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2012 Chrysler 200: Driven Page 2

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It's too bad, though, in the Chrysler 200 you don't get enough chassis capability to really enjoy the V-6. While its torque is a blast on the straightaway, you can easily send too much torque to the wheels coming out of a corner, and push the 200 a little too hard on a choppy surface and the suspension crashes vocally, with an odd harshness combined with wallowing—the 200 feeling in a momentary identity crisis. The four feels more appropriate for what you get; and in this version, the 200 simply handled better, with less of a heavy-nosed feel and crisper response. The 200's steering feel, by the way, earns kudos, even if the geometry can't quell torque steer—at least what's going on is transmitted back.

Groaning versus purring

One other really important reason that, if you're pretty decided on a 200, you should go for the V-6 comes down to one simple but ever-present issue: noise. While the four-cylinder coarsely groans, the V-6 thrums and purrs. We noticed that moderate acceleration with the four would sound into the cabin enough to temporarily pause conversation; Chrysler has cut vibration, hushed wind noise, and blanketed out road noise to an excellent, luxury-car level in the 200, yet the four's acceleration note sounds anything but civil from inside.

Overall, the Chrysler 200 was a lot more comfortable than we remembered. Front seats are a bit flat and spongy, but they're American-sized—wide enough for those who need an airline seatbelt extension. We wished for some true back support, though, as they left us achy after one stint of just two hours. And ride quality, if you're not flustering the suspension in a corner, is soft and supple. And one other piece of advice: Look about you; this driver is 6'-6", but a number of passengers said that the 200's high beltline made the interior feel cavelike (to paraphrase and sum). Visibility with those wide rear pillars is also not so great.

Prices are pretty great, though. The price of the test V-6 Limited was $24,695, while the four-cylinder Touring, as equipped, was $21,995. The premium for the V-6 is just $1,795 for Touring or Limited models. And both of those models included a power driver's seat, satellite radio, automatic climate control, and cruise control, among many other features. The Limited included Bluetooth and a 6.5-inch screen-based sound system with hard-drive music system, but no nav system.

Almost... but a great value

Final advice regarding the 200 is that you're getting a car that's stylish but not glamorous; quick but not particularly nimble; and comfortable but not in every way. But the 200 is a Top Safety Pick, and it finally feels like a car that Chrysler has shaken the bugs and glaring inadequacies out of. Perhaps it's too late, as the market feels saturated with good picks like the Hyundai Sonata, Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Ford Fusion, Volkswagen Passat, and Chevrolet Malibu. But at post time, a quick scan of information from our friends at TrueCar shows a transaction price of more than $1,000 off a 2012 Chrysler 200 Touring, on average (even more for 2011s). If price is critical and class-leading fuel economy isn't a priority, you should skip the four and take a Chrysler 200 Touring V-6 for a drive.


 
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