Pentastar-Powered Models Deliver Unique Midsize Package
Some seven years into its lifecycle—if you consider it as an extension of the Chrysler Sebring—the Chrysler 200 has become sort of the Saab 9-5 of the Chrysler Group product portfolio. Now, the two may seem like an odd comparison, but at this stage in the game, the current 200, like the 9-5 at the end of its run, has become the best car ever to wear the name; it’s just that, again like the 9-5, that “best” is about a generation behind its best rivals.
That was my take-away from an encounter I had with the 2014 Chrysler 200 at a recent Chrysler Group media event, where the mid-sized sedan did show it could offer a compelling package for the right kind of customer. For example, the car I drove was a 2014 Chrysler 200 Limited with the S appearance package that, had it debuted about five years ago, would have been one of the best-regarded entries in its segment.
The interior was surprisingly quiet, and well put together, and upscale, with heated leather front seats that were just a bit too old-school comfy for my taste and an analog clock that some will find an effective style enhancer and others will find just plain affected. On the other hand, the Boston Acoustics speakers and Uconnect Media Center were plenty up to date, and the latter offered navigation, USB connectivity, a 40-gig hard drive, voice control, Bluetooth technology, and a 6.5-inch touchscreen. I know from looking at the specs that the 2014 Chrysler 200 has one of the smallest cabins in the segment, but the second-row passengers bear the brunt of its disadvantage, and the front row was just fine. Certainly, the driver’s position felt more open and airy than that in the last Chevy Malibu I drove.
Speaking of driving, my impressions of the 2014 Chrysler 200 on the road follow, but let me first set the stage by noting one key caveat about the car’s cabin: Drivers will not find any of the typical driver-assistance features like a blind-spot monitor or lane-departure warning, nor even a rearview camera system.
On the automaker’s test track, which recreates a wide range of driving scenarios, the 2014 Chrysler 200 proved to be a moderately capable performer that delivered brisk acceleration and class-competitive steering performance that isn’t going to please enthusiasts but isn’t going to be a deal-breaker for any mainstream owners. It’s worth pointing out as well that, while some of its mechanical bits may be based on previous-generation designs, it offers a modern-day V6 powertrain with an award-winning 3.6-liter engine that makes 283 hp and 260 lb.-ft. of torque, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.
It’s that combination that’s the difference-maker in the 2014 Chrysler 200 family. After all, the starter model for the 200 roster is still saddled with a four-speed automatic, while the most-efficient powertrain, with an I4 and six-speed autobox, only rings up EPA grades of 20 mpg city/31 mpg highway/24 mpg combined. To put that into context, the 2014 Nissan Altima offers 27/38/31 right out of the box.
But in its V6 configuration, the 2014 Chrysler 200 closes much of the efficiency gap and counters the remainder with more power and high-value pricing. True, the automaker actually hasn’t released pricing details for the 2014 Chrysler 200, but no big changes are expected and the 2013 Limited model, with a V6 engine, compares to similarly positioned and currently available rivals as follows:
As just noted, the 2014 Chrysler 200 has the lowest fuel-efficiency ratings in the mainstream midsize segment, but it also has the most horsepower and is only out-torqued by the Fusion, and it’s priced thousands of dollars less then the Toyota, Chevy or Honda entries. And that’s all before any dealer incentives are factored in. Further, while the 2014 Chrysler 200 doesn’t offer some of the segment’s top safety features, also as mentioned, it is a Top Safety Pick+ of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. That’s something neither the Malibu nor the Camry can claim.
The bottom line: If you can live with driving one of the last generation's best mid-size sedans in a next-gen world, the V6-powered 2014 Chrysler 200 is the value of the year.