One of the better-looking midsize sedans around, but its goodness is more than just skin deep.
It was recently revealed that as part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ 2014-2018 plan, the company would focus on producing Jeep and Ram models, and in turn phase out the Chrysler 200 and the Dodge Dart. I can understand maximizing profits on higher volume vehicles, but these two popular sedans are some of the best the brand has ever produced. I’m sure this won’t be the last time we sample either a 200 or a Dart, but the news did come as a shock to me. It happened to fall during the week I was assigned a 2016 Chrysler 200S AWD to review, so I took the week to look back at some of the iconic sedans from the Chrysler family over the past two decades or so.
Though not anywhere near as uninspiring as the Caliber, the previous-generation 200 was one of the most boring sedans available during its time. This one, redesigned for the 2015 model year, was not only a huge improvement over the outgoing model, it entered the market as one of the most well-styled sedans in the midsize segment. Relatively boring options like the Toyota Camry and Chevrolet Malibu had to take drastic steps to keep up. Using sleek styling like Chrysler LH-platform sedans (Chrysler 300M, Intrepid, Concorde), the new 200 is a throwback to when Mopar made elegant, simplistic and modern designs.
Aside from the Subaru Legacy (our review here), the 200S also remains the only sedan in this segment to offer all-wheel-drive, an enticing choice for Canadians. With rivals like the Kia Optima, Ford Fusion and Mazda6 ditching their V6 options, Chrysler might have another ace on their hands. The Pentastar 3.6L V6 has a throaty, confident exhaust note that never lets the driver forget what it is – a good old American engine. Again, there’s no replacement for displacement. The Pentastar in the 200S puts out 295 horsepower at 6,350RPM and 262 lb-ft of torque at 4,250RPM. Refinement may not be its strongest suit, but this motor authoritatively gets the job done.
I first experienced ZF’s nine-speed automatic transmission in the Jeep Cherokee (see review here), and came away thinking it was neat but needed a little bit more refinement. Things are about the same with this application in the 200S, but I did find it noticeably smoother here. The paddle shifters help and are responsive enough, but they are slow to react during spirited driving and can make for an agitating experience. In particular, I found the 1-2 shift particularly jerky, which has been a complaint across the board. Regardless, more gears mean better highway fuel mileage, and this was reflected in my test.
After driving it almost 600km with an about-even mix of city and highway driving, I managed to squeeze 9.3L/100km out of the car. Natural Resources Canada suggests 12.8L/100km in the city, 8.1L/100km on the highway, and a combined rating of 10.7L/100km. Considering the bitter cold temperatures and the amount of traffic that I experienced during my test, I wasn’t disappointed. The 200S’ fuel tank can hold 60L of fuel, and will gladly accept 87-octane in lieu of having to splurge for the premium stuff. Again, right in line with the rest of its competitors.
Other than the elegant exterior styling, the 200 is a hole in one in another regard. The interior is hands-down my favourite in the segment. Venturing away from the traditional gear lever, Chrysler has implemented the Land Rover-esque rotary dial that’s made itself present in numerous other applications. It’s cleanly located on the centre stack and blends nicely with the rest of its surroundings. The seats, upholstered here in both upscale cloth as well as leatherette with “S” embroidery, are comfortable for both short jaunts as well as longer drives. Curiously, there was no sunroof equipped on our specific tester, but this meant a bit more headroom for the vertically-gifted.
The dashboard encompasses the UConnect 8.4” touchscreen infotainment system. Using Garmin-based navigation, it’s fast and responsive. The challenge is, it’s a bit dated and the graphics two-dimensional and cartoony. Everything including the climate control is great in operation, but needs an update aesthetically. No worries though, Chrysler has already developed its successor and we should be seeing it trickling through the lineup in the coming while. There also is a spacious cubby located beneath the shifter-dial and other buttons, which can conceal garage door openers, mobile devices, or even small lunchboxes. I like when cars include space for extra things.
The enticing Pentastar V6 and all-wheel-drive in my test vehicle are both tempting options for Canadians, but it’s worth pointing out where the 200 starts in terms of pricing and equipment. With a shockingly low sticker price of $22,395, the Chrysler can actually be had for less money than the Accord, Camry, or Mazda6. For this price, you have to deal with front-wheel-drive and a four-cylinder, but that’s okay! The 200S AWD with the V6 starts at $34,295, priced similarly to the Camry V6, Accord V6 and even the Fusion Titanium.
Our car’s Granite Crystal Metallic paint cost an extra $195, the Comfort Group (which adds dual-zone climate control, rear seat air conditioning with ducts, reverse camera, and heated steering wheel) is $795, the Mopar Exterior Body Kit is an extra $1,395, the Uconnect with navigation is $1,700, the 19” black aluminum wheels are $495, the Premium Lighting Group is $895, and finally, blind spot detection is $495. The grand total came to just over $40,000, which is a considerable sum of money. Those willing to sacrifice all of the sport bits in favour of some luxury can opt for the cushier 200C for similar money.
Following its redesign last year, the 2016 Chrysler 200S AWD has quickly risen from one of my least-favourites in the segment to one I’d recommend in a heartbeat. Amidst a sea of beige sedans that seem destined for the Hertz counter under “midsize, or similar”, the 200S is an attractive and powerful choice that stands out. Starting with the V6 engine’s throaty exhaust note to the sweet styling, the 200, as long as it’s around, is sure to keep buyers happy for years to come.