Chrysler 200 Limted Edition Road Test Review
by Martha Hindes
Remember last year's Super Bowl ad from Chrysler with rap star Eminem? The game party we were attending in the Motor City actually toned down the noise in anticipation of the expected two minute commercial, never before done for that football classic. How could the resurgent auto company make enough impact for people to remember the vehicle after the game? As clips of the new Chrysler 200 midsize sedan played across the screen we got an affirmative answer. And it's still having an impact for the 2012 model year.
Chrysler had a lot to gain by choosing home town bad boy Eminem for the launch (who, reports say, actually requested to be in the ad along with his featured music). Any nagging bad taste left over from the much maligned Sebring sedan it replaced was all but forgotten outside the insider test drive circuit. Chrysler suddenly became trendy, and on the west coast of the U.S. of all places. That's how you do it when you need to make an impact, folks. Big star, big brassy move, collect accolades.
Of course Chrysler's gutsy -- and costly -- move wasn't a given, unless done right. Fortunately it was. And also the company had to have the right product to verify that kind of chutzpah. It did. And the 2012 Chrysler 200 continues to be light years ahead of those fading earlier vehicle memories.
Our assessment started when we got the remote start key fob to a Deep Auburn Pearl Limited Edition 200, a soft, luminescent brown that wouldn't sound appealing on an auto, but actually was. The color blended beautifully with the more conservative, elegant exterior of the 200 than its predecessor. We stepped inside and the surrounding cabin offered a well-crafted, attractive interior laden with the latest in high tech amenities that bore no relationship to the substandard innards of the vehicle it replaced.
With “start” engaged we took off, the V-6 underneath purring quietly as we headed toward express roads for some serious drive time. We found the 200 had plenty of oomph for our testing, and responded well to quick, tight turns and surged ahead responsively when we tapped the accelerator for passing or for fun.
Some question whether the 200 is undersized. We had no complaints, but like most women, we're not approaching 6-feet in height. With the larger Chrysler 300 sibling filling the full-size sedan spot, the 200 remains more diminutive than some competitors, like the Honda Accord that is nearly full-size. The result, of course, is less interior room more suitable for four than for five and a smaller trunk, both in line with its overall footprint.
Two engines fire up the 200 for driving duties. The most prevalent is the 2.4-liter four cylinder that generates 173 horsepower. With four-speed or six-speed automatic, it gains a 21/30 or 20/31 EPA rating respectively, reaching the new 30 MPG plateau that has become the mileage number to beat. The 3.6-liter V-6, with six-speed automatic and manual mode, that powered our test model churns out 283-horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque for 19/29 EPA numbers. Its flexible fuel capability makes it green as well.
All safety features on the 200 are standard from the base LX up to the Touring, “S” and Limited models. The 200 sedan also won a coveted “Top Safety Pick” designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The biggest change year-to-year is a convertible 200 model added to the lineup.
Considering the attention that Eminem's presence and anticipation brought to the 200, we're not surprised there would be some complaints. Especially from the track driving crowd (or one emulating track driving on local roads absent the local cops). Yes, we would have to pay out some $1,000 more than our Limited model's $24,490 base price to get the superior Boston Acoustics speakers and complete media center package as options. And, yes, the V-6 that powered our test car undoubtedly trumped the inline four found on most 200s. But peeling rubber on a side street or cornering on two wheels is not the aim of a family sedan designed to service varying needs from commuting to long trips to shopping forays to collecting a couple of kids after school.
We found the Chrysler 200 a stellar competitor with a navigation system that didn't jack up the price to the $30K level and beyond like some other midsize sedans do. (Base pricing starts at a reasonable $18,995. Our Limited model total, including destination was $28,305.)
Did the 200 serve our needs and wants during the time we had it? Absolutely. And some consumers who now own the 200 call it “awesome.” We think that's enough said.
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