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2015 Chrysler 200: a midsize sedan that has the 'Wow' factor

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It was on display and engineers talked about it at the Houston Auto Show. It was prominent at the Chicago Auto Show. It was displayed at the Dallas Auto Show. 'IT' is the new Chrysler 200 and it is obviously not the 'old' 200. This is a new vehicle presentation and after several months wait, I was privileged to get behind the wheel. I was not disappointed.

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Chrysler Corporation invited a number of experienced automotive journalists to Louisville, Kentucky for a lengthy test-drive. I was privileged to be among the very first group. After short presentations by engineers and public relations personnel, we paired off and left on our day-long journey of about 250 miles. It took us along the Ohio River, down Interstate highways, but mostly along twisty and winding roads in the hills of rural Kentucky. Initial reaction was that this car is quiet and handles the road really well.

The Chrysler 200 is an 'old' name but the 2015 Chrysler 200 is 'new' for this year. It is replacing that 'old', smaller, somewhat-boring vehicle that was more accepted by fleet and rental companies than by the public at large. Before the 200 moniker, the vehicle was referred to as the Sebring. Chrysler Corporation is definitely trying to turn that around and it will not take a lot of effort to make that happen. I believe they have succeeded.

The 2015 model is slightly larger, roomier inside, and more attractive. It is part of a newly named 'D' segment of mid-size sedans. Mid-size sedans is the largest new vehicle segment in the United States. The Chrysler 200 is competing with the Nissan Altima, Mazda 6, Honda Accord, and Ford Fusion. Some might say it is at a disadvantage, but that is probably an opinion based on the previous lack-luster models. The all-new 2015 Chrysler is certainly more attractive, much quieter, has a lot of power, controls easily, and handles well.

This mid-size sedan category has mushroomed lately, but it exhibits more European styling and handling than American family car history. Approximately one out of six sales is a mid-size sedan in North America, and with this re-designed entry, the Chrysler 200 should capture a large portion of that market. The 2015 model is loaded with features, has great driving dynamics, and is very affordable. The entry-level MSRP is just $21,700.

The 2015 Chrysler 200 is the only mid-size sedan with a nine-speed automatic transmission that is standard equipment. It has a simple yet elegant coupe-like appearance with a few noticeable 'lines' that wrap around the exterior. With the new grille, headlamps, and daytime running lights, the 200 has a recognizable and distinctive look.

The design team actually were inspired by two classic American designs – Airstream travel trailers and Chris Craft boats. These present a strong, sculptural design that is timeless but elegant. The designers also utilized the Eames lounge chair, and the iPhone for inspiration, as was seen in the blend of hand-sculpted fluid shapes, materials formed wood, molded metal, and special features, Four key principles were used by the design team – make an emotional impact, high-quality materials, state-of-the-art technology, and clever storage.

There are two engine choices available. My first choice on the test-drive was the standard 2.4 liter Tigershark I-4. This Tigershark 4 cylinder replaces the previous 4-cylinder and provides 184 horsepower. Power was not even a issue and this will no-doubt meet the needs of most commuters and family purchasers. The V-6 is the engine of choice for those who prefer pushing the pedal-to-the-metal and although it is not a new engine, it has been tweaked from last year to bump up the horsepower to a 295 rating. The V-6 was my test-drive for the afternoon portion of the event, after having tested the 4-cylinder during the morning. The V-6 Pentastar engine has been a proven performer in many of the Chrysler Group vehicles.

The engines are not the big story, but the nine-speed automatic transmission is the news-maker. It is controlled using a rotary dial instead of a traditional styled shift lever. My initial reaction was reserved, but it is easy to use and grew on me during the ride. The shifting was timely and smooth with only a small exception between a couple of the gear changes.

The most striking part of the interior is the newly designed and innovative center console. It is a contemporary design, pleasant in appearance, and highly functional. The rotary gear shift is conveniently located so that is instantly reachable, but does not interfere with the operation of the other technology and features. The Premium interior package is found on the 200C model and includes Linen perforated Nappa leather seating, bronze accent stitching and piping, chrome accents, and open-pore wood trim.

The ride quality is comfortable and there is a good balance between comfort and responsiveness on sharp corners and turns. The electric-assist power steering is good and very precise, although not quite as smooth and fluid as was expected. The overall driving experience allows a feeling of enthusiasm in movement but with a sense of rigidity for emergency handling if necessary. The brakes had good response on all the models.

The standouts of the 2015 Chrysler 200 was the sophisticated and smooth styling, the all-wheel drive availability, the rotary dial and nine-speed transmission, and the wonderful interior design with all those storage spots. The trunk space was limited, however,

The base model is the LX with a starting MSRP of just $21,700. The Limited is expected to be the primary sales model and has a base MSRP of $23,255. The S model is much more sporty in looks and driving and starts at $24,495. The C model offer many more Creature Comforts and a wide array of premium amenities with a starting price of $25,995.

The first test-drive ride was a C model, front-wheel-drive, 4 cylinder, Vivid Blue Pearl Coat. With the Premium Group package and other extras such as heated & ventilated seats, the bottom price was $31,470. The second test-drive ride was an S model, All-Wheel-Drive, 6 cylinder, Black Clear Coat, black interior. The S model had some extra add-on's that set the bottom sticker price at $33,470.

The mid-size sedan D segment of vehicles may be highly competitive, but this new 2015 Chrysler 200 came ready to play. The vehicles have put on their newest game design and loaded down with all their power beverages and are ready to go. Check out the all-new 2015 Chrysler 200 to become a player yourself.

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