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2012 Chrysler 200 Convertible Road Test Review by Bob Plunkett

2012 Chrysler 200 Convertible Road Test Review
Offers choice of cloth or steel lid

By Bob Plunkett

This is cool: Chrysler's designers take the shapely 200 series sedan and scuttle its lid to forge a slinky 2+2 convertible edition.

So we're steering a 2012 Chrysler 200 Convertible along the beach-bordered South Fletcher Avenue, Florida route A1A, in Fernandia Beach as warm sunlight splashes across a curvaceous car body decorated in Deep Cherry Red Crystal Pearl Coat paint.

Of course, the top is down -- it tucks through electro-hydraulic means into a self-closing bin, leaving a smooth tonneau lid with no unsightly drop-top clutter.

And this convertible comes with choices for the composition of the retractable roof:  A cloth fabric soft top or a steel hardtop painted to match the body color.

The 2012 Chrysler 200 as a drop-top splits into three versions -- entry-model 200 Touring edition, the upscale 200 Limited and a deluxe 200 S -- and each adds exterior trim elements and interior equipment for differentiation.

Crisp styling for Chrysler's new convertible produces a shapely body carving muscular fenders over large wheels with a sweeping front hood scored by lines strafing across the top and a raked windshield tipping to the extreme to enhance aerodynamic efficiency.

Check that chin-forward prow -- with glimmering chrome-finned grille and corner-mounted projector-beam headlamps, it's the new face of the Chrysler brand.

A crisp character line etched into the trailing edge of each front fender stretches rearward across the doors and rises gradually to the tail deck. And a high beltline pitched parallel to the character line gains a chrome trim piece along the bottom edge of side windows.

The vehicle, ranked in the mid-size segment with front-wheel-drive traction, carries the numeric label of Chrysler 200 as one step down in size and price from Chrysler's 300 series.

It amounts to a complete make-over of the discontinued Chrysler Sebring series.

To forge the 200's taut handling traits and precise manners, Chrysler engineers re-worked and reinforced the architectural structure of Sebring to make it stiffer and stronger. They revised, retuned or redesigned the suspension geometry, expanded the wheel track width by an inch and dropped the suspension -- down 12 mm at the front wheels and 6 mm for rear wheels -- for a lower and wider stance.  

Independent suspension elements consist of front MacPherson struts with coil springs over gas-charged shocks and stabilizer bar, and a rear multi-link arrangement with coil springs, link-type stabilizer bar with gas-charged shocks and an isolated rear suspension cradle.

Chrysler 200 Convertible provides many active safety systems designed to keep an alert driver out of harm's way by avoiding accidents. The equipment includes a quick-response rack and pinion steering system and four-wheel disc brakes tied to the anti-lock brake system (ABS) with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), electronic brake assist (EBA) and anti-skid devices via the electronic stability control (ESC) system and all-speed traction control (ASTC).

Measures for passive passenger safety in the cockpit extend to three-point front seatbelts with pretensioners and load-limiting retractors, backseat restraints with upper and lower anchors to mount a child's seat, and smart multi-stage air bags up front with seat-mounted side air bags.

Chrysler offers two different engines to propel the 200 through the three trim levels.

200 Convertible Touring the price-leader totes a 2.4-liter four-in-line plant with dual overhead cams (DOHC) and variable valve timing (VVT) to generate 173 hp at 6000 rpm plus torque of 166 lb-ft at 4400 rpm.

The four-pack plant connects to an intelligent six-speed electronic automatic, the 62TE.

This powertrain racks up fuel economy numbers of 18 miles per gallon (mpg) for city driving and 29 mpg for highway cruising.

200 Convertible's other trims -- Limited and S -- carry Chrysler's Pentastar DOHC 3.6-liter aluminum-block V6 engine mated to the 62TE six-speed electronic automatic with AutoStick shift-it-yourself manual mode.

The dual-cam six-pack delivers big power numbers -- 283 hp at 6400 rpm and 260 lb-ft of torque at 4400 rpm. Yet it still earns keen fuel economy numbers -- 19 mpg city and 29 mpg highway.

Chrysler 200 Convertible Touring rolls on 17-inch cast-aluminum wheels painted Sparkle Silver with 225/55R17 Michelin Primacy MXV4 Touring all-season tires. It stocks foglamps, a remote keyless entry system, air conditioning, power windows and door locks, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, premium cloth upholstery on seats and six-way power controls for the driver and front passenger seats, Sirius satellite radio and AM/FM/CD with six audio speakers.

Chrysler 200 Convertible Limited upgrades to 18-inch polished Satin Carbon aluminum wheels and 225/50R18 Goodyear Eagle LS-2 all-season tires, heated leather-trimmed seats, a remote starter, UConnect Bluetooth cell phone connection and a Media Center 430 CD/DVD/MP3/HDD.

Chrysler 200 Convertible S shows body color mirrors and door handles, a perforated leather steering wheel and premium leather covering seats with suede inserts, and Boston Acoustic speakers with a 276-watt CD/DVD/MP3/HDD.

Expect MSRP figures to reach from $26,460 to $31,780.

For more information on the 2012 Chrysler 200, click here