Expectations for mid-size sedans have changed at a lightning pace the past several years—a pace that’s simply left the outgoing Chrysler 200 outclassed in many respects. But with the introduction of an all-new 2015 version, Chrysler looks positioned to take back a big portion of the market.
Among the strengths that the 200 offers up to the market: A smooth, style and design that stand out in a crowded segment; stunning cabin materials and detailing; and features and pricing that are among the most competitive on the market for cost-conscious families.
With its smooth, rounded, and very refined grille and front-end appearance—which sets a new, less upright look for Chrysler and seems to pick up where Saab left off—the Chrysler 200 sedan shows up with an unexpectedly fresh face. With an elongated roofline, nice taper going to the tail, and flush decklid with ‘hidden’ exhaust outlet, and the 200 doesn’t follow the look of the current Chrysler 300 or the outgoing 200. According to those involved with the development of the 200, the 200 S V-6 model speaks to the “darker side of Chrysler” with its more flamboyant and emotional, yet toned-down appearance.
Inside, the 200 looks destined for the same kind of transformation that the automaker has applied to recently redesigned vehicles like the Jeep Cherokee and Dodge Durango. Chrysler has looked to what it considers iconic American design—Chris Craft, and Frank Gehry, as well as things as diverse as sand dunes and the Detroit skyline—to make the interior focused around top-grade materials, fits, and finishes, and making simple shapes with ‘exotic’ products. The innovative center-console design allows, like modern Volvo models as well as a few other models, a pass-through storage area beneath—as well as sliding cupholders and versatile cubbies—while the floating stack itself is canted slightly toward the driver. As in the 2014 Dodge Durango and Ram 1500, Chrysler has employed a rotary-dial shift knob, which frees up more space around those in front; and all 200 models get an electric parking brake.
Power will be provided by either a 2.4-liter four-cylinder ‘Tigershark’ four-cylinder engine, making 184 horsepower and 173 pound-feet of torque, or a 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 that makes 295 hp and 262 lb-ft here. The 200 is, like its predecessor, primarily a front-wheel-drive car, although it will offer all-wheel drive as an option on all trims except the base-level four-cylinder model. And no matter which engine, and whether you get front- or all-wheel drive, you’ll get a nine-speed automatic transmission.
Chrysler hopes that V-6, all-wheel-drive versions of the 200 will stand out for their strong performance. The American Axle–supplied all-wheel-drive system in the 200 (actually the same system as used in some versions of the 2014 Jeep Cherokee) fully disconnects from the rear wheels during relaxed driving—to help boost fuel efficiency—and it works with the transmission and draws from more than 20 separate shift maps to cater to the road/driving environment. EPA fuel economy numbers aren’t out yet, but Chrysler says that with the most popular powertrain combination—the four-cylinder, front-wheel drive—the 200 will meet or beat a 35-mpg EPA rating on the highway. That’s thanks in part to a best-in-segment 0.27 coefficient of drag.
The new Chrysler 200 is built on an extended-and-strengthened version of the same platform that underpins the Dodge Dart, but in addition to the MacPherson strut front suspension and four-link rear setup, it has a full-width aluminum crossmember that doubles as part of the body structure and helps reduce torsion and bending. There’s also a new dual-pinion steering rack that was designed for electric power steering from the start—so, in short, we’re expecting good things out of the 200 in the ride and handling department.
It’s only about an inch longer and an inch lower than the outgoing model of the same name, but the proportions are quite different. All models get a 60/40-split back seat with a trunk pass-through, and a flip-down seat armrest that includes storage and cupholders; and based on the 200’s roofline, we’re anticipating that it won’t be as compromised for back-seat headroom as some other mid-size sedans.
The base 2015 Chrysler 200 LX will start at just $21,700—or $22,695 with destination—which makes it one of the most affordable mid-size sedans; and it includes air conditioning, rear heat ducts, a full-length console with sliding armrest, overhead storage, keyless entry, LED ambient interior lighting, a tilt/telescopic steering wheel, an auxiliary input back, USB connectivity, and Bluetooth connectivity. Limited models step up to alloy wheels and an audio upgrade, and they can be optioned up with packages that include dual-zone climate control, remote start, heated mirrors, a heated steering wheel, a rear backup camera, and satellite radio, among other features. Chrysler 200S models get a sportier look, plus fog lamps, heated mirrors, bigger 18-inch wheels, a sport suspension, and other upgrades, while top 200C models heap on additional features that include a garage-door opener and upgraded materials and trims—and they can be optioned with packages including HID headlamps, LED fog lamps and running lamps, ventilated front seats, real wood interior accents, and a SafetyTec package.
That package includes both an available LaneSense lane departure warning system as well as Rear Cross Path Detection and a Full-Speed Collision Warning-Plus system (with autonomous braking under some situations), plus adaptive cruise control and rain-sensing wipers. The 200C will also offer Chrysler’s first automated parking system—for both parallel and perpendicular situations.
Deliveries of the all-new 2015 Chrysler 200 will begin just a few months from now—potentially as soon as April 2014.