Buzz on/Buzz off: A 2015 Chrysler 200 first drive dialog

2015 Chrysler 200S AWD

2015 Chrysler 200S AWD

Buzzard-in-Chief John Matras and Buzzardette BJ Killeen have an email conversation about the new Chrysler 200.

JM: When we saw the Chrysler 200 intro at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, we were ready to jump in and drive it off the stage. You called it “smoking hot,” BJ Killeen. Well, we’ve had a chance to drive it. What was the first thing you noticed driving it out in the wild?

BJK: While there were a variety of trim levels to choose from, I hopped in the S model with the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine that boasts power of 295 and 262 lb-ft of torque. So, obviously, what I noticed first was the impressive acceleration from the Chrysler Pentastar V6 engine. Chrysler claims that’s a best-in-class rating, which is saying a lot when you look at the competition, including the top-selling Toyota Camry and Honda Accord sedans, the Ford Fusion, Nissan Altima, Hyundai Sonata, Chevrolet Malibu, Kia Optima, and more. What did you notice first, John?

JM: You must have gotten into the car without looking at it, BJ. I saw what we did in Detroit: a sharp-looking car that Chrysler no doubt hopes will make you forget the Chrysler 200 nee Sebring that came before. Just as an aside, did you know that the Chrysler 200/Sebring had been the number-one-selling convertible in the U.S., even ahead of the all-too-obvious—but you’d be wrong—Mazda Miata? Bet you didn’t!

2015 Chrysler 200S AWD

The 2015 Chrysler 200S AWD has a full load of button on the front and on the back of the steering wheel spokes. (click to enlarge)

While its predecessor despite a refresh was still both clunky and perched high above its wheels, the new 2015 Chrysler 200 is lean and low and up-to-date with its competitors. You mentioned the Ford Fusion. Funny you should, because from certain angles, and particularly in profile, the 200 looks a lot like the Fusion, with the same curve to its coupe-like roofline, and the same kink in the C-pillar where it meets the back of the rear side window.

But what about the front, BJ; what they’re calling the “new face of Chrysler”? How do you think it stacks up against the Fusion’s grille?

BJK: I was all set to talk about the exterior, but you said what did I notice driving it? (Never mess with a copy editor!) I think the designers did a great job making the 200’s redesign relevant. I agree that from the rear three quarter angle it looks almost identical to the Fusion, which can be both good and bad. Good, because it’s a great design, but bad because the Ford designers might be saying this is a copy, not an original. I like the new face of this sedan. It’s elegant, clean, and fits the rest of the exterior design treatment. I especially like the floating winged badge in the center. On the 200, I’m sure you noticed that different trim levels have different facial features. The Limited and C trims get the extra chrome detail that outlines the upper and lower sections and wraps around the lights. I think that adds distinctiveness to help make the vehicle identifiable. On the S model, the chrome is replaced by blackout pieces to look sportier, but I feel it loses the uniqueness of that front end. I do like the LED light accents around the headlamps, however. As far as comparing it to the Fusion grille, its more Euro styling for the face works for that body. I like them both. What’s your take on the rear design?

2015 Chrysler 200S center stack

The 2015 Chrysler 200S has a twist-knob shifter and easy to operate audio and ventilation controls. (click to enlarge)

JM: Oh, yeah, I did say that. Well, nevermind. But the rear design…I hadn’t really thought about it. It’s not terribly distinctive, but looking at it as a critic, it makes me think Aston Martin, with the ducktail raised in the middle. The badge similarities between Chrysler and Aston don’t hurt, either. The taillights echo the headlight cluster and grille treatment. It’s good. I’d like to see those taillights after dark, however.

I think Chrysler’s designers did an outstanding job on the interior. I like the chrome trim borders around the various dash elements. It makes everything look tidy and well organized, which I’m not, so everything helps.

The Chrysler 200 also has adopted the shift knob. Is that what we call it now that the shift lever, even for automatic transmissions, is going away? Anyway, not having to accommodate a big stick used just to make electrical contacts done just as easily by the knob saves a lot of real estate.

BJK: I agree on the interior. I think it’s time all manufacturers got away from the shift stalks and console shifters and went with either the rotary or the pushbutton setup like the new Lincolns are showing. It truly frees up room that can be used for more practical features, such as the sliding cupholder, which is really unique and smart. I understand the use of natural wood on the dash, and commend Chrysler for making it real and not simulated, but I’m not sure I like the wood they selected. It almost looks fake, like the woodgrain trim we used to have on the exterior of our 1969 Ford Country Squire LTD station wagon. Personally, I prefer the monochromatic interior.

2015 Chrysler 200S center console

The twist know shifter on the 2015 Chrysler 200 leaves room for added center console features, including a bin for an audio device with USB or AUX plugs. (click to enlarge)

What really impressed me was the sound quality inside, meaning the cabin’s extensive sound deadening. It was quiet going down the road at speed, with little wind whistle and low tire noise coming off the road. That means I don’t have to crank up the audio system to drown out the noises. (Who am I kidding? I crank up the audio no matter what!) And it makes it less tiring on a long road trip.

JM: My only real complaint about the interior is the back seat. Not the shape or cushion of the seat, or the leg, elbow or head room. It was getting in and out. Not that the owner, who seldom rides in the back, will notice, but I’d recommend keeping a first-aid kit for first-time passengers who invariably will bonk their craniums on the edge of the coupe-like roofline when getting in. It’s not an example of form following function