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 that’s what makes one of these models the clear winner to us, ultimately, despite some deficiencies.
The Camry was given a full redesign a couple of years ago—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, upgraded interior materials, and introduced a host of updates that make it one of the most significant mid-cycle updates ever for Toyota. While the "bold" look, as Toyota described is, 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 rival models.
Inside, Toyota has made attempts to dress up the Camry, 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’s a more relaxed look than the larger 300, for sure, but for cabin appointments especially the 200 goes in a different direction than most of its rivals—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.
Things don’t appear nearly as rosy for the Chrysler 200 as soon as you have four adults try to get in at the same time. While it’s certainly okay for that, the Chrysler simply doesn’t feel as spacious in back as most of its mid-size peer set today —including the Camry. The failing for the 200 is mostly head room in back—an inadequacy that’s somehow not represented in the official head room figures—although 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 four-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 if it’s one of the (quieter) 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; there’s a punchy, instantaneous quality, smooth all the way up the rev range, that can’t be beat by most of the turbocharged four-cylinder competition, and the 9-speed automatic transmission is a willing companion, 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 of the Chrysler 200, which helps give it some additional stability and all-weather traction. It’s not at all available on the 4-cylinder 200 models, or anywhere in the Toyota Camry lineup.
Ride and handling across Camry models is relatively soft and muted, although new spring and shock settings introduced this past year help do a better job filtering out bumps and harshness, and the Camry now has some of the compliant yet well-controlled road manners that describes some of the better entries in this class. Both of these models come in somewhat sportier variants—the Camry XSE, and the 300S—but even there ride quality is excellent and across the model line, both have nicely tuned electric power steering.
One model that is offered in the Camry lineup—and really, the Camry’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 and lane-departure warning. The Camry offers a similar package, also including adaptive cruise control, a blind-spot monitor, and rear cross-traffic alert, but so far while the Camry has matched the 200 in IIHS ratings, it’s missing top federal safety ratings.
In features, these two models are closely aligned—both offered in several different 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 now includes Entune touch-screen audio and infotainment systems 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. But the Chrysler 200, and its Uconnect infotainment systems, remains our preference for overall usability, with easy menus, easy-to-read text, and well-integrated voice commands and music streaming.
In all, the Toyota Camry offers the most spacious package among the two; it’s become a bit better-looking; and it’s in the same realm, performance-wise (although it lacks all-wheel drive). But a safety advantage and standout styling gives the 200 the edge.
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