Executive wheels: All-American AWD


I grew up in Michigan, and I really root for the classic American car companies. I want them to succeed, but I have to tell the truth, which is why I’ve rarely given American cars positive reviews in the last few decades.

So it heartens me that I can finally say something nice about an American car, the 2015 Chrysler 200S AWD. I recommend it for at least a test drive for people looking for a mid-size sedan. But I fear that most of the people I know would rather choose a Honda Accord, VW Passat, Toyota Camry or BMW 3 series.  Many Coloradans have a noticeable preference for import cars, and in spite of an effort by Chrysler to create an import aura, the Chrysler 200 is a decidedly classic American car.

It just drives differently – like a big American car. This is not the Chrysler 300 – a VERY big American car that I reviewed unfavorably – but it still harkens back more to a 1983 Chrysler Sebring than to a 2014 Toyota. The quality is up there with Toyota, but if you are someone who likes the feel of a real import, the Chrysler 200 is not for you.

Having said that, I think this Chrysler 200 is a great car for Colorado. It is, for one major thing, one of the only mid-size sedans – and the cheapest on the market – with All Wheel Drive (AWD), arguably the best safety feature of all.

The 200’s AWD kicks in only when you need it, and it dials down the extra grip to save on fuel when conditions are dry and smooth. Then it also sends power to the wheel wear the grip is needed in slippery conditions. It’s just exactly what you’d want for Colorado’s fickle conditions: the ability to have some gas mileage on the dry days and the safety of AWD when it rains or snows.

Here are some of the other features, with my comments:

  • The 200, like many cars this year in the Chrysler universe, features a 9-speed auto transmission, which they say helps with gas mileage.
  • The dial-in gear shifter, which, more or less, operates like the speed dial on a fan: turn the knob to “P” or “R” or “D,” etc. It does take up less space that a shifter that you pull into a place, I suppose, but to be honest I find it rather lame.
  • Absolutely wonderful storage bin in the console, with a slider that includes cup holders then reveals a deep storage area and hook-ups for electronics.
  • On this “S” model of the 200 they put on black wheels, with a sort of matte finish, an overall design element that matched the beautiful granite crystal metallic clear coat paint job. Very sporty.
  • Great heater – heat, air flow, heated seats, heated steering wheel. Access is all through the screen for heated seats/wheel but relatively easy. Heater is very easy push-button for temp, dial for fan speed. Mode – direction of air – is through the screen. A lot of reliance on the screen.
  • Can turn the screen off with the touch of a button, and then touch the screen to resume. Very easy. The screen is an 8.4” display, touchscreen.
  • Wonderful radio – AM/FM/SAT with large screen read-out, and excellent sound quality. From an upgrade package costing $1,495, this 200 had an HD radio, a 506-watt Alpine amplifier, and 9 speakers with a subwoofer. There is SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link.
  • Chrysler UConnect, which provides entertainment, phone, navigation, voice commands, WiFi, and connections to you smart phone for remote access and for connections with apps like Pandora, etc. One year subscription included.
  • Great rear-view camera – big picture with green/yellow/red lines that move.  
  • “S” logo on the seat backs in front seats – very cool on the leather-trimmed seats.
  • Lane departure and blind spot monitoring, my new favorites in safety equipment, and they work great on Chrysler cars.
  • Remote start from 200 feet – also worked from inside my house out to the car at the curb, saving me the hassle of warming the car up and having to do too much scrapping.
  • Made in a new, very high tech and advanced Michigan facility. Car comes with a 5-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty, transferrable, and includes towing to the nearest Chrysler dealer. Also a 3-year, 36,000 bumper-to-bumper warranty.

The Chrysler 200S is a very, very quiet car, also very comfortable, and it features a nice, large back seat that is quiet roomy for three passengers. There is also a large trunk – golf clubs fit sideways (a plus) and this car will carry a foursome.

But – there’s always a but – the Chrysler 200 drives like a big car, not a sporty import. It drives nicely but lumbers a bit.

You can get this car (a 200) with a 184 hp, 2.4-liter I4 engine, rated at 23/36 mpg, with a base price of about $21,700; pretty good all around. This S model features a 295 hp V-6 rated 18/29 in AWD. The base price is $28,695 for this S AWD, and that includes a lot of nice standards. My test-drive model carried some extras, including nearly a $1000 destination charge, and the bottom line was $34,065.

That’s a competitive price on a very nice car. But, as I said, anyone looking for an “import” won’t find much solace here.