to the more recent 200s we’ve driven (before the merger with Fiat was complete).
There are two engines available for the 200S: a 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder or the 3.6-liter V6. We drove the latter, which has an excellent 295 horsepower at 6350 rpm and 262 lb-ft of torque at 4250; redline comes at 6750 rpm. The 9-speed (yes, 9-speed) transmission is nicely geared and offers paddle shifting, something readily enjoyed and employed on the back roads heading to and from Maple Grove, instead of using the all-wheel disk brakes. With its optional all-wheel-drive, the 200S’ strut and multilink suspensions are well-planted and precise. This is due to the use of an Alfa Romeo Giulietta chassis that clearly outclasses the previous Chrysler 200 – by light years.
While we like the AWD that stopped us from getting stuck in the muddy parking area at Maple Grove, it does have a 325-pound weight penalty on the Chrysler 200S that brings the total weight to just under 3800 pounds. Still, we were able to get as much as 29 mpg from the flex-fuel vehicle’s 15.8-gallon tank, where the EPA estimates 18/29/22 overall mileage. From a 6-cylinder with this power, those figures rated two thumbs up. Some of the good mileage results are due to the coefficient of drag on this sedan – its 0.27 Cd is about the same as Scion’s racy FR-S coupe!
One worrisome aspect of this car was its low-profile tires: Chrysler fits 235/40R 19-inch rubber on twinned five-spoke alloy rims. With all the potholes inherent in this area of the world, there were times when we worried about the tires – but at least Chrysler has a spare tire under the voluminous 16-cubic-foot trunk’s floor. That trunk is nicely finished in fuzzy carpeting for all but the speaker enclosures for the excellent Harman/Alpine audio system, part of a package.
Speaking of packages, as customary Chrysler allows flexibility in optioning its vehicles. On press cars like this, it packs the car so we can tell you what works and what doesn’t. In this case, from its start at $30,365 including freight, there are six extra-cost items that boost the price to $35,935.
What do you get? A comfort group with dual zone air conditioning controls, a much-appreciated heated steering wheel, rear backup camera that fell prey to the rain at times, rear air conditioning and heating ducts (yay), an overworked humidity sensor, heated front seats and remote start was one package. Chrysler supplied navigation and sound group I with Harman radio, 7-inch info and navigation screen, GPS navigation and antenna input, Uconnect, 9 Alpine speakers and subwoofer, HD radio, Alpine 506-watt amplifier, SiriusXM with traffic indicator (handy and dandy) and auto-dimming rearview mirror with microphone. The premium lighting group included HID headlamps with LED running lights and fog lamps while the 19-inch wheels were an extra-cost item, as were the blind-spot and cross-path detection systems.
All good stuff. The only thing missing in this laundry list is a sunroof – not that we’d have much use for it on this trip, unfortunately, but one is available for the Chrysler 200S.
The ergonomics of this new sedan are excellent. Seats are comfortable for long trips, easy to adjust and hugely supportive. The navigation system is superb, giving the right directions everywhere and asking if we’d like a change when traffic gets horrid (which was often on this trip). It’s easy to pair the phone in less than 15 seconds and it works seamlessly thereafter. The steering wheel has the excellent trip computer system and phone operation on the left side with cruise on the right.
Chrysler has gone to a “custard cup” for shifting at the floating central tunnel, reminding those of a certain age of their pushbutton shifters from ancient times. It works fine but requires some forethought. A simple triangle in each mirror let’s you know when there’s traffic alongside without the annoyance of constant beeping when you’re merging back in a lane. Electric power steering is quite nice, not the exceptionally vague type we’ve seen with other manufacturers.
There’s plenty of space to hide things in the cabin, starting with an excellent storage-based central cubby to hidden storage below the dual cupholders that houses 12-volt, auxiliary and USB plug-ins. The floating open storage beneath the central stack has a grippy floor and there’s a passenger-side 12-volt plug to accommodate multiple phones.
Only the driver’s door unlocks and locks without using the key and there’s a remote inside for the trunk that opens about half a foot for easy access. The rear seat can be folded in 60/40 manner, plus there’s a pass-through for skis and other long items. We appreciated the black headliner that won’t show dirt easily. And of course we loved the double exhaust pipes with their sweet note.
After nearly a week the 2015 Chrysler 200S AWD felt like home and it wasn’t an easy vehicle to hand back to the manufacturer. Can’t say we’ve felt the same about previous Chrysler 200 products but this is a new and better time for the marque and they’re moving forward well with this mid-size sedan entry. It’s fun to drive, economical to operate and appears to be built to last.
Words and Photos by Anne Proffit