This is not the Chrysler 200 you rented at the airport

By Roy J. Eaton | Published Saturday, August 16, 2014

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The name may be the same, but to paraphrase an old song – “What a difference a year makes.”

The 2015 Chrysler 200 mid-sized sedan is all new this year and is now a competent competitor to such long-valued brands as the Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Malibu, Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.

Powerful Mid Size

POWERFUL MID-SIZE – With its 295-horsepower V-6 engine, this “top of the line” Chrysler 200C drives like a bigger car and stands a cut above most other mid-size sedans. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

“It would have been better if Chrysler had changed the name, because the car is so much different in every way,” said Don Sandhop, sales manager at Klement Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram in Decatur, who loaned me the car for a few days.

If you’ve been handed the keys to a previous generation Chrysler 200 from an airport rental counter as I have in the past, you might not have the car on your shopping list for a new mid-sized sedan.

The test car was a “top of the line” Chrysler 200C complete with leather seats, a navigation system and a 3.8 liter V-6 engine. The “window sticker” price was $30,295 – which puts it in the same league as the Ford Fusion Titanium and the Chevrolet Malibu 2LTZ.

The big difference is the 295 horsepower V-6 engine, which neither Chevrolet or Ford offer in their midi-sized sedans. The standard engine in the 200 is a 2.4 liter four-cylinder engine, comparable to the base Ford and Chevrolet power plants.

The new Chrysler 200 drives and rides like a much bigger car. It soaked up the bumps and construction ridges on U.S. 81/287 in style and virtual silence.

Earlier this year the Messenger bought a 2014 Chevrolet Malibu with a lower trim level than the 200, and while both cars proved excellent in back-to-back drives, the 200 is definitely a step ahead of the Malibu in interior space, features and performance.

The Messenger also owns a 2013 Dodge Dart – a class below the 200 – and while the Dart is nice for how we use it, it is not in the same league as the 200 or the Malibu.

The tan leather interior on the 200 we drove matched perfectly with the silver exterior color and the quality of the leather was comparable to any vehicle I’ve driven in recent years.

The Chrysler 200 recently received a five-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the car is filled with life-saving air bags and seat belts.

Styling is one man’s opinion – but I think the new 200 is beautiful and much more modern than its mid-sized competitors, and even its up-scale stablemate, the Chrysler 300.

The 200’s platform is an enlarged version of the one used on the Jeep Cherokee and Dodge Dart and gives it a quieter more refined ride quality.

The standard engine in the 200 is a 184-horsepower four-cylinder that is comparable to the base engine in the Malibu and Focus. The $1,950 optional V-6 in our test car is among the most powerful engines in the mid-sized sedan class, although Ford comes close with its 2.0 liter Eco Boost four-cylinder that is standard in the Titanium Fusion.

The driver’s controls are easy to use and I quickly got accustomed to the transmission shift “knob” on the console. The push-button starting was a snap and Chrysler has always been lauded for the quality of its audio/navigation system. The sound quality of the satellite radio was excellent.

To slim down the $30,395 MSRP on the 200C that we drove, there are three other versions of the new 200 – the base LX, Limited, S and the C. Even on the base model the car features keyless ignition, air conditioning and cruise control.

The keyless ignition is a feature not found on our Malibu, but the recent controversy over ignition keys makes me think that keyless ignition will soon be standard on every new car. It’s already standard on the 2015 Chevrolet Suburban that I am driving.

The option list on the new 200 is long and even includes a blind spot warning system and on the “C” models it’s part of a Safety Tec package which also includes lane departure warning and a forward collision warning system that can automatically slam on the brakes to avoid an impending collision.

When its time to replace your mid-sized sedan, don’t automatically cross off the Chrysler 200 just because the one you rented at the airport wasn’t so swift. Put the 2015 model on your shopping list – it’s a completely different car and now fully competitive with the other mid-sized sedans on the market.

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