Archive for the ‘200c’ Tag

The new 200C wows with automatic parking, improved style

I was never a fan of the old Chrysler 200. My first impression of the model (back when it was still called the Sebring) was a poor one, and it never managed to win me over. Even with many small improvements over the model’s lifetime, the 200 always felt like the sort of car that was designed from the ground up as a cheap car with a few nice features, that it was destined to be a rental car.

Things are different with the new 2015 Chrysler 200C. The new model makes a great first impression with its slick, updated look. It continues to wow both drivers and passengers with a plethora of cool convenience features like available automatic parallel and perpendicular parking, while bringing to the table a healthy amount of well-thought-out dashboard tech.

Coupe-like design

The new 200’s chassis is based on one from Alfa Romeo, but the American design reminds me of an enlarged variant of the Dodge Dart, another attractive Chrysler Group model that is also based on Italian underpinnings.

The new 200 is more curvaceous, and more care has been taken to aerodynamically shape the sedan’s profile. The result is a more coupe-like silhouette that is, at the very least, 1,000 percent better looking than the doughy, outgoing model. The profile reminds me of the Volkswagen CC, and its curves evoke those of the Hyundai Elantra. Nonetheless, the elements work well together to create a cohesive and attractive design. As an indicator of the future of Chrysler vehicle design, the new 200 is pretty exciting.

Around back, standard LED tail lights wrap around the corners, and up front we have the new corporate face of the Chrysler brand. The wider, redesigned Chrysler wing badge floats over the honeycomb grille, which, in turn, flows into the integral headlamps with LED daytime running lights.

Better interior, better tech

In the cabin, the 200 sees a bump in interior materials and build quality that should elevate fully loaded examples above the previous model’s “rental car” status. The dashboard materials and touch points feel significantly improved. “Premium” is the word that springs to mind to describe the cabin, but not “luxury.” That may be fine at this mid-20s to low-30s price point.

The seats of our top tier model’s are 8-way power adjustable seats are comfortable for cruising and longer trips, but lacked much lateral support when cornering. This is our first indicator that, despite its sporty looks, the 200C may not be a particularly sporty car, but we’ll get back to that.

One of the most interesting changes for the 2015 model year is the change to a rotary E-Shifter for the transmission. This twistable knob — similar to that of the Jaguar XF, but without the motorized drama — was designed to free up space in the cabin. For starters, there’s no shift lever to reach around, but the nonmechanical shifter also allowed the interior designers to create a device storage space below the floating center console with pass-throughs for connecting to the power and USB ports within.

In the center of the dashboard is Chrysler’s 8-inch UConnect infotainment system, which will be available with the full compliment of app integration, Wi-Fi hotspot, and 3D navigation features. Ahead of the driver on 200 “C” models is a 7-inch LCD integrated between the analog gauges of the instrument cluster. We’ve enjoyed similar tech in the Chrysler 300 and the new Jeep Cherokee, and it’s just as good here.

Interestingly, our 200C’s 8.4-inch UConnect system lacked a CD player, instead doubling down on USB ports, Bluetooth features, and app integration. Some drivers may lament the lack of physical media, but I honestly didn’t even notice the drive was missing until the last day of my testing.

Standout features include the excellent Garmin-powered navigation software that is both well-organized and features great voice input for destinations. I liked saving time by just blurting out the entire address — like “navigate to fifty-ninety-eight Telegraph Avenue, Oakland, California” — in one go.

The optional Alpine 10-speaker, 506-watt premium audio system is also noteworthy for its power. Clarity is good, but the bass is almost too powerful and pronounced. This is the only car stereo in recent memory where I’ve actually had to turn the bass down when listening to hip-hop or electronica. For fans of the bump and the boom, this could be a very good thing.

The dashboard tech improvements are good, but the 200’s crowd-pleasing feature is its ability to automatically park itself. Like its distant cousin, the 2014 Jeep Cherokee, the new 200 is also available with a one-touch Active Park Assist system that can detect and steer the sedan into an available parallel or perpendicular parking spot.

After touching a dashboard button to activate the park sensing feature, the driver simply drives forward slowly while the 200 uses its sonar sensors to scan the vehicles along the side of the road, looking for a space between them into which it can fit. When a space is found, a graphic on the digital instrument cluster notifies the driver to stop the car, let go of the steering wheel, and shift the transmission into reverse. At this point, the car’s computers take over the electric power steering while you control the throttle and brakes and the car is guided into the space automatically. It’s all very cool.

Tapping the “OK” button on the steering wheel toggles the Active Park Assist feature between its parallel and perpendicular parking modes, allowing it to back into more common side-by-side spaces in parking lots. I found that the parallel parking system worked better and faster than the perpendicular mode, but both systems got the job done without incident.

The Active Park Assist comes as part of a SafetyTec package that also includes the automaker’s full roster of driver-aid and safety features, including blind-spot and cross-traffic alerts, full speed range adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance that uses the electric power steering to actively help keep the car from drifting out of its lane, and precollision braking system. The precollision system automatically grabs the brakes when the system detects that an imminent forward collision or, when reversing, engages the brakes when crossing traffic is detected or a pedestrian walks into the vehicle’s path.

Two engines, nine speeds

The new 200 will be available with two engine options. The first is the automaker’s Tigershark 2.4-liter four-banger which outputs 184 horsepower and 173 pound-feet of torque, and which I wasn’t able to test. The other option, featured on our example, is the returning 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 with a stated output of 295 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque — that’s up 2 pound-feet of torque and 12 horsepower from last year’s. It’s a meager upgrade, but still a reasonable amount of power for the midsize sedan.

Both engines will mate with a standard 9-speed automatic transmission, which the driver controls with a rotary E-Shifter knob from the cabin, but their gear ratios are different. Aerodynamic, transmission, and tuning tweaks for this 2015 Chrysler 200C should net this front-driven 3.6-liter model a claimed 19 city, 32 highway, and 23 combined mpg. I managed an average of 21.5 mpg over the course of my shared testing with my fellow editors and crew.

Our model also features metal paddle shifters for manual shifting and a Sport program that improves performance by limiting the gearbox to the lower five or six ratios, allowing the engine to more aggressively rev, and loosening stability control system’s reins. Even so, our top-tier 200C feels better suited for the boulevard than its sporty looks and optional 19-inch wheels seem to indicate. The combination of wide seats that lack lateral support and a fairly soft suspension tune conspire to rob the 200C of any cornering fun and the too-many-speeds automatic transmission tends to sap the rest during daily driving.

In its standard configuration, the 200 sedan is a front-wheel-driver, but an optional all-wheel-drive system will soon be available. This on-demand system will be able to totally decouple the rear axle driveshaft when traction isn’t needed at the rear wheels to reduce parasitic drag and fuel economy losses. When the system detects that it needs rear-axle torque, it can instantly and automatically re-engage the rears.

In sum

Pricing for the new 2015 Chrysler 200 will start at $21,700 for the base LX model, but our top-tier 200C starts at $25,995, adding upgrades to the interior, exterior, and amenities along the way. Our example includes $1,950 to upgrade to the larger 3.6-liter engine, $1,395 for the 8.4-inch UConnect system and Alpine audio, $995 for 19-inch wheels, and $795 for HID headlamps with LED fogs and DRLs. We’ve also got $1,295 for the SafetyTec package, which adds all of the driver aid features and automatic parking in one go and is an absolute tech bargain.

That brings us to an as-tested price of $33,420 — not bad at all.

It’s better looking, better equipped, and a much more premium passenger car, but it’s not perfect. I’m probably nitpicking here, but the trunk never closed on the first attempt; I always had to slam it again — hard. And despite its new 9-speed automatic transmission, the 3.6-liter engine behind it is starting to show its age. I really wish Chrysler would give us a new, sporty four-cylinder turbo to go with the sedan’s new, sporty looks rather than continuing to revise and patch up the old V-6. Even so, the 2015 Chrysler 200C is a dramatic improvement for this nameplate.

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The new 2015 Chrysler 200 in Review

Some of the exterior design cues can be compared to some other cars from around the industry, but there is no question that this new car is good looking on the outside, while the cabin is on par with some of the biggest names in the luxury world. While few would call the old Sebring a luxury car, it is impossible to call the 2015 Chrysler 200 anything but a luxury sedan based on the interior spread; the exterior is more arguably that of a luxury sedan.

A proper luxury car needs to pack impressive performance and driving technologies, to give it a smooth ride and spirited handling. When I was able to spend a few hours behind the wheel of two new 200 sedans, I went through a wide variety of driving situations, from highway driving to tight country roads, to experience the ride quality, handling, and the incredible acceleration of the Pentastar V6.

The first 2015 Chrysler 200 which I spent driving was a 200C with the 3.6L Pentastar V6 mated to the new 9-speed automatic transmission and an advanced all wheel drive system. The 2015 200 is the only car in the segment with a 9-speed transmission, and with 295 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque, the V6 200 is the most powerful car in its segment.

The engine’s power only takes a few seconds to realize and appreciate, as the throttle response is quick and precise, allowing the 200 to really rocket away from a stop. Thanks to the advanced all wheel drive system that puts as much as 60% of the power to the rear wheels, you can launch the new Chrysler 200 very hard, and the car does nothing but respond with a smile. This AWD system really allows you to use all 295 horsepower to its fullest, and that rear power shift gives the 200 a rear-drive feel similar to the bigger brother – the Hemi powered Chrysler 300. While the Pentastar V6 doesn’t offer the same V8 growl of the Hemi, this powerful V6 has an awesome sound under hard throttle.

Not surprisingly, the 2015 Chrysler 200 V6 AWD offers just as impressive acceleration when cruising down the highway as it does when launching from a stop light. The Pentastar V6 is whisper quiet when cruising down the highway at 70 miles per hour in 9th gear, but when you put the hammer down, the transmission quickly pops down several gears and all 295 horsepower are channeled to all four wheels with a hearty roar. With incredible urgency, the new 200 will rip up past the century mark without any hesitation and for those drivers with a real need for speed – the new 200 feels very calm, confident and comfortable when traveling at very high speeds.

The 200 is so calm and quiet that it is one of those cars that can suddenly catch you off guard in terms of the speed at which you are driving. It doesn’t take much effort by the Pentastar V6 to push the new 200 well beyond the speed limit; it has no problem keeping up with even the fastest moving traffic.

Bolstering the performance of the 2015 Chrysler 200 is the new 9-speed automatic transmission, with the steep lower gears helping to provide serious acceleration. Many people have voiced their concerns about a 9-speed transmission being too busy, but the shifts are quick and smooth enough that you really don’t think about it shifting so many times. When you are leaving a stop in a hurry, the shifts from 1st and 2nd, 2nd to 3rd and 3rd to 4th are distinct as the car shifts hard to improve performance. However, the numerically higher gears hardly draw any attention when it is moving between gears – particularly the 7th, 8th and 9th gears when traveling at highway speeds.

Unless you are paying attention, specifically looking to notice the shifts, the fact that this car features a 9-speed transmission will go unnoticed by most drivers and passengers. There is really no downside to the new 9-speed transmission as it affords the new 200 strong low and mid range acceleration while still allowing the 3.6L V6 to run at very low RPMs on the highway – making this new sedan incredibly efficient on the highway.

When cruising, the all wheel drive system stops sending power to the rear wheels for even better mileage. I was unable to measure the fuel economy during my few hours of drive time, but the on board information system indicated that I was getting better than 30mpg on the highway under normal driving circumstances. There are no official figures yet, but Chrysler expects around 31mpg on the highway for a properly equipped 2015 200 and based on what I saw, I believe that owners will be able to eclipse 30mpg even with the V6 AWD models. (The Chrysler 300C V6, which is heavier and less aerodynamically efficient, is rated at 31 mpg on the highway.)

Those 2015 Chrysler 200C V6 and 200S drivers who want a more engaging and more spirited drive will also benefit from a new Sport Mode. With the push of a button, the steering system tightens up and becomes more precise, the throttle responses increases noticeably, the 9-speed transmission adjusts shift points to improve performance and the all wheel drive system adjusts the power distribution – all of which work together to really bring out the “driver’s car” aspects of the new 200.

In normal driving mode, the 200 offers a good driving feel through the steering wheel, but in Sport Mode, the steering has less power assist and gives the driver a much more direct feel for the road. Sport Mode shifts are a bit stiffer and the lower gears are stretched out a bit; but not to the point of being too hard. The throttle response is acute in normal drive mode but in Sport Mode, there is little hesitation from the point when you put the pedal down to the point when the 200 has shoved you back in the plush sport seats. When combined with the altered shift schedule of the Sport Mode, the throttle response provides instant-on power at any speed while the Sport Mode AWD shift provides the rear wheel drive feel that I love – with the positive traction attributes of a high tech AWD system. I spent the vast majority of my drive time in Sport Mode and were this to be my daily driver, Sport Mode would become my norm. It is one of the most advanced Sport Mode setups in the industry and that shows on the road.

So the 2015 Chrysler 200 has gobs of power for a midsized sedan, a new 9-speed transmission that improves efficiency and acceleration and an advanced all wheel drive system that offers incredible power distribution characteristics – but what about the ride and handling?

The 2015 Chrysler 200 has a sport tuned suspension that makes the car a ton of fun to drive on twisty roads, but the engineers were able to achieve these drive characteristics without hurting the ride quality. Many vehicles with sport tuned suspension systems – even those in the high end luxury world – have a rigid ride that is stiffer than some luxury car buyers want. Over the past decade, there has been a clear shift from the luxury car that feels like you are always floating along the road to something with a great deal more road feel, but some automakers take that to an extreme.

The new 200 handles beautifully through tight, twisty turns and on the long, sweeping turns of the highway at much higher speeds. In some of the most demanding back roads with lots of hard, lower speed turns, I felt comfortable pushing the 200 harder through the turns, something that I cannot say about many cars in the midsized sedan segment. You can throw the new 200 into a tight turn and with the help of the all wheel drive, the sporty new Chrysler will power through the corner with just a touch of understeer when you push the 200 a touch too far. Fortunately, even when you push the 200 beyond its comfortable realms of performance, it is very easily to pull right back into shape. More importantly to some, the 200C rides like a dream on the open road even in areas with less than impressive road surface qualities. You can feel the roughness in the road a bit through the steering but the driver and passengers will not notice the vast majority of bumps on the highway.

After spending a couple of hours driving the 2015 Chrysler 200C V6 AWD, I swapped to a new 200S with the Pentastar V6 and front wheel drive. The ride quality between the two was nearly identical, with the biggest difference coming on hard launches. While the AWD 200C effortlessly ripped away from a stop, the FWD models like to spin those tires a bit before gripping and driving away. You don’t get the rear-drive feel without the AWD setup, both during hard acceleration or under hard cornering.

The FWD 200 tended to understeer a touch when pushed hard, but in normal driving situations on a 70 degree day, the difference between the FWD and AWD 2015 200 was hardly noticeable. I would go so far as to say that unless it was raining hard or snowing, most drivers wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the two different drivetrain layouts unless they were launching hard enough to spin the tires…which isn’t a normal driving situation for most people. This is a good thing, as many front wheel drive cars which also come in all wheel drive feel heavier and a little more sluggish, but Chrysler did a good job of providing both FWD and AWD 200 sedans the same great driving characteristics shy of the obvious upsides to all wheel drive.

The 2015 Chrysler 200C V6 AWD is a car that people who love to drive, will love to drive. The new 200 looks like a luxury car on the outside and it feels like a luxury car on the inside. Best of all, the new 200 has the types of power and performance that you would expect from a modern midsized luxury sedan while still being remarkably efficient. Due to the low price of the new 200, starting in the low 20s and extending up into the low 30s, the 2015 Chrysler 200 is compared to vehicles like the Toyota Camry, the Hyundai Sonata and the Honda Accord but smart shoppers will find that this car is so well appointed inside and out that it is better compared to vehicles from the likes of Lexus, Acura and maybe even Audi.

If you like how the 2015 Chrysler 200 looks inside and out – go drive one once they hit dealerships. My guess is that anyone who enjoys driving will instantly fall in love with the new 200 just like I did.
Coming up in the next

Original is at 2015 Chrysler 200 test drive / review
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New Chrysler 200s could be seen in Dealerships as soon as April

Dealers should start seeing new 2015 Chrysler 200s in early April, though it may take longer for a good supply to reach them, according to sources within Chrysler.

The new car, a nearly complete change from the current 200, is set to start volume production at the Sterling Heights, Michigan, assembly plant on March 17, 2014. The car has a different platform, chassis, suspension and electronics architecture, and transmission, replacing the current 200’s four and six speed automatics with a state-of-the-art nine-speed.  Interior and exterior styling are also a break from the existing 200. The only major carryovers are the basic four-cylinder engine design — though the new one has been retuned and now has individual valve timing for each cylinder — and the V6 engine, praised in the outgoing model.

The split between lower and upper models is more pronounced than in the past, with LX and Limited 200s having relatively few options available; and the 200S and 200C models getting sound-deadening glass, the option of 8.4 inch touch-screen stereos,  and various safety packages. Buyers seeking reasonably well equipped cars may find the 200 to be bargain-priced, but those seeking particular advanced technologies, such as self-parking, may be disappointed as option groups add up.

There have been no test drive results posted, but the 200 is expected to have competent handling and a relatively smooth ride; with lighter weight than the Jeep Cherokee, it should be more sprightly with the base four-cylinder engine.

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