This is one car you can't help but feel sorry for.
The Chrysler 200S is a car that breeds a sort of morbid curiosity. When you see one on the road your mind instantly starts imagining how bad it must be to drive. Then you imagine yourself driving it and start to wonder just how much you’d hate being behind the wheel. No, you’ve never done that? Hmm...it must have just been me. Anyway, it was this masochistic motivation that made me want to drive the 200S, a car quietly awaiting the executioner’s ax to fall and remove it from Chrysler’s lineup.
Sorry if that sounded dramatic. It’s just tough to get excited when talking about the 200S. But after a week with the car, the best complement I can pay the sedan is that I didn’t hate it. In fact, I kind of felt sorry for it. The 200S isn’t exactly a bad car. It’s just a dated one, both in its look and design. It’s almost as if Chrysler purposely shied away from modernizing the 200 because it thought its customers feared the future. That’s the only scenario that makes sense to me. This juxtaposition between new and old is everywhere but is most noticeable in the cabin. There’s a color 8.4-inch touchscreen—part of the $1,495 Navigation and Sound Group I package—but the buttons below it are massive and made of cheap plastic.
The front sport seats were damn comfortable and were both heated and ventilated (a $995 option). But they are gigantic and don't look at all sporty. Also, the steering wheel is comically large. For some reason I imagine the word “Big” written on the whiteboard where the 200’s design team met. OK, I’ll stop pummeling the 200S because there were some things I liked about it. For starters, the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 was surprisingly awesome. You really feel the full 295 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque whether you are coming off the line at a light or if you needed to pass someone. I really, really liked driving the 2016 Mazda6, but its NA 2.5-liter four-cylinder just didn’t provide the giddy-up I sometimes wanted and needed.
But with the 200 the good always comes with compromise. While the Mazda’s SkyActiv mills may lack power they are at least cutting-edge. Meanwhile Chrysler doesn’t even offer direct injection on any of its engine options for the 200. There is a nine-speed auto that promises an mpg split of 18/29/22; the best mileage I recorded was 22 mpg on the highway. Despite the underwhelming mpgs I did find the V6 to be the 200's strongest feature. Another thing the car has going for it is all-wheel drive. This gives the Chrysler an edge over the majority of the competition, both Japanese and American. And as much as I hated the look of the oversized seats, they certainly were comfy.
Also, in the spirit of being nice, I’ll admit that I don’t totally hate the way the 200 looks, although I did find it to be a bit too bloated at 3,800 pounds. It was reminiscent of an orca whale. But I, like many people, think that orca whales are pretty. The roofline’s sharp taper at the rear severely cuts into the headroom available to passengers in the back but it does give the car a much-needed modern edge. Glass half full, right? The dual exhaust in the back was another nice touch. I’m usually not a big fan of optional wheels, but the 2016 200S needs all the help it can get. So go ahead and option the 19-inch aluminum wheels in hyper black. The $795 will be money well-spent.
Speaking of spending money, this car can get pretty pricey, pretty quickly. My tester based at $29,545 and with options it shot all the way up to $35,315. More than a few entry-level Japanese mid-size sedans eclipse that price which makes it not so outrageous. Still, that’s a lot of money for a car that will leave you wanting more. It's a bit odd to see the 200 so neglected as Chrysler actually makes two decent cars in the 300 and the new Pacifica. These cars appeal to actual consumers, not just rental car companies. It’s obviously far too late for Chrysler to correct its course with the 200. It’s cold consolation for a car on its way out, but for what it’s worth the 2016 200S isn’t nearly as bad as we thought it’d be.