2013 Chrysler 200 Convertible Road Test and Review: Introduction
Vacationers are always in a positive frame of mind when they step off the airport shuttle and onto a rental car lot, especially if they’ve left cold, gray, wet weather for a sunny, tropical locale, and there’s a convertible waiting for a week’s worth of adventure. While standing in line for their turn to talk to an agent, the vacationers scan the lot, wondering what they’ll get. The red Mustang? The black Camaro? The jaunty yellow Jeep?
“We’ve got a nice gray Chrysler 200 Convertible for you, in slot 2A.”
The vacationers don’t care as long as the top goes down. As an added bonus, the Chrysler has a fairly sizeable trunk and decent room in the back seat for hauling luggage to the hotel. In go the bags, down goes the top, up go the tunes. After riding in an aluminum tube for hours, the vacationers don’t even notice how the Chrysler’s front seats resemble a park bench.
Chrysler might not like it, but its probably a good thing that so many 200 Convertibles end up parked in rental car lots, waiting for vacationers to put the top down and smile for miles. Vacations are naturally filled with happy memories of days spent lollygagging in leisure, phones turned off, desks and supervisors in a different time zone, and driving rented Chrysler 200 Convertibles beneath gently swaying palm trees and along coastal roads. As a result, recollections of the car are likely artificially skewed toward the positive.
I hadn’t been on a vacation in awhile, so I borrowed a Chrysler 200 Convertible and drove it up California’s Pacific Coast Highway from Los Angeles International Airport to Malibu and points north on a warm, sunny day at the end of an unseasonably cold, wet, and windy week. But before we get to my impressions, some housekeeping is in order.
2013 Chrysler 200 Convertible Road Test and Review: Models and Prices
The 2013 Chrysler 200 Convertible is sold in Touring ($28,095 including the $995 destination charge), Limited ($33,090) and S ($33,590) trim levels, the latter two offered with a choice between a fabric top or a power retractable hardtop ($1,995).
My chromed-up bauble of a test car is the Limited model rendered in Billet Silver Metallic paint with black leather and a black fabric roof. In addition to Touring standard equipment, the Limited model adds a V-6 engine with remote engine starting, polished 18-inch aluminum wheels, automatic headlights, fog lights, chrome mirror caps, and chrome door handles. Inside, the Limited is equipped with leather seats, heated front seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth connectivity with streaming audio capability, and a hard-disc drive entertainment system with satellite radio and a USB port.
In addition to these standard features, my test car had a Uconnect navigation system and a Boston Acoustics sound system, bringing the total sticker price to $34,260.
2013 Chrysler 200 Convertible Road Test and Review: Design
- Three new paint colors
A couple of years ago, Chrysler restyled the old Sebring convertible, in the process ditching that name in favor of “200” and dramatically improving this car’s appearance. The 200 Convertible still isn’t beautiful, unless you line it up next to the goggle-eyed, disproportionate mess known as the 2008-2010 Chrysler Sebring Convertible. Then, it is gorgeous.
The interior received a similar makeover at the same time, with Chrysler adding lots of soft-touch materials, improved controls and displays, and a more upscale ambience than the Sebring Convertible. The ersatz result looks better than it feels.
My test car lacked attention to quality detail. The chrome window molding on the right side of the car didn’t line up. The heavy doors sounded clunky and junky whenever they closed. And as I was pulling my phone out of the lower dashboard cubby, it snagged on the plastic trim around the shifter, pulling the trim half off in the process. But the worst thing was that every component on the front of this test car was misaligned, displaying the kind of panel fit one might expect after a visit to a body shop, not before.
In terms of appearance, my favorite among the three models is the 200 S. It’s got a blacked-out grille, darkened headlights, body-color mirror caps and door handles, and machined-finish wheels with painted pockets. The changes are minor, but have a big impact.
2013 Chrysler 200 Convertible Road Test and Review: Comfort and Cargo
- Retuned suspension
Convertibles that can legitimately carry four adults are a rare breed, and this is one of the most compelling reasons to choose a Chrysler 200 Convertible over something like a Camaro or a Mustang. Four sizable people could ride in this car without too much complaining. Or parents and a couple of their offspring.
The 200 Convertible’s front seats are as flat as central Nebraska, a clear signal that this car is built for cruising in a straight line at a moderate speed. The thick-rimmed steering wheel, wrapped in smooth and soft leather, is pleasant to grip, and the places where occupants are likely to rest their elbows are soft. My Limited test model also had seat heaters and a generous amount of warm air emitted from the dashboard vents during a drafty top-down drive along the California coast.
Getting into and out of the front seats is easy, but take care with those long and heavy doors in cramped parking quarters. Entering and exiting the back seat is less than graceful, especially since the front passenger’s seat doesn’t automatically move forward when the seatback is released.
Outward visibility is excellent with the top down. When raised, the thick windshield frame is somewhat restrictive in terms of forward visibility, but large side mirrors definitely help with changing lanes. Rear visibility is compromised, and the 200 Convertible is not offered with a reversing camera.
Chrysler says the 200 Convertible holds 13.3 cu.-ft. of cargo with the top raised. Put the top down, and trunk space falls significantly, to 7.0 cu.-ft. That explains why so many vacationers are forced to put their suitcases in the back seat.
2013 Chrysler 200 Convertible Road Test and Review: Features and Controls
- No changes for 2013
The Chrysler 200 Convertible’s control layout is simple and straightforward, from the Uconnect touch screen infotainment system to the steering wheel controls for the trip computer. The button that is the hardest to find is the one that controls the fully automatic convertible top. It’s located on the forward-facing portion of the center storage console, above the cupholders and the parking brake, and below the padded center armrest. For those interested in such matters, the top drops in 26 seconds, and raises in 31 seconds, including the windows.
The Uconnect system that comes with the Chrysler 200 Convertible is an old model with a small screen and unrefined graphics. That said, it is very simple and intuitive to use, and the screen offers large icons and virtual buttons that respond instantly to fingertips. Unfortunately, the screen is also virtually invisible when directly sunlight shines upon it, which, with a 200 Convertible, is often.
2013 Chrysler 200 Convertible Road Test and Review: Safety and Ratings
- No changes for 2013
Earlier, I mentioned the glaring omission of a reversing camera, even as an option, for the Chrysler 200 Convertible. This car is also missing rear parking assist sensors, and there’s no blind-spot information system offered for this model. All three of these technologies would be useful on this car.
2013 Chrysler 200 Convertible Crash-Test Ratings:
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has not performed crash tests on the Chrysler 200. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the car its top rating of “Good” in the moderate overlap frontal-impact, side-impact, and rear-impact injury prevention tests. The IIHS does not rate convertibles for roof crush strength, a rule that precludes any convertible from achieving a “Top Safety Pick” designation from the organization.
2013 Chrysler 200 Convertible Road Test and Review: Engines and Fuel Economy
- No changes
Chrysler installs a 173-horsepower, 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine in the 200 Touring Convertible, a car that weighs 3,883 pounds. That’s pretty simple math that equals S-L-O-W. Adding insult to injury, the 4-cylinder model actually gets worse gas mileage than the more powerful and satisfying V-6 engine, which is standard in the 200 Limited and 200 S models.
The V-6 is a 3.6-liter unit making 110 more horsepower and 94 more lb.-ft. of torque compared to the standard 4-cylinder engine. Named one of the 10 Best Engines for 2013 by Ward’s Auto, an automotive industry trade journal, this V-6 generates 283-horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque, and is rated to get 19 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway for a combined rating of 22 mpg.
During my test drive, which included city streets, suburban boulevards, freeways, coastal highways, and twisty 2-lane roads, I averaged 21.1 mpg.
2013 Chrysler 200 Convertible Road Test and Review: Driving Impressions
To get my full tourist vibe going, I powered the Chrysler 200 Limited’s top down near the corner of Sepulveda and Lincoln, on a side street tucked between LAX and an In ‘N Out Burger joint that is extremely popular with Southern California tourists and business travelers. Then I headed north on Lincoln, driving through Marina del Rey, Venice, and Santa Monica before hooking up with the Pacific Coast Highway and hugging the coastline. It was a warm, sunny, brilliant spring day in SoCal, perfect for driving along the beach in a convertible, and my father had come along for the ride, the man partially responsible for my love of cars.
On city streets, there’s no getting around the Chrysler 200 Convertible’s occasional bouts of torque steer or the wiggle and jiggle in its chassis and cowl. Neither is excessive, but both make the 200 Convertible feel old. The V-6 offers plenty of acceleration away from stoplights, and under normal conditions, the transmission upshifts rapidly in an effort to conserve fuel.
At higher speeds on coastal roads, the 200 Convertible’s cabin gets drafty, so be sure to have a sweater or a jacket on hand. My 200 Limited test car had 2-stage seat warmers that generated plenty of heat, and the car’s climate system can crank significant volumes of 80-degree air through the large dashboard vents.
Take the twistier way traveled (say, Las Flores Canyon to Piuma Road), and the new suspension tuning bestowed upon the 2013 Chrysler 200 Convertible is plainly evident. The car still squats and dives a bit, but it displays newfound competence when diving into a turn or taking constant-radius curves. Body roll is largely absent, steering is pleasantly quick off-center, and the P225/50R18 Goodyear Eagle LS all-season tires dig in and bite with surprising grip. The result is a near-two-ton convertible that exhibits unexpected grace. Now it’s time for Chrysler to upgrade the car’s front seat bolsters to match its cornering capabilities.
The V-6 engine is paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission, which offers a manual shift feature. To shift manually, the driver taps the stick left to execute a downshift and right to perform an upshift. This isn’t as intuitive as some manual-shift patterns for automatic transmissions, and it isn’t as counterintuitive, either. Luckily, shifts are reasonably crisp and cure the 200 Convertible of a gear-hunting problem when powering up the side of a mountain.
Coming down the other side, my test car’s brakes showed no signs of fade or fatigue, though I must admit that I wasn’t driving the car very hard. The seats just don’t hold the driver or front passenger securely enough for such shenanigans.
At the intersection of Piuma and Malibu Canyon roads, I faced a decision. Turn left and head back to the serenity of a wide 4-lane Pacific Coast Highway, or turn right and connect to Mulholland Highway for more twisty roads. Dad and I opted for the left turn, and like many visitors to California, continued on up the shoreline past Pepperdine University, past Zuma Beach, past Neptune’s Net and the mix of Harley riders and kitesurfers gathered out front, and past Point Mugu, which appears in almost every car commercial ever filmed.
We had a nice drive and great conversation; a day to remember, for sure. And a Chrysler 200 Convertible was a part of it.
2013 Chrysler 200 Convertible Road Test and Review: Final Thoughts
Though handling is improved, and the V-6 engine is strong, the Chrysler 200 Convertible remains a cruiser, a car designed primarily for leisurely drives on scenic roads under indescribably gorgeous weather conditions. Y’know, like when you’re on vacation.
2013 Chrysler 200 Convertible Road Test and Review: Pros and Cons
- The top goes down
- Room for 4 adults
- Strong and fuel-efficient V-6 engine
- Surprisingly competent handling
- Decent IIHS crash-test ratings
- Sold with big discounts
- Indifferent assembly quality
- Lacks rear parking sensors or a reversing camera
- Small trunk with the top dropped
- Structural wiggle and jiggle
- Uconnect touch screen washes out in sunlight
- Seats lack lateral bolstering
Chrysler supplied the vehicle for this review
2013 Chrysler 200 Limited Convertible photos by Christian Wardlaw