Review: 2015 Chrysler 200S AWD Gets Driven

2015 Chrysler 200 AWD

The new for 2015 Chrysler 200 debuted at January’s Detroit Auto Show as the first Chrysler-branded vehicle to debut since Fiat bought the brand a few years ago. Despite the heavy-handed, “Imported from Detroit” marketing message, however, there’s a lot of Italian heritage peeking through in this new Chrysler.

In the case of the Chrysler 200, that’s a good thing.

 

2015 Chrysler 200 | Look at It


The grille of the 2015 Chrysler 200 is a generic affair. That makes sense, since the car was originally designed to be sold by several different brands in different markets – Chrysler and Lancia, in this case – and it needed to carry both companies’ logos well. Despite that, the look is somehow both nondescript and pretty, with just the right amount of chrome.

Further back, the body of the new 2015 Chrysler 200 has sort of a marine-animal vibe to me. Which is to say that it’s a bit big in the middle- “well insulated”, maybe- but that the look and feel is indicative of the powerful animal residing underneath. In the case of a beluga, what you’re getting a sense of is a few thousand pounds’ worth of coiled muscle and sinew. In the Chrysler, what you’re getting a sense of is the flexible, 295 HP naturally-aspirated Multi-Air engine, 9 speed automatic transmission, and advanced, torque-biasing all-wheel drive system.

For those of you keeping track, that 295 HP rating means that the 2015 Chrysler 200 is putting out almost 100 HP more than the legendary Lancia Delta HF Integrales of the late 80s/early 90s. The benchmark of the Lancia brand, easily, and one of the most stories 4-door performance cars of the last generation – and it couldn’t touch the new Chrysler’s 36 MPG fuel economy rating. So, there’s that.

 

2015 Chrysler 200 | Get in + Drive It


The interior of the new 200 represents a quantum leap forward in terms of interior quality when compared the original Chrysler Sebring (which came to be called “200” in 2010), and a good bit better than the 2014 200 that the new car replaces. The hard plastics and cheap-feeling switchgear of “pre-Fiat” Chrysler are almost completely gone, and the instrument cluster glows a friendly, soothing blue, The soft, comfortable seats were especially inviting, and remained comfortable even after two hours spent in a particularly nasty Chicago traffic snarl.

If I’m being honest, the interior of the new Chrysler 200 (especially the S model I was driving) is almost too serene. That’s because- in sport mode with the traction controls off and the driver’s right foot and manual paddle flapping acting as the primary influences on the car’s character- the 200 is a for-real sporty sedan..

In sport, the car seems to switch from a relaxed, “fuzzy logic” sort of load demand throttle to a more direct, 1:1 between the engine and the driver’s foot. The 2015 Chrysler 200 positively screams forward- maybe not super fast, from an objective/stop-watchy point of view, but definitely super-fast in a seat-of-the-pants, “this is way worth the money” sort of way that somehow eludes more expensive cars.

From the driver’s seat, a 6-second 0-60 time seems conservative- and a switch to red LED illumination in sport mode, while gimmicky and stupid, would make the new 200 feel a few tenths faster, still.

The week I had the car was, as evidenced by the pictures, particularly wet and windy (even by Windy City standards). Even so, the Chrysler felt utterly planted, secure, and always willing to switch from wanna-be race car to serene, comfortable “Slow down – the baby’s in the car!” commuter with a turn of the 200’s “Rotary E-Shift” transmission knob. Which is cool.

 

2015 Chrysler 200 | Final Thoughts


Chrysler-200_35

When Fiat first acquired Chrysler and started talking about combining the Lancia and Chrysler brands’ product lines, I went nuts. As a lifelong fan of Lancias old and new, I wanted desperately for Fiat to bring a for-real Delta to the US, and had/have put off buying a new car until said thing actually happened. In that time, the Delta platform has been worked under the Dodge Dart and, indeed, under this new 2015 Chrysler 200, as well. Still, it’s not quite the same thing, you know?

Taking all that out of the equation and judging the 200 for what it is, though, is pretty difficult for me. I know too much, and- maybe- expected too much of the new 200. Maybe I liked it before I ever touched it, and it wasn’t that good. Maybe it wasn’t the first “real” Lancia you could buy new on US soil since 1982.

“Is this like, a normal Chrysler?” asked the wife, who came outside to check it out as it was being dropped off (a rare thing, as she’s pretty jaded when it comes to cars).

“Yeah,” I answered. “It’s the new one, but- I mean, anyone can go buy one.”

“I thought Chrysler’s were like, s***ty cars,” she said, getting into the passenger seat. “This is nice,” she said, as I turned it on. “This is really nice,” she continued, as the blue lights came on and illuminated the dash. “Wow. Are all Chryslers like this?”

“I don’t think so,” I said.

“That’s not good for them. This is really nice.”

“Would you buy one?” I asked her, as we are perpetually car-shopping, apparently.

She thought about it a while, before answering. “No. I mean, I would but this car- like, this exact car– but I wouldn’t want to tell people I bought a Chrysler. It’s not a good brand.”

Yikes.

Fiat-Chrysler definitely has a winner on its hands with the 200S, I think, but it’s going to have to do some work to get people to give the car a fair shake. That said, maybe it really should have been the new Lancia Flavia. If it were, I might have one on semi-permanent display in my garage by now.

 

Original content from Gas 2.

 

Jo Borrás

I've been in the auto industry 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the IM network. You can also find me on Twitter, at my Volvo fansite, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.