By PETER COUTURE and LYRA SOLOCHEK
Times Staff Writers
Readers of the Daily Drivers may recall that we reviewed the new Chrysler 200 — the second coming of the Sebring — and thought it a small step forward from that mediocre car. Well, now there is the 200 convertible, which adds some flair to the sedan.
Appearance: The 200 convertible comes with a standard soft top, or choose the optional hardtop — a $1,995 upgrade — that we had in our tester. Like its sedan sibling, the convertible has some cosmetic exterior details that we like, which set it apart from the Sebring: a wavy grille, elongated LED headlights and rear chrome trim that's integrated with the taillights.
Performance: The most important performance number for us is not the 0-to-60 time but how long it takes the top to open or close — it's a convertible, after all. The bad news is it takes almost 30 seconds, which is slow by the standard of most convertibles we've driven. Like the sedan, the 6-speed automatic transmission is not the smoothest gearbox and the steering feel is too light. Unlike the sedan, there is noticeable torque steer under hard acceleration. Because it's a convertible (with fewer support beams), we also found the ride to be less stable with some shakes and shimmies. We do like the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6, but for the 283 horses it produces, the pickup is sluggish because of the added weight from the hardtop convertible.
Interior: The 200 shows improvement in the cabin, especially in fit, finish and materials. That said, some of the controls — the AC dials, especially — are plasticky. We both found the front cloth seats, which are heated, much too firm, which is odd because the rear seats felt more comfortable. We like that you can drop the convertible top from more than 60 feet away with the key fob, which also has remote start. The floor mats didn't secure well and slipped under the pedals. There is good trunk space even with the top down — plenty of space for a couple of medium suitcases or some grocery bags. But the trunk lid is ridiculously heavy because the convertible's open/close mechanism is attached to the lid. For Lyra, it was a struggle to close it. Maybe someone taller can handle it better.
The bottom line: What it has over the sedan is, of course, the ability to let in the fresh air and sunshine. The trade-off is that the ride is far less composed.
Our 3 favorites
51, city driver, 6 feet tall, married with a teenager and a middle-schooler.
Wheels: The alloys provide pop.
Console: I liked the placement of the MP3 connection and 12-volt outlet beneath the climate controls.
Convertible: It's the one thing going for it over the sedan.
45, highway commuter, 5 feet 1, married with an 8-year-old and a college student.
Design update: Much improved compared with the Sebring.
Trunk space: Lots of room for a convertible.
So long: Glad to see it drive away.
Photos by LYRA SOLOCHEK/Times
The taillight design looks sharp.
Controls are within easy reach, and are simple to use.
Even with the top down, there's plenty of room in the trunk.
2011 Chrysler 200 Convertible Limited
Price: $26,445 base start, $35,355 as tested
Powertrain: 3.6-liter V-6, 6-speed automatic, FWD
Horsepower: 283 at 6,400 rpm
Curb weight: 3,389 pounds (cloth top)
Dimensions in inches: Wheelbase, 108.9 Length, 191.7 Width, 72.5
Fuel economy: 19 miles per gallon city, 29 mpg highway
Safety features: Front and side airbags, active head restraints, ABS, tire pressure display, electronic stability control with traction control, speed control
Options worth considering: Hardtop convertible ($1,995), media center with CD, DVD, MP3, hard drive and navigation ($895)