2015 Chrysler 200S AWD Road Test

The Chrysler brand is back.

What It Is
A sporty midsize sedan with a hint of luxury.
Best Thing
Easy-to-use multimedia system with large touchscreen.
Worst Thing
Cramped backseat.
Snap Judgment
What a difference a year makes. The 200 is a competent car, but we aren't yet convinced it will carve out a huge piece of the midsize sedan market.


If you asked us to name the most improved cars over the last two decades, we would say the 2011 Hyundai Elantra, second-generation Toyota Prius, and the resurrected Dodge Dart. Now that the all-new 2015 Chrysler 200 has come along, we would probably add it to the list, or at least give it an honorable mention.

Chrysler's midsize sedan is completely redesigned for 2015, featuring a new nine-speed automatic transmission, significantly upgraded interior, and a younger overall appearance. Once a sedate cruiser, the 200 has adopted a sporty persona that reminds us of the best from Dodge. It definitely stands out from the sea of Camrys, Accords, and Altimas on the market. But our model came with a twist; we had the chance to drive the 200S, a sportier, premium-oriented version of the standard model. So the question we had to ask ourselves is not only can it compete in the crowded midsize segment, but could it take on entry-level luxury cars like the Acura TLX and the Buick Regal with similar price tags?

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What We Drove

We drove the Chrysler 200S with all-wheel drive, which starts at $28,695. Our model included a number of key extras such as a Comfort package with heated steering wheel, back-up camera, and heated front seats ($795). A Navigation and Sound Group added navigation, a large 8.4-inch touchscreen, nine Alpine speakers, and more ($1,495). A Premium Lighting Group added LED DRLs and LED fog lamps ($795). When adding in a destination fee, the total price of our model came to $32,775.

The government has not yet released crash test ratings for the 2015 Chrysler 200, but the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently named it a Top Safety Pick+, the highest safety distinction awarded by the agency. Standard safety features include eight airbags, anti-lock four-wheel disc brakes, traction control, electronic stability control, electric park brake, security alarm, speed control, and brake assist. Our model didn't come with lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, or other advanced features.

The Commute

Tolerating the morning commute is one thing, but actually enjoying it is another, much rarer occurrence. In the Chrysler 200, our experience was somewhere in between. A quiet cabin void of road or wind noise is disturbed only by the sweet sound of an unexpected engine growl. Yes, the 200 may be another midsize sedan, but our V-6 model has a pleasant kick of power and performance.

We also loved using the optional gigantic touchscreen, which we would say is top in its class. Intuitive menus and responsive screen buttons make controlling the radio, phone, and navigation easy. Four-cylinder models come with the less desirable 3.0-inch or 5.0-inch systems, however, so we were in luck. Standard black chrome interior accents, leather-trimmed sport seats, and a shiny rotary gear selector give the Chrysler 200 a healthy helping of luxury.

On the city streets and on the highway, the Chrysler 200S packs plenty of power for passing other cars. While the car has a tighter steering feel than many in its class, it is overall comfortable and relaxed, providing for a well-balance driving experience.

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The Grocery Run

Loading up with a week's worth of groceries for a small family shouldn't be a problem in the 200. Cargo volume is about average in its class, coming in at 16 cubic feet. To load more groceries, drivers can use the 60/40 split-folding rear seat with trunk pass-through.

Thanks to its small size, the Chrysler 200S is easy to park. While not the lightest of cars, it turns capably enough to maneuver into parking spaces. Unfortunately, our model did not have a power liftgate for easy opening of the trunk.

The Weekend Fun

Many cars are great for morning commutes and errands, but it takes a stronger car to be suitable on longer road trips. The Chrysler 200S proved a decent distance traveler, thanks in large part to the comfortable cockpit.

Front seats offer a nice mix of cloth and leather, which prevents sticking to the seat in hot weather. However, they can get a bit stiff on long drivers. Tall passengers will find the backseat a tight squeeze, and headroom is limited for all passengers. Even the shortest occupants will bump their head on the top of the car as they exit the rear seats. Most midsize sedans make better use of the rear space, aside from the the Buick Regal.

During our weekend adventures, we used the navigation system frequently, and it couldn't be easier. Uncluttered maps and turn by turn directions led us to our destination without problems. Other features that made our weekend more enjoyable include heated front seats and a rearview camera, although both these amenities were add-ons.

On long drives, fuel economy was expectedly mediocre. At 18/29 mpg, the 200S features fuel economy on par with sporty all-wheel drive sedans.

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Summary

Typically, we are big believers in getting as small of an engine as possible for the power you need. While many four-cylinder engines nowadays are powerful enough to eliminate the need for a V-6 option, this isn't the case for the 200. We would definitely recommend the V-6 version, which offers a much more rewarding drive and is available with more convenience features compared to the four-cylinder model.

It goes without saying that there are plenty options in the midsize segment. The Buick Regal Turbo also offers an exceptionally comfortable interior and a smooth ride. The Acura TLX has exceptional handling on base models, while conventional choices like Passats and Mazda6 cars are also fun and reliable. We think the Chrysler 200S is a solid choice with standout technology and power, but we would also recommend buyers looking at these other options.

Spec Box

Price-as-tested: $32,775
Fuel Economy
EPA City: 18
EPA Highway: 29
EPA Combined: 22
Cargo Space: enough groceries for a small family
Estimated Combined Range: 348 miles
Intellichoice Cost of Ownership: Not available

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