2015 Chrysler 200 Strong, Not Euro Strong

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Chrysler is pushing its 2015 200 with an aggressive ad slogan, calling it “America’s Import.”

The intention is clear as Chrysler wants to promote the new 200 as a direct rival to the entry level European makes like Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi – or the higher range models from Toyota, Honda and Hyundai. The automaker wants to pit the 200’s extensive features against the more expensive cars from those other companies while assigning the appealing tag starting around $25,000. 

The car is a partial success in that promo campaign. While it’s a solid match against its Japanese consumer rivals (Lexus aside), the 200 won’t put fear into the heart of the Germans.

The new 200 offers up an improved interior, upgraded cockpit technology and a solid power plant to make it a player in the midsize, affordable sedan market. The outside of the car features a new design language for Chrysler, including a more aerodynamic body line and a sleeker front grill facia.

I’m a big fan of the Chrysler 300 in all of its incarnations and would’ve liked to see a few more echoes of that 300’s aggressive, strong and wide haunches. Then again, the thinking there might be to make buyers who want that 300 aesthetic pony up the extra money it takes to get it. The 200 remains distinct, but a little less striking.

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To its credit, the 200 is the first mid-size sedan that comes standard with a nine-speed automatic transmission controlled by an electronic shifting rotary dial. That transmission can tie the 3.6 liter Pentastar V-6 engine (295 horsepower) or the standard 2.4 liter MultiAir2 Tigershark I-4 (184 horsepower).

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The new 200 design banks on appealing to midsize buyers with fuel economy of up to 36 mpg, depending on the engine selection. Chrysler reports that a 5 mpg improvement over the outgoing model it’s replacing.

Trim selection vary between the LX, Limited, S and C. Advanced selected features include an all-wheel drive system with a fully disconnecting rear axle that saves fuel by switching to front-wheel drive when all-wheel drive is not needed The all-wheel-drive system includes a one-speed Power Transfer Unit that disconnects and reconnects the rear axle as needed and at any speed.

All that is a fancy way of saying the car uses what it needs to use under different driving conditions in an effort to save gas as often as possible.

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The driving experience is smooth, if not distinct. Acceleration is consistent and handling grounded. No one will mistake it for a performance car, and they shouldn’t. This is a car designed for comfortable, reliable and affordable transportation. It just doesn’t have the on-road field of the upscale European imports it’s targeting.

Circling back around to that “America’s Import” tag, the pitch works as long as we’re talking Volkswagen, Toyota, Honda, Hyundai or Kia. Depending on the model you’re looking at, the new 200 is a match or superior. It just lands short of the mark compared to the precision, build quality and expense of the German luxury imports.