THE PROS & CONS
- What’s Best: As tested, the 2016 Chrysler 200S AWD with the optional 295 hp V6 is one of the strongest performers in the mid-size class. Sleek styling, state-of-the-art technologies and excellent fit and finish combine to make an attractive and inviting vehicle.
- What’s Worst: Rear seat room and access suffers from the coupe-like styling. Most importantly, customers should realize the 200 lineup will be discontinued within the next year or two.
- What’s Interesting: How crossover popularity has affected traditional car sales, like the 200 and the Dodge Dart. And how quickly fortunes and flavours can turn in the automotive industry.
Some cars give you that little tingle up your spine as you walk towards them, a visceral thrill from the combined effect of the stance, the style, the look, the mix of design cues that somehow blend to create an emotional impact.
And the Chrysler 200 that awaited my arrival, resplendent in Granite Crystal Metallic, was carrying it off as well as the original did at the Detroit Auto Show unveiling two years ago.
From the newest elements of the Chrysler familial face – the traditional winged badge floating on a black textured grille between the squinting, integrated headlamps, to the wide shoulders and slippery lines flowing along a coupe-like profile, the 200 seemed to be proudly displaying it sleek and sporty stance, enhanced in this S model with biggish wheels and the somewhat more sinister gloss black trim replacing the usual brightwork.
I paused for a moment at the driver’s door because there was a hitch to this review, an “elephant in the room” that has to be addressed before consideration of this car’s qualities.
On January 27th, FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne announced that the company would be phasing out their compact and mid-size cars – the Dodge Dart and the Chrysler 200 – over the course of the next 18 months to allow for factory room to ramp up Jeep and Ram production.
It seems a radical move but the growing popularity of SUVs and crossovers, at least while fuel prices stay low, has impacted traditional car sales for most manufacturers.
And while the move seems to put all of FCA’s eggs in only SUV and truck baskets, it will probably also clear the way for the Giulietta and other new global small platform cars from Alfa Romeo and Fiat.
Yes, it still seems a shame after a major investment, all the initial gearing up and the moderate success of this thoroughly modern Chrysler 200 replacement of a frumpier Sebring predecessor.
But let’s roll with it anyway.
The 200 was designed to “raise expectations in its class” as an all-new mid-size sedan with sporty coupe-like styling, boasting a slippery 0.27 cD of drag along with other qualities – the first nine-speed automatic in its segment, class-leading power through an optional V6 engine, an advanced available all-wheel-drive system with the first application of a disconnecting rear axle for optimized fuel economy, and with new levels of technology, comfort and content.
Two engine choices include the standard 184 hp 2.4-litre Tigershark MultiAir2 SOHC inline four-cylinder engine or the optional 295 hp 3.6-litre Pentastar VVT V6 ($2,000).
Both engines connect to nine-speed automatic transmissions and a standard front-wheel-drive (FWD) system or optional all-wheel-drive (AWD) ($2,500).
The 200 is normally offered in four trim levels – LX ($22,895), Limited ($26,295), 200S ($28,295) and 200C ($29,295).
For the 2016 model year, FCA added firmer front seats, three new colours, new tech options and a 90th Anniversary Edition ($28,290)
But tested here, we have the 2016 Chrysler 200S, the sportiest version in the lineup.
Now, any car with an “S” on the badge had better “walk the talk”, so why not add the more muscular V6 that responds delightfully, pushing you back into the buckets with the accompaniment of a beautiful baritone moan.
This is a killer combination, enhanced by the optional AWD system that can put up to 60 per cent of power to the rear wheels, reducing any kind of torque steer dilemma from the vigorous 295 hp motor.
The 200S trim level also benefits from dynamic performance improvements that include a sport-tuned suspension, beefier brakes, a sport mode and paddle shifters, a 3.25 final drive ratio, a heavy-duty battery and 18-inch wheels. Our tester builds on that by swapping the 18-inchers for 19-inch Hyper-Black aluminum wheels ($495) while adding a Mopar body kit ($1,395) with rear air diffuser, side sills and chin spoiler.
Our 200S tester also features Ambassador Blue leather trim framing the black cloth buckets, matching the blue trim accents on door release surrounds, console and a dash insert.
And “S” packaging is completed with acoustic glass, power/heated mirrors, bright exhaust tips and a rearview mirror with microphone.
Okay, the 2016 Chrysler 200S AWD isn’t perfect.
It’s never been the best seller of the segment, unable to keep up with the Camry, Accord, Fusion and Sonata, and has sometimes been criticized for a lack of rear seat room and access. And, yes, we’re sacrificing a little fuel economy here with this tester’s V6’s rating of 12.8/8.1L/100km (city/hwy) compared to the four-cylinder’s 10.2/6.4L/100km (city/hwy). My average worked out to 11.7L/100km (comb), although on one long freeway run I managed a surprising 6.8L/100km (hwy).
But the 200S AWD is quick and strong, a sedan with the heart of a sports car.
And for customers interested in the singular style of the Chrysler 200 there are, after all, two ways to take the FCA announcement – as a death knell, or as a bargaining chip.
Chrysler 200S AWD 2016
BODY STYLE: Mid-size sedan.
DRIVE METHOD: Front-engine, all-wheel drive.
ENGINE: 3.6-litre DOHC Pentastar V6 (295 hp, 262 lb/ft of torque) with nine-speed automatic.
FUEL ECONOMY: (Regular) 12.8/8.1L/100km (city/hwy)
CARGO CAPACITY: 453 litres
PRICE: 200S AWD $34,295. As tested $40,265 incl. UConnect 8.4 GPS Nav ($1,700), Mopar Body Kit ($1,395), Comfort Group ($795), Prem. Lighting Group ($895), Blind Spot/Rear Cross Detection ($495), 19-inch wheels ($495), Granite Crystal Metallic paint ($195). Not incl. $1,795 destination and fees.