Finally, Chrysler has a midsize sedan that can live up to its "Imported from Detroit" ad slogan. The all-new 200 is the successor to some really mediocre cars — think Sebring sedan and the previous-generation 200 — that only really seemed to find homes in the nation's rental-car fleets. No more.
Appearance: Where the previous 200 was a stop-gap car for a troubled Chrysler — and looked like it — this new 200 easily fits in with the competition in the family sedan segment. The new look is curvy and contemporary, with a rounded roof that gently tapers into a short rear deck. Chrysler has jettisoned the wide 300-style face of its predecessor in favor of a slender, swept-back shape that holds the automaker's new winged logo and merges with the catlike headlamps. Those lamps are highlighted by LED daylight running lights (available with the Premium Lighting Group, $795). Our tester, the 200S, added gloss-black trim for a more menacing and sporty look. There also are dual chrome exhaust tips integrated into the rear fascia.
Interior: Where it once seemed like an afterthought, there is now better fit and quality materials. Our tester had well-bolstered and leather-trimmed sport seats. There is plenty of head- and legroom, and even the rear seats are comfortable. The sloping center console is user-friendly — all AC and audio controls within easy reach — and has pass-through storage underneath. The 200's shifter is a dial. The cup holder tray on the console slides backward under the armrest to reveal a bin with power outlets, big enough to hold a tablet. It's a great idea, except that when you have a drink in the cup holder, you can't slide it open. We remain fans of Chrysler's 8.4-inch U-connect's screen, which has icons that are easy to navigate. Our tester had the Comfort package ($795), which included the rearview camera, heated steering wheel, rear AC ducts, heated front seats, humidity sensor and remote start system.
Performance: Our tester had the optional 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 paired with Chrysler's new 9-speed automatic, which is first in its class. But more isn't necessarily better. We both felt the transmission was the car's weak spot; it always seems to be searching for one of those nine gears and the changes are abrupt, especially on quick deceleration. Lyra felt this made for inadequate acceleration when merging into busy highway traffic, but Peter had no such problem. (The base engine is a 4-cylinder that makes 184 horsepower.) The 200S also comes with paddle shifters — well, more like half paddles — if you want to try and outsmart the automatic. The S trim also comes with a sport-tuned suspension, which makes the ride a little more taut and, we'll guess, more composed than other 200 models.
Our 3 favorites
Storage: I like the sliding cup holders and the pass-through under the console.
Trunk: It's large and has a 60/40 pass-through.
Wheels: Spring for those sharp Hyper Black aluminum wheels ($695).
Exterior: Elegant, curvy and contemporary.
Interior: Improved fit and finish.
Set it your way: A 7-inch driver information display, part of the navigation and sound package ($1,495), is customizable.
The bottom line: Chrysler is finally a legitimate and stylish player in the midsize sedan segment. Now, let's work on that transmission.