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The 2015 Chrysler 200 is an all-new mid-size sedan that keeps the model name, but almost nothing else, from its predecessor. It's a huge advance over the previous model, which was a redo of one of the brand's least impressive vehicles, born as the Sebring. The new 200 for 2015 is stylish inside and out, comes with modern powertrains--more about those in a moment--and is a genuinely appealing competitor in the tough market for mid-size sedans. And that's something that was rarely if ever said about the vehicle it replaced.
The 200 has a few flaws, and it falls short of the high standard set by such outstanding sedans as the Ford Fusion and the Honda Accord. Nor does it offer the serene fuel efficiency of the Nissan Altima. But it puts Chrysler back in the ballgame, and it's selling at double the rate of the outgoing model.
Starting at the front, the Chrysler 200 sedan shows up with an unexpectedly fresh face. The shape is smooth, rounded, and capped with a refined grille and front end. It almost picks up where Saab left off, and it's a new and elegant appearance for Chrysler that looks more expensive than it is. The roofline is long, and tapers down to the tail and its short, flush decklid. The 200 isn't following the playbook for either the current Chrysler 300 or its departed 200 predecessor, but it all works surprisingly well.
Inside, the 200 is transformed on the level of the Jeep Cherokee and Dodge Durango. The dash is swathed in top-grade materials, fits, and finishes, and sports an innovative center-console design that allows pass-through storage area beneath, as well as sliding cupholders and versatile cubbies. The rotary shift control is its calling card.
It's only about an inch longer and an inch lower than the outgoing model of the same name, but the Chrysler 200's proportions are quite different. It's acceptably roomy in the front seats, though the driving position is low. The rear seat is difficult to access if you're large, and impossible to find comfort in if you're more than six feet tall--the low roofline really exacts its penalty. All models get a 60/40-split back seat with a trunk pass-through, and a flip-down seat armrest that includes storage and cup holders.
For performance, the 200 depends on the same drivetrains found in the Dart and in the Jeep Cherokee. It's very powerful in V-6 trim, pretty well-damped in most situations, but not the sharpest carving tool in the family-sedan set. The 184-horsepower, 2.4-liter four is admirably smooth--so long as you opt for acoustic glass--but the 295-hp V-6 is the very strong counterpunch to turbo-four offerings elsewhere. Manual-shift modes and paddles stir the best of the V-6 to the top of the mix, but there's torque steer unless you also opt into all-wheel drive. The one drawback is that several of our drivers experienced inconsistencies from the nine-speed automatic transmission when paired with the four: at some times it shifted abruptly, while at other times its shifts seemed drawn-out and uncertain. Drivers shouldn't notice the behavior of a transmission, but this one's lack of consistency was disturbing at times.
Predictable, unremarkable handling puts the 200 in that middle band between Altima and Fusion. Built on an extended Dart platform, the 200 shares its strut front/four-link rear end and electric power steering. It's not as exciting as the taut Fusion, nor as supple as the Altima, but the 200 has pleasant, progressive responses that we think would feel more polished with a set of mildly aspirational tires.
The base 2015 Chrysler 200 LX will start at just $21,700—or $22,695 with destination—which makes it one of the most affordable mid-size sedans; and it includes air conditioning, rear heat ducts, a full-length console with sliding armrest, overhead storage, keyless entry, LED ambient interior lighting, a tilt/telescopic steering wheel, an auxiliary input back, USB connectivity, and Bluetooth connectivity. Limited models step up to alloy wheels and an audio upgrade, and they can be optioned up with packages that include dual-zone climate control, remote start, heated mirrors, a heated steering wheel, a rear backup camera, and satellite radio, among other features. Chrysler 200S models get a sportier look, plus fog lamps, heated mirrors, bigger 18-inch wheels, a sport suspension, and other upgrades, while top 200C models heap on additional features that include a garage-door opener and upgraded materials and trims—and they can be optioned with packages including HID headlamps, LED fog lamps and running lamps, ventilated front seats, real wood interior accents, and a SafetyTec package.
That package includes both an available LaneSense lane departure warning system as well as Rear Cross Path Detection and a Full-Speed Collision Warning-Plus system (with autonomous braking under some situations), plus adaptive cruise control and rain-sensing wipers. The 200C will also offer Chrysler’s first automated parking system—for both parallel and perpendicular situations.