The 2013 Chrysler 200 comes in four-cylinder and V-6 flavors--and they're more different than ever. We can't provide much reason to get models with the base 2.4-liter, 173-horsepower four-cylinder, as it's raspy, raucous, and thirstier than other base fours. On the other hand, the V-6 is smooth, as well as very quick, as you might guess for an engine that ups the ante by 110 horsepower.
Chrysler is installing this 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 on many of its products, ranging from the Jeep Grand Cherokee to the Dodge Challenger, and even the Jeep Wrangler, and we unanimously like it for its smoothness and flexibility. In the 200, it's thrusty and a little thrummy in the middle of its rev range, but with 283 horsepower on tap, with 260 pound-feet of torque, it makes the 200 feel unexpectedly quick.
We wouldn't call the 2.4-liter gutless--it's actually quite perky for a base engine--but its lack of refinement tosses aside any luxury-sedan pretenses from the cabin look and feel. Its coarse tone has been quieted by more noise blanketing in recent model years, but there's still some bothersome vibrations as well as a flat spot in the middle revs. Base LX models still come with a four-speed automatic transmission that you should stay away from for its widely spaced gears and jarring downshifts; the four is more agreeable with the six-speed automatic in other trims, although in either case it has to work around this engine's flat spot in the mid-rev range.
Provided the road is relatively straight, the 200 feels solid and unruffled, with nice weighting from the hydraulic power steering, and actually some road feel. Technically, four-cylinder models handle a bit better, as the V-6's extra torque leaves the front wheels frequently flustered for grip (there's quite a bit of torque steer in those models too).
In general, the six-speed automatic transmissions shift smoothly, especially under full-throttle acceleration, although shifts are lumpier under part throttle. This transmission includes such tall fifth and sixth gears, that if you have mountain grades nearby or do a lot of passing, you'll be dabbing down several gears frequently. There aren't any paddle-shifters, but you can manually select the gears through a manual gate on the shift lever.
Compared to nearly every other mid-size sedan on the market, the 200 feels lacking in suspension sophistication, and in this respect it feels more like either a small car made large, or a car engineered a decade earlier. When the road turns curvy and rough, the 200's front end will hop and bound and the tires will lose their grip earlier than you might think.
This observation is far worse in 200 Convertible models. With so much wiggle and shake, you'll want to calm everything down a few miles per hour for your passengers (and yourself), and leave them to Florida rental fleets.