With winter storms blasting the country, San Diego was the place for Chrysler to introduce their new convertible, the Chrysler 200. Late last year they introduced the refreshed Chrysler 200, which included being renamed from the Sebring. The car hadn’t done well as the Sebring, and there was enough change to its appearance to justify the new name. Now as a convertible, it gets a whole bunch better looking. The new design broadens the car and makes it more emotional. The car has more lines and less of a computer-generated slab-sided look. In particular, the rear “hump” of the roofline and trunkline has been shaved.
Lines on the rear of the car move your eye horizontally to make it visually wider. The Chrysler 200 doesn’t just look wider, it is. And it has wider wheels and tires. The track is an inch wider and suspension is lowered in back by six millimeters.In front, the car’s also been lowered 12 mm compared to the previous model. This wasn’t just for looks. The suspension adjustments, particularly the wheel camber, make the handling more precise and responsive.
The same kind of work was also done to the steering. This is all a part of Chrysler’s desire for all its vehicles to have a more European feel to the ride, and more capability in the suspension. When it comes to suspensions, European is a code word for better.
The Chrysler 200 convertible comes in two forms: ragtop and retractable hardtop – for those who want additional safety and comfort when top-up driving. Engineers did more work on noise, vibration and harshness issues on both versions since this is always always a problem with convertibles. With the hardtop they were quite successful, it’s as quiet as the sedan, or seems to be in real world driving. I didn’t get to drive the ragtop with the top in place, but even with the top down the vehicle wasn’t loose.
Lots of people come into dealers to look at convertibles, but ultimately buy a sedan. Chrysler says research shows that consumers decide against the drop-top for four reasons and they’ve addressed them all. They would be space, storage, security and price. Naturally you get less space and storage with a convertible, because you have to put the top somewhere. But with the retractable hardtop there’s less intrusion into the rear seat, so that helps with the space, and a compact folding structure helps a bit with the storage. Comprised of metal, the security issue is solved. Finally, Chrysler is working to keep the price down, as convertibles are always more expensive to build.
The Chrysler 200 is available with two powertrains. The base engine is 2.4-leter DOHC engine producing 173-horsepower and 166 lbs.-ft. of torque. It comes with a new six-speed transmission. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to drive this model, so won’t talk about it. Officials expect less than 10% of the mix to be four-cylinders. It’s an engine that will probably be more popular in the sedan as an efficiency move. The bigger engine is a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6, which is becoming the ubiquitous engine of Chrysler vehicles. That’s not a bad thing either, as this is a well-designed motor that works well in many applications. Using the same engine in multiple products is a good thing for customers. It normally means great dependability and even greater experience for engineers to evolve the engine during its life cycle. In this iteration, the Pentastar develops 283-horsepower and 260 lbs.-ft. of torque, pushing power to the wheels through a six-speed automatic. The 200 convertible achieves an EPA fuel efficiency rating of 19 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway.
The lineup includes the base Touring which starts at $27,195 and includes the standard 2.4-liter engine with the V6 as an option. 17” wheels are standard as are all safety options. Chrysler expects Touring sales to be heavily weighted to the V6 option.
The Limited, at $31,990, is the upper model, with the V6 standard and 18” wheels, foglights, chrome mirrors and UConnect. There’s also a windscreen that mounts behind the front seat to lower noise and the breeze, but you can only use it with two people in the car.
You can add the retractable hard top to the Limited model for $1,995. Eventually there will be an S-model.
The model I was able to drive was the Limited, and it was well-equipped and quite comfortable. We drove it from the desert area southeast of San Diego back into town with the top down until partway back on the interstate.
Since it was the Limited model it had the windscreen behind us, and it worked quite well. My colleague and I had no difficult conversing, even with the windows down all around. Then we put the top up, and the car was as quiet as the “real” sedan.
Lots of work has gone into making the interior a better place, and in this car they’d succeeded. It has a look of a higher category vehicle. While the actual design, certainly from an engineering perspective isn’t that different from the Sebring, the way things were made, the quality levels and the slight adjustments to the look and feel of things made a big difference.
This is a convertible first, then a mid-priced mid-sized car second. Emotion rules and this interior has more good things to say than its predecessor.
The Chrysler 200 drove nicely and that’s what it’s supposed to do. It isn’t a hot rod, isn’t supposed to be a hot rod and is for people who don’t want a hot rod, but like sunshine.
For them this car will be successful. It has more than enough horsepower to drive safely. It has a comfortable ride, more capable than on the Sebring. The steering and braking are comforting in their capability, but you’ll smile and wave at the Porsches going past, not try to beat them away from the next stoplight.
I find an interesting common ground between this car and the Chrysler company as a whole. Before Chrysler collapsed, this car demonstrated that with all the business troubles management folks weren’t worrying too much about product. Fixing this is, in many ways, a demonstration of what Fiat is planning for the company as a whole.
It’s not possible to throw either – the car or the company – away, and start from scratch. Thankfully, the bones of both are good, but things need to be trimmed and fixed. They need to be improved, really improved, but more than that made more attractive to potential buyers and to themselves. The Sebring was a car that inspired a sincere lack of confidence – would you want to be one?
But a Chrysler 200 has instant heritage from its big brother. For the rest of this models’ life-cycle it will be a bit of ugly swanling more than ugly duckling. You can see what it will become and appreciate the changes it has gone through.
Plus the top comes down and this time of year that makes everything better. Even if you can’t lower it, you have the certainty that while others will dream, come spring you’ll feel the warm breezes through your hair.