The "S" badge means "Sport", right? | I sat in the 200S and looked down at the skyline of Detroit embossed into the console.
To say that the previous generation Chrysler 200 was not well loved would be an understatement. Its mismatched styling, boring performance and shoddy interior quality left it mostly relegated to rental fleets. It was just one of those cars I never really thought about-that is, until the 2014 Auto Show in Detroit. In the Chrysler booth, having just been revealed, sat a gorgeous looking dark grey Chrysler 200. Under the show lights the car looked stunning, aggressive and elegant all at the same time. The first 200 we had in the DoubleClutch.ca garage was a dark red 200C back in November, and given everyone’s busy schedules I never had a chance to drive it. So I was glad when I finally got the chance to spend some time with a new 200S to finally see for myself if Chrysler had really managed to turn things around for this car.
Much like the car I saw in Detroit, my tester was a pretty thing. In Vivid Blue Pearl Coat and sporting the optional 19” Hyperblack rims, this car definitely skewed towards the more aggressive side. Both front and rear facias followed suit with gloss black accents instead of chrome, which helps to ward off any resemblance to your last rental car. The 200’s looks also benefit from the now trendy swooping roofline and the optional ($899) premium lighting package that includes LED fog lamps, LED daytime running lamps and HID headlamps. Overall, the 200S looks the part of a refined and sporty midsize sedan, and that’s exactly what this nameplate needed.
The designers at Chrysler didn’t spend all their time on the exterior either because the interior of the 200S has clearly been the focus of some attention. The dashboard, which resembles that of the Dodge Dart, is nicely laid out and use of a rotary dial in place of a traditional gear shifter frees up a lot of space, allowing for audio and climate controls to reside right next to the driver. The unique seats in the S model are thick, plush and well-bolstered. They are actually trimmed in a combination of cloth and two-toned leather and have a large “S” stitched into them; very sporty, very comfortable, and the heat function is really hot through the cloth center sections. The center console is also notably well thought out, with loads of flexible storage space and integrated pass-throughs to help keep your wire clutter organized.
There are plenty of gadgets and luxuries to be found inside the 200S as well. Standard on the S is LED interior lighting, Uconnect voice command and Bluetooth, leather wrapped wheel and power/heated front seats. At $37,120, my tester represented a fully loaded 200S, which is still less than a decked out 200C. My favorite option in my tester is the $1,495 Sun&Sound package; this includes the excellent dual-pane panoramic sunroof and a 506-watt 9-speaker sound system with a subwoofer. The tester also has a $795 comfort package with reverse camera, remote start, heated steering wheel and more. To round out the set of gadgets my car is equipped with are the upgraded 8.4” Uconnect touch screen and navigation system. With the 200S being the sportier version of the 200, as opposed to the 200C which is more targeted towards the luxury end of the market, this car represents the best of both worlds- all the gadgets and the sportiness.
Massive improvements have been made in the performance of the 200S over the previous generation and that is immediately apparent behind the wheel. With its impressive and class leading 295hp, the 3.6L V6 hauls my AWD test car with authority. The engine does seem to make most of its power towards the top of the rpm range, which means that driving with a sense of urgency will force the new 9-speed automatic to keep the rpms higher than I’d like. However, those rpms do sound surprisingly infectious through the sporty dual exhaust.
Speaking of that 9-speed automatic; it was a bit of a letdown in the 200S. Automatic transmissions have come a long way from the days of 3-speeds and 5-second kickdown delays, and I’ve actually grown to prefer an automatic option in most cars. I guess that’s the weary commuter in me talking. However, as much as I want to, I just can’t love this new 9-speed. Upshifts can be clunky and slow at times; the automatic downshift as you slow to a stop is also accompanied by its own clunk, and the car takes quite a bit of coaxing before it enters the 9th gear while cruising on the highway.
Once you do get the used to the gears, the 200S cruises like a dream on the highway. Sound deadening is excellent, the ride is well-mannered and the miles just roll by – a great car for traveling. The handling of the 200S feels competent; the car remained quite composed through some fast twisties even on performance winter tires. Steering feel does leave a lot to be desired as it is rather numb, but that’s not something the typical midsize sedan buyer is going to lose sleep over.
Where that 9-speed does really start to offer some benefit is on the highway. By keeping the rpm down around 1300-1400 while cruising, I am fairly certain the 200 can achieve impressive highway fuel economy – I even saw numbers as low as 6-7L/100km. Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to take the 200S on a long open highway run to verify my suspicions, but over my week’s worth of rush hour commuting, I averaged a respectable 10.6L/100km. Remember, this is an AWD midsize sedan with almost 300hp, so don’t expect Prius fuel economy numbers here.
The 200S offers a sporty edge wrapped up with all the latest tech and luxuries in an eye catching package. It makes very strong presentation in the very competitive midsize segment and I am sure that will go a long way towards breaking it out of its fleet car cage.
All that said, what I find most important about this car is what it represents to the American auto industry. I actually picked up the keys to this tester on the eve of my return from the 2015 Detroit Auto Show. After seeing again, a proud city torn apart and battered by the reorganization of the industry and fighting to prop itself back up, I sat in the 200S and looked down at the skyline of Detroit embossed into the console. In that moment I realized that this car isn’t just another sedan thrown together to meet a sales target; this car represents the pride of the people of Detroit and a glimmering hope for better times ahead. The city may be down on its luck, but this car proves that it’s still got plenty of fight left.