Chrysler 200 — A four-cylinder experience

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

For nearly two years since the totally redesigned Chrysler 200 entered the congested mid-sized sedan segment as a stylish vehicle that stands out from the crowd, we preferred to bypass the base 4-cylinder engine in favor of Chrysler’s award-winning V-6. We still favor the bigger engine, but after our most recent experience with the car, we have come to appreciate the four as a suitable engine for those who seek fuel efficiency at an affordable price.

We drove the top-of-the-line 200C propelled by the 184-horsepower Tigershark four and came to the conclusion that as much as we enjoy the 295-horsepower Pentastar V-6 we could live quite nicely with the 2.4-liter engine under the hood. Although it isn't the quietest or most refined engine in the segment, there's enough power for passing and merging mated to Chrysler's nine-speed automatic transmission.

We found the engine adequate to haul around the sedan's nearly 3,500 pounds, and most drivers will never perceive any unacceptable harshness because it's reasonably quiet until peak torque is reached at around 5,000 rpm — something most owners will only accomplish in rare pedal-to-the-medal passing situations — and then the engine begins to announce that it's working hard.

Shifts from the nine-speed are nearly imperceptible and the transmission seems to keep the engine cooking at the proper rpm. If you do need a rapid takeoff, 60 mph comes up in a tolerable 8.4 seconds, and the quarter-mile mark arrives in 16.6 at 85 mph.

The owner will be rewarded in normal driving with gas mileage from regular gas of 23 mpg city, 36 highway and 28 combined. We think those numbers are accurate because in several hundred miles of mixed driving we averaged 34 mpg. If you do decide the excellent six-cylinder engine, which makes a lusty 295 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque, is worth the extra cost of around $4,200 in C trim, EPA-measures the mpg at 18/29/22.

From a design standpoint, the 200 is conservatively attractive with a streamlined elongated body, artfully sloping roofline, large wheels, and "the new face of Chrysler," a very attractive front end sans the "big mouth" look now favored by nearly all automakers, a styling element that we wish would go away like the tailfins of long ago.

Even more impressive is the completely reworked cabin. The design is elegant, set off by a large (optional) 8.4-inch infotainment screen that proved intuitive (we have consistently rated the satellite radio readouts on FCA products the best in the business) and a first-in-the-segment rotary-style shifter. The optional Premium Group package brings striking real wood inlays. But regardless of trim level, materials are first class and the fit and finish in our test cars were top drawer. We found the seats, front and rear, extremely comfortable. Underneath the center stack is a large, open storage area with a rubber mat that depicts the Detroit skyline emphasizing the "imported from Detroit" advertising logo.

The 200 comes in four trim levels: LX, Limited, S and C. Standard equipment across the lineup is generous and includes 17-inch wheels, keyless ignition and entry, air conditioning, cruise control, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, and a four-speaker sound system with USB/iPod integration. Navigation is optional across the lineup. All-wheel drive is available in the S and C trims pared with the V-6 engine.

The 200 can be loaded with safety as optional equipment including blind-spot warning, adaptive cruise control, frontal collision warning, lane departure warning, an automated parking system, automatic high beam control, and rain-sensing windshield wipers. Those items were all included on our test car. And another important point — the Chrysler 200 is the only American
car of the so-called Big Three to get a Top Safety Pick+ rating on the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's 2016 crash testing.

We also discovered a very interesting feature with the adaptive cruise control that we haven't encountered on any other car — it can be defeated and basic cruise can be used. We've heard from several people over the last couple of years who bemoan the fact that — for whatever reasons — they wanted at times to operate cruise control without the adaptive feature, but found it impossible.

While we would still pick the V-6 over the four-cylinder we came to appreciate the 2.4-liter concluding that it offered a nice combination of fuel efficiency and performance. And it can be purchased across the lineup including the feature-laden C trim. Our test car carried a C trim base of $27,560 and a bottom line of $33,540 outfitted with virtually every option available including stunning 19-inch polished face aluminum wheels.

Base price: $22,990; as driven, $33,540
Engine: 2.4-liter 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 184 @ 6,250 rpm
Torque: 173 foot-pounds @ 4,600 rpm
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Drive: front wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 108 inches
Length: 192.3 inches
Curb weight: 3,473 pounds
Turning circle: 39.2 feet
Luggage capacity: 16 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 15.8 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 36 highway, 23 city, 28 combined
Also consider: Ford Fusion, Toyota Camry, Honda Accord

The Good
• Stylish exterior
• Pleasing, high-quality interior
• Top safety scores
• Comfortable front seats

The Bad
• Rear seat space below average

The Ugly
• 4-cylinder noisy at high rpm