2015 Chrysler 200: First Drive

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I've been an editor and reviewer at Cars.com for just more than two years; in that time, I've reviewed the Chrysler 200 three times, and found it lacking in just about every way. Apparently the fourth time is the charm for Chrysler's midsize sedan.

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With the redesigned-for-2015 200, Chrysler finally has a legitimate contender in the midsize class. The sedan is refined, stylish, comfortable and affordable; competitors should be worried.

Two engines are available, and I drove the V-6 first. That engine is a version of last year's 3.6-liter but tuned to make 295 horsepower this year, up from 283 hp. Power is ample from a stop and builds steadily, but the big story is the nine-speed automatic transmission, which is controlled via a rotary dial instead of a traditional shifter; it's new this year and standard across the lineup. Overall, it ticked off smooth, timely shifts, with little hunting. On occasion, however, I noticed an abrupt, rough shift upon deceleration at around-town speeds.

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I was less enthused by the nine-speed's performance with the four-cylinder. Power wasn't an issue; shifts, however, often felt more erratic and harsher than they did with the V-6, especially at lower speeds. Chrysler said we tested pre-production models and that another transmission calibration is in the works.

Thanks to the new nine-speed, fuel economy will be up for 2015, but just how much is the question. EPA numbers aren't in yet, but Chrysler expects the four-cylinder to get a 35 mpg highway rating; the equivalent 2014 model got 20/31 mpg city/highway. A 35 mpg highway rating would finally make the 200 competitive with the Accord (26/34 mpg), the Fusion (22/34 mpg) and the Camry (25/35 mpg).

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Behind the wheel, the 200 is a comfortable long-trip sedan with muted-sounding engines and impressive isolation from road and wind noise. Both V-6 and four-cylinder versions had nicely weighted, natural-feeling steering. The ride was compliant, and models with the 18-inch wheels felt composed over road imperfections. The 200 remained tight in corners with little body lean, easily slicing through an onslaught of northern California's coastal switchbacks.

The cabin's design and materials also surpass the old model significantly with sweeping panels of painted plastic or — in the case of the uplevel C model — optional genuine wood trim in matte finish. It all feels good, too, with an abundance of padded surfaces and bolstered, supportive seats. Leather seats are optional on uplevel trims, but even the base interior with grained plastic panels and subtly patterned cloth upholstery looks upscale. The old interior looked classy but lacked an interesting design and upmarket materials, two things the 2015 version remedied.

Check back next week for our full review of the 2015 Chrysler 200 sedan.

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Manufacturer images

Comments 

Tony

A 35 mpg highway rating would finally make the 200 competitive with the Accord (26/34 mpg)...

No it is not, unless it will do at least 25 in the City. go to Fuelly and see that low city mpg leads to low average mpg. 2014 Accords averaging 6-7mpg more Than fusion which is only 1 mpg hwy less.

J

Why rotary dial for the transmission...?

So, there is no quick way to perform a simple task of nudging the shift lever to neutral when needed?

Derrick G

J,

The rotary knob combined with the electronic parking brake save a lot of room on the console, so look for it to spread. As for getting to Neutral in a hurry, you'd just need to quickly spin the knob counter-clockwise as far as it will go. As long as you don't have your foot on the brake, you'll hit Neutral.

Bowrider

The Accord is full of hard plastics and has uncomfortable hard seats. As far as comfort goes, judging from just the looks of it, Chrysler hit a home run with this redesign.

JJJR

Like what I've seen so far, maybe even enough to try one when in the market for another vehicle. But if Chrysler hasn't improved their quality it's all for naught. I for one remain a skeptic.

George

Size. The 200 is a Dart stretched to its absolute limit.
The trunk is 14.5 cubic feet.
The interior is 101.4 cubic feet.
Gas tank is 15.8 gallons
Wheelbase is the same as the '90s Cloud cars, 108"
So the car is smallest amongst its peers, and weighs the most. Starts at just under 3500 pounds.

Steve

Chrysler does great interiors. With that said, yeah it's better than the old 200, but this will enjoy success like it's little brother... Dart. V6's will be parked next to houses, and the I4's will be waiting for you at the airport counter.

J

Derrick,

Let's go over this one more time.
If I need to put it in neutral in a quick manner, that usually translates to emergency situations like the UIA incidents that haunted Toyota a few years back.
In other words, the brakes WILL be depressed with the foot.

If they need to save room on the console, how about using column shifter?

WTF

Good grief you can't twist the knob from D to N in a quick manner?

J

WTF,

As your name has suggested. You can do this WTF task?
During emergency maneuvers, the lever is far superior than a knob.

Al

I had a Chrysler 300 as a rental. It had the most stupid diminutive "switch-lever" masquerading as a shifter, which was IMPOSSIBLE to get into the correct gear the first time. A thoroughly idiotic and unworkable design. The 200 rotary knob could not possibly be worse than the one in the 300, but if the 300 is any indication, don't expect too much from the 200.

Gregg

Quality is what will matter to me. I hope they get that right or else the slick design means nothing.

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