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By BOB GRITZINGER | Contributing Editor
Car companies can’t live without a good midsize sedan offering, and Chrysler has been lacking one for a few years now. Enter the 200C, a true competitor in the segment. Like its compact Dodge Dart sibling, the 200 traces its roots the Fiat-developed Alfa Romeo Giulietta platform, which also underpins the current Jeep Cherokee. In the 200C, the platform is 8.4 inches longer and slightly wider in its wheelbase to provide the kind of interior space and trunk room needed to compete in the industry’s hardest-fought segment.
Our 200C AWD tester wasn’t just light-years ahead of the previous, long-in-the-tooth Chrysler 200 (which was itself a rebadged Chrysler Sebring)—it was in a completely different universe. In this case, the universe is one where midsize cars are elegantly and crisply styled, where interiors are inviting and warm, where chassis and powertrain work in concert to create an engaging and enjoyable driving experience. The 200C, like its rear-drive big brother the 300, is all of that.
In the 200C, you get all the goodies, starting with a powerful, rev-happy and righteously ripping 3.6-liter variable-valve-timing V6 engine, sending its 295-hp and 262-lb-ft of torque to an all-wheel-drive system via a nine-speed automatic transmission. Although we’re aware of complaints that the nine-speed gearbox can be balky and even hesitates on launch, we didn’t experience any problems.
What we did enjoy was Chrysler’s best mid-sizer in, well, decades.
The powertrain is part of the story, along with a stable and responsive chassis that holds the road while softening the rough patches. We also appreciated the 200’s amazing active cruise control and lane-keeping systems, which work together to not only match speed with vehicles ahead in the lane and brake down to a stop, but to actively steer the car to keep it properly in its lane. At this price point, this level of sophistication is stunning. For some, that might be more assistance than you might want, but for many it will feel like a reassuring helper on the wheel, brakes and accelerator.
Exterior styling is remarkable and more than competitive. Inside, we found none of the inferior materials and craftsmanship that have often hurt even the best Chrysler products. The premium package on our tester included beautiful light-colored real wood trim and bronze chrome accents, along with premium leather throughout. We’re not sure rotary electronic shifters will catch on, but in the Chrysler we thought the knurled rotary knob added a certain upscale feel (Jaguar anyone?).
The entry level Chrysler 200 starts at $22,695, but our 200C AWD carried a base sticker of $31,420 and topped out at $36,645 for our fully loaded model. But we’re happy to report that, this time around, the 200 is really worth it.
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