After a quick glance at the top of the North American automotive sales charts, it’s plain to see that mid-size sedans take up a good portion of the list. With the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry often taking the lead, there are always other contenders that must be considered when shopping for a midsizer; each one offers a certain flavour that appeals to a different crowd each time. Entrants from Korea, Germany, and the United States all have huge volume sellers in this part of the market. For this model year, Chrysler has come out swinging, and sent over their latest effort for evaluation – a Lunar White Tri-Coat Pearl 2015 Chrysler 200 Limited. Will it prove to be a worthy opponent with a clear competitive advantage over its competitors?
Available only in sedan form, the 2015 Chrysler 200 is available in four trim levels: LX, Limited, S, and C. With four-cylinder and V6 engine offerings similar to most midsize sedans, the S and C models also offer optional all-wheel drive when equipped with the V6. The Limited test car was front-wheel drive and equipped with the “Pentastar” 3.6L V6. Also included was the Comfort Group option package, which added dual-zone climate control with humidity sensor, a heated steering wheel, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, remote start, as well as a back-up camera. An upgraded UConnect 8.4 audio package was also added, and optional 18-inch aluminum wheels replaced the base Limited’s 17-inch units. The only remaining option not included on the 200 Limited test vehicle was the addition of a power sliding sunroof.
In the mid-size sedan segment, exterior styling is often a difficult area to experiment with. Being volume sellers, automakers seek to make the car’s styling appeal to as many people as possible. This often ends up in vanilla offerings that don’t quite tug at the heartstrings. The 200 isn’t entirely an exception to this, and although most people would never consider the 200 to be unsightly, the fairly conservative styling cues don’t make it the star of the show. Fortunately, the relatively fast roofline, halogen projector headlights and fog lights, optional 18-inch alloy wheels, and miscellaneous chrome touches help to give the 200 a touch of class. Out back, dual tail pipes and LED lighting help to set the car apart.
Inside, the middle-trim 200 Limited is assembled with fairly good fit and finish. The test vehicle was equipped with a black and “Linen” interior, which was easy on the eyes and helped make for a bright, airy-feeling. An eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat is standard equipment, and the $795 Comfort Group package adds a back-up camera, remote start, automatic dual climate control, auto dimming rear view mirror, and a heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel. The seats were fairly comfortable in all positions, and legroom is generous, although the cloth materials isn’t of the best quality.
The aforementioned fast roofline has a slight disadvantage, with taller rear seat passengers at risk of hitting their heads as they get in and out. The rear seat folds down in a 60/40 split, and also includes a pass-through for long cargo. The 200 does away with a traditional shifter and parking brake lever, instead opting for a rotary dial for the shifter, and an electronic parking brake. While not ergonomically incorrect, this approach takes a slight bit of getting used to, and some drivers may notice themselves grabbing the HVAC fan controls instead the shifter dial.
Chrysler has always had a competitive advantage with their excellent UConnect 8.4 system, which is an $800 option on the 200 Limited (not including navigation). With an 8.4-inch touch screen, the system is worth every penny, with intuitive and responsive inputs and simple menu layouts. Heating and air conditioning controls are accessible through the screen, but are also duplicated at the bottom of the centre stack for easy operation. Bluetooth functionality is seamless, and the audio streaming is of high quality. There is also support for USB and auxiliary connectivity.
In terms of ride and handling, the 200 Limited was a good performer. With well-weighted steering, turn-in was sharper than to be expected for a midsize sedan. The optional 18-inch alloy wheels are shod in P235/45R18 all-season tires, which help with the road holding and give the 200 more of a planted feel. Brake feel is linear and also well-weighted, allowing for confident and controlled stops. While the 45-series tire sidewalls likely did contribute to slightly more firmness over bumps, the fairly softly sprung suspension soaked up undulations well. Body control was reasonably good, with some secondary motions occurring on larger bumps.
Powering the 2015 Chrysler 200 Limited is the corporate Pentastar 3.6L V6. With variable valve timing, and dual overhead cams, the Pentastar is a versatile engine that is well suited to a wide variety of vehicles, ranging from family sedans to rock-crawling Jeeps. Rated at 295 horsepower and 262 lb-ft between a low 1,600 and 2,400RPM, the 200 never leaves the driver wanting for more power, and still revs willingly under load. Smoothness and refinement are reasonably good, with a slightly coarse tone entering the cabin in the upper rev range.
Even with 295 horsepower and a six-cylinder engine, the 200 is frugal at the gas pumps, largely due to its nine-speed automatic transmission. Rated at 12.4 L/100km in the city, and 7.5 L/100km on the highway, observed test fuel economy was an excellent 8.6 L/100km in mixed driving. Ninth gear is not selected until speeds exceeding 110 km/h, and allows the 200 to sip fuel as it cruises along at just above idle. Unfortunately, the great fuel economy is offset by lower levels of refinement from the transmission.
Built by ZF, the gearbox employs what’s known as dog clutches to provide the extra ratios. During the transition between fourth and fifth, and seventh and eighth (and vice versa), the absence of traditional friction-based clutches means that the transmission must take extra time to engage these gear properly. This results in clunky operation on both acceleration and deceleration. The clunkiness is particularly noticeable when the engine and transmission temperatures are lower, but doesn’t fully go away when everything is warmed up to normal operating temperature. Some drivers may not notice these quirks, but they are worth noting when comparing to other smoother-shifting mid-size competitors with fewer gears or continuously variable transmissions (CVTs).
With the 2015 Chrysler 200 Limited, Chrysler tries to bring an excellent value proposition with a $31,880 as-tested price, including destination. By comparison, the class-leading Honda Accord and Toyota Camry require buyers to elect for higher trim levels worth three to four thousand dollars extra in order to get the V6 engine. Ford’s Fusion and Chevrolet’s Malibu are more competitive in pricing, but the Chrysler offers a more powerful six-cylinder engine that returns similar fuel economy to the turbocharged four-cylinders on the Ford and Chevy. In any case, the 200 Limited is a good candidate to consider when looking for a middle-trim, midsize sedan. At the end of the day, drivers must consider the strong bang for the buck, great infotainment, and good fuel economy against the refinement of the nine-speed automatic transmission.