While sedan shoppers all want a car that looks distinctive and stylish, they also want one that doesn’t stray too far from an established formula—comfortable ride, spacious interior, good safety and plenty of features.
Both Chrysler's 200 and Toyota's Camry check all those boxes, and take a relatively traditional path in terms of what’s under the hood. Yet these two models go quite different ways in design and execution.
The Camry was given a full redesign for the 2014 model year, one so evolutionary cosmetically (and in other ways) that it was hard to tell if it was really all-new. In 2015, Toyota stepped up the look again, upgrading the interior materials and introducing a host of updates that made it one of the most significant mid-cycle updates ever for Toyota. While the "bold" look, as Toyota described it, adds up to a little more of an edge for the Camry, it still barely keeps up with the more flamboyant exteriors that have become more common in mid-size sedans in recent years. On the outside, the Chrysler 200 manages to look far more distinctive. With its long roofline and downturned shoulder line, matched to a rounded front end that we’d still describe as positively Saab-like, the Chrysler 200 looks smooth, graceful, and proportioned in a way that’s a bit different than its rivals.
Inside, Toyota dressed up the Camry in 2015, but it remains quite conventional in design and detailing compared to the Chrysler 200. The Camry did just get new upholsteries and a streamlined design for its dash, as well as some beveled surfaces and brighter trim. Yet it’s the 200 that’s the standout inside. It goes in a different direction than most of its rivals, which is a good thing in a class of relative lookalikes. With soft-touch materials throughout the dash, attractive colors and grains, and available open-pore wood trim on the top 200C, it’s a simple, beautiful look.
Put four adults in the 200 and things don’t appear nearly as rosy. The Chrysler's short wheelbase and sloped roofline make it less spacious in back than most of its mid-size peer set, including the Camry. In most other ways, including plenty of bins and cubbies and a very spacious trunk, the 200 excels. The Camry, on the other hand, is simple and straightforward, with great seating comfort all around. The Camry SE model gets upgraded seats, so we’d recommend it (or the XSE) for the best support.
There aren’t many mid-size sedans left on the market that offer a choice between 4-cylinder or V-6 engines, but the Chrysler 200 and Toyota Camry are two of them. We’ve found the base 184-horsepower, 2.4-liter inline-4 in the Chrysler 200 to be plenty perky and admirably smooth, especially in the upper-trim models with acoustic glass. Go for the V-6 in the Chrysler and, powertrain-wise, it feels like it could wear a luxury badge. It has a punchy, instantaneous quality, smooth all the way up the rev range, that can’t be beat by most of the turbocharged 4-cylinder competition. The 9-speed automatic transmission is a more willing companion with the V-6 than it is with the 4-cylinder, albeit with harsh shifts sometimes in gentler driving. In the Camry, the 178-hp, 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine feels a little lackluster in its performance next to other rival models with base engines, including the 200, although its V-6 delivers strong and smooth performance, with great drivability.
If you want all-wheel drive, you can get it in the 200 on V-6 versions, which helps give it some additional stability and all-weather traction. It’s not at all available in the Toyota Camry lineup.
Ride and handling in all Camry models is relatively soft and muted, though new spring and shock settings introduced this past year help do a better job filtering out bumps and harshness. These changes give the Camry some of the compliant yet well-controlled road manners of the better entries in this class. Both of these models come in somewhat sportier variants—the Camry XSE, and the 200S—but even there ride quality is excellent. Both have nicely tuned electric power steering, but neither the Camry nor the 200 are particularly fun to drive.
Toyota's secret weapon is the Camry Hybrid. With a version of Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive, it achieves EPA fuel economy ratings of 43 mpg city, 39 highway, and if you drive it gently and mindfully, you’ll be rewarded with excellent real-world gas mileage in that same range.
The Chrysler 200 has an advantage in safety, based on its top-tier ratings in every category of testing from the IIHS and the federal government. An option package brings an effective forward collision system with automatic braking, as well as lane-departure warning and prevention, adaptive cruise control, and blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alerts. The Camry offers a similar package, but it doesn't score as well in the government's side crash test as the 200, even though it has the same IIHS ratings.
In features, these two cars are closely aligned. Both are offered in several trim levels that span from modest, price-conscious base models up to very well-equipped V-6 sedans with leather upholstery, power seats, and upgraded trims. Infotainment is a key difference. The Camry has Toyota's Entune touchscreen audio and infotainment system even at the base LE level, while top models have a premium system with navigation, predictive traffic, a doppler map overlay, and apps for Bing and Pandora, among others. However, the Chrysler 200, and its Uconnect infotainment system, remains our preference for overall usability, with easy menus, easy-to-read text, and well-integrated voice commands and music streaming.
In all, the 200 wins out for style and safety, but the Toyota Camry has a better interior due to its more spacious package. The numbers come out to a tie, but we would recommend the Camry because the 200's impending retirement will likely push its resale values down.