2017 Toyota CamryEnlarge Photo
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.