I've been struggling to remember the last time I liked a midsize sedan from Chrysler. It might be the first run of the Chrysler Cirrus and Dodge Stratus from the mid-90s; those were pretty solid. Since then though, my reaction to the company's midsize offerings have ranged from "meh" to outright derision.
Thanks to the 2015 Chrysler 200C, that ends now. Chrysler did the smart thing with its newest midsize sedan: it kept the only good thing from the previous car -- the excellent Pentastar 3.6-liter V6 -- and ditched everything else. The result is a car that's a serious contender in the family sedan market. The engine's running mate is a new 9-speed automatic transmission, a mostly slick transmission that's augmented with steering-wheel paddle shifters, but still suffers from the occasional hard shift. The comfortable suspension has just enough bite to it to keep the 200C from being a drag to drive. Then there's the design: this is one sexy family sedan.
High content, good value
The front seat passengers are treated to plenty of leg and headroom, and the center console design is simultaneously futuristic, user friendly, and immensely practical. The usual storage areas in the doors and glovebox are augmented by a shelf hidden under the dash, and an outright huge storage area under the cupholders. Our loaded test car came with Uconnect and navigation, and Chrysler's SafetyTec package, which adds active cruise control, lane keeping assist, collision warning, and parking assist, among other things. Tall passengers won't fit comfortably in the smallish rear seat, but at least there's plenty of space for their stuff in the huge trunk.
The most pleasant surprise was price. I'd been driving this 200C for a couple days, thinking that with all the gadgets and style, this must cost somewhere north of $36,000. In reality, it costs about $34,500. That's not cheap, but it compares very favorably to other fully loaded midsize sedans, and many of its features aren't available on a lot of its competitors, and only a few are as eye catching.
Five years in, this Fiat-Chrysler merger is looking more and more like a brilliant move, and I'm hoping that the Chrysler 200 is indicative of the kinds of vehicles we'll be seeing as the relationship deepens. If it is, the Pentastar brand will be shining as bright as it ever.
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