Midsize sedans may not be the sexiest cars on the road but they’re getting sleeker and more stylish as car companies look to put some zing into everday cars. Family four-doors are important because manufacturers sell them by the hundreds of thousands, and competition between brands is keen.
Until recently, Chrysler’s 200 sedan was not quite up to challenging the mainstay cars from Chevrolet, Ford, Mazda, Nissan, Honda and Toyota. Now it is. The 200 has been redesigned from the ground up. It rides on underpinnings whose roots trace from the Italian Alfa Romeo to the Dodge Dart and Jeep Cherokee. Compared to the Dart, the 200’s wheelbase is 2 inches longer, and the 200 is 8 inches longer overall.
The 200’s handsome fastback styling gives it street cred when compared to the others in the segment, many of which also have similar profiles. The Chrysler pulls off the look more successfully than most. The only negative is that the sloping roofline makes it harder to get into the back seat without bumping heads.
Styling is only one part of the equation, although it is an important one. Drivability reigns supreme. The allure of a pretty face may wane over the years, but the joy that comes every time you twist the key will last the life of the car.
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To that end, the 200 is on solid ground. It is available in front-wheel or all-wheel drive, with a 2.4-liter, 184-horsepower four-cylinder for the thrifty or a 3.6-liter, 295-horsepower V-6 for the enthusiast. Base prices start at $21,700. I drove an all-wheel-drive 200S with the V-6, and its base price was $28,695.
Make no doubt about it, the V-6 is the sweeter choice. The engine is not only robust with nearly 300 horsepower, but it delivers its goods with the subtlety of a silent butler. You needn’t mash the throttle to move briskly away from a stop, and the slight rumble of the exhaust is pleasant.
The nine-speed automatic transmission is a first for a car in this segment. It offers a gear for every occasion, and helps fuel economy.
Slip behind the wheel and you’re greeted with supportive seats and a sloping center console that houses a round gear selector knob as well as round knobs for the radio and climate fan. The round gear selector knob is similar to that used in Jaguars, and it’s easier than moving a shift lever. I got so used to grabbing it without looking that I occasionally put my hand on the air conditioning fan knob instead.
The seating position seemed to be more sports car and less upright than some other sedans, and that made it hard for me to find a comfortable driving position.
The choice of interior materials is much better than Chryslers of old. The 200S was not as lavish as its larger sibling, the 300S, but was pleasing. The instrument panel is dominated by blue gauges surrounded by a blue glow. A small LCD screen between the gauges displays various information that the driver selects.
The optional 8.4-inch navigation screen also has touch controls for audio and climate control. The interface is simple and easy to use.
The Uconnect Bluetooth system is operated by voice or the in-dash touch screen. A USB port is available, as is iPod control. The backup camera delivers an excellent view.
Getting into the back seat required care so as not to bump your head, and the space between the seat and door opening often snagged an adult’s shoe when getting out.
The 200S rides reasonably well but it seems the rear suspension could be a bit firmer because it felt too bouncy over freeway humps.
The base price of the test car was $28,695. Options included dual-zone climate control, rear air conditioning ducts, backup camera, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, remote start, navigation system, Alpine audio system, Sirius satellite radio and high-intensity headlights. The sticker price was $32,775.
Three years or 36,000 miles with a five-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
Tom Strongman’s e-mail is email@example.com.
2015 Chrysler 200S AWD
Engine: 3.6-liter, 295-horsepower V-6
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Wheelbase: 108 inches
Curb weight: 3,473 pounds
Base price: $28,695
As tested: $32,775
MPG rating: 18 in the city, 29 on the highway
At A Glance
Point: The 200S is a vast improvement over the previous 200. It has sharp styling, the option of all-wheel drive and a choice of two engines: one for economy and one for performance. The interior is comfortably equipped.
Counterpoint: A low seating position made it harder for me to find a comfortable driving position, and I would prefer a firmer rear suspension.