2016 Chrysler 200 combines value, sporty handling

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

With a starting retail price of about $23,000, the 2016 Chrysler 200 combines value with the power and sporty sounds that Detroit is known for.

The sedan also has Silicon Valley tech. New features for 2016 let drivers automatically route phone calls to voicemail and suppress text messages. Drivers can program a custom message to explain why they don't want to be disturbed.

They also can easily customize the car's touchscreen by moving app icons to the main menu bar.

Just don't expect Chrysler's 200 to give you the best fuel mileage or top reliability.

And, beware that prices for the 2016 200 rise to well over $30,000 as all-wheel drive, a sporty-sounding and powerful 295-horsepower V-6 and amenities are added in.

The starting manufacturer suggested retail price of $22,990, which includes the destination charge, makes the 200 one of the lowest-priced 2016 family sedans in the U.S.

That price doesn't include a rearview camera that's standard on every 2016 Toyota Camry or drive-select Eco mode that's standard on the base 2016 Kia Optima sedan. And it doesn't include a touchscreen or Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity, either.

What buyers of the base front-wheel drive 200 get is a capable 184-horsepower non-turbo four cylinder engine with a nine-speed automatic transmission and select amenities such as keyless entry, audio controls on the steering wheel and a sunglasses holder on the ceiling.

But the best federal government fuel economy ratings for the four-cylinder 200 are 23 mpg in city driving and 36 mpg on the highway, which are below those of major mid-size, non-hybrid, gasoline sedan competitors.

The 2016 200 with all-wheel drive has even lower fuel economy ratings — just 18 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on highways — because it comes only with the V-6. And Consumer Reports magazine says the reliability of new 200s is expected to be much worse than average.

Nevertheless, 2015 U.S. sales of the 200 — more than 177,000 cars —were 51 percent higher than the year before

Too bad the sales gain hasn't held up this year.

The test-driven model — a Chrysler 200S with all-wheel drive and built at the 200 assembly plant in suburban Detroit — had a pleasing exterior, but its exhaust note seemed overtly sporty. The 3.5-liter double overhead cam Pentastar V-6 engine could be heard almost constantly, and even in slight acceleration, the car seemed eager to perform.

Peak torque of 262 foot-pounds came on at 4,250 rpm, but the engine sounds made the thrust and power seem much more.

Passengers noticed shift points from the nine-speed automatic, which is the only transmission offered.

With power being sent to all four wheels, the sedan never lost traction, even on wet roads.

All-wheel drive, which doesn't require driver activation, was accompanied by Chrysler's all-wheel drive sport suspension, which gave a less-than-refined ride. And sensations of movement and vibration in the car's underpinnings seemed old school.

The car had optional 19-inch all-season tires, and passengers heard and felt some rougher road surface impacts. Its steering had good on-center feel and responded well.

The 200's 16 cubic feet of trunk space was bigger than expected and more than what's in the Camry.

Inside, though, the Camry has more front- and rear-seat legroom and rear-seat headroom.

The front seats of the test-driven 200 were vented and heated sport seats that were plump and had numerous seams on the cushions. That option costs an additional $995.

There is no gear shift lever. Instead, drivers turn a rotary dial to go from Park to the other gears. Unlike traditional shift levers, the rotary dial provides little tactile confirmation of the car going into gear.

Another problem: The shift dial is inches from a similar dial for controlling interior temperature, and it's easy to confuse the two without looking down and checking.

While the base price of a front-wheel drive 200 is low, all-wheel drive models have a starting retail price of $30,900.

The 2016 200 earned five out of five stars in U.S. government frontal and side crash tests.