I was never a fan of the old Chrysler 200. My first impression of the model (back when it was still called the Sebring) was a poor one, and it never managed to win me over. Even with many small improvements over the model's lifetime, the 200 always felt like the sort of car that was designed from the ground up as a cheap car with a few nice features, that it was destined to be a rental car.
Things are different with the new 2015 Chrysler 200C. The new model makes a great first impression with its slick, updated look. It continues to wow both drivers and passengers with a plethora of cool convenience features like available automatic parallel and perpendicular parking, while bringing to the table a healthy amount of well-thought-out dashboard tech.
The new 200's chassis is based on one from Alfa Romeo, but the American design reminds me of an enlarged variant of the Dodge Dart, another attractive Chrysler Group model that is also based on Italian underpinnings.
The new 200 is more curvaceous, and more care has been taken to aerodynamically shape the sedan's profile. The result is a more coupe-like silhouette that is, at the very least, 1,000 percent better looking than the doughy, outgoing model. The profile reminds me of the Volkswagen CC, and its curves evoke those of the Hyundai Elantra. Nonetheless, the elements work well together to create a cohesive and attractive design. As an indicator of the future of Chrysler vehicle design, the new 200 is pretty exciting.
Around back, standard LED tail lights wrap around the corners, and up front we have the new corporate face of the Chrysler brand. The wider, redesigned Chrysler wing badge floats over the honeycomb grille, which, in turn, flows into the integral headlamps with LED daytime running lights.
Better interior, better tech
In the cabin, the 200 sees a bump in interior materials and build quality that should elevate fully loaded examples above the previous model's "rental car" status. The dashboard materials and touch points feel significantly improved. "Premium" is the word that springs to mind to describe the cabin, but not "luxury." That may be fine at this mid-20s to low-30s price point.
The seats of our top tier model's are 8-way power adjustable seats are comfortable for cruising and longer trips, but lacked much lateral support when cornering. This is our first indicator that, despite its sporty looks, the 200C may not be a particularly sporty car, but we'll get back to that.
One of the most interesting changes for the 2015 model year is the change to a rotary E-Shifter for the transmission. This twistable knob -- similar to that of the Jaguar XF, but without the motorized drama -- was designed to free up space in the cabin. For starters, there's no shift lever to reach around, but the nonmechanical shifter also allowed the interior designers to create a device storage space below the floating center console with pass-throughs for connecting to the power and USB ports within.
In the center of the dashboard is Chrysler's 8-inch UConnect infotainment system, which will be available with the full compliment of app integration, Wi-Fi hotspot, and 3D navigation features. Ahead of the driver on 200 "C" models is a 7-inch LCD integrated between the analog gauges of the instrument cluster. We've enjoyed similar tech in the Chrysler 300 and the new Jeep Cherokee, and it's just as good here.
Interestingly, our 200C's 8.4-inch UConnect system lacked a CD player, instead doubling down on USB ports, Bluetooth features, and app integration. Some drivers may lament the lack of physical media, but I honestly didn't even notice the drive was missing until the last day of my testing.
Standout features include the excellent Garmin-powered navigation software that is both well-organized and features great voice input for destinations. I liked saving time by just blurting out the entire address -- like "navigate to fifty-ninety-eight Telegraph Avenue, Oakland, California" -- in one go.
The optional Alpine 10-speaker, 506-watt premium audio system is also noteworthy for its power. Clarity is good, but the bass is almost too powerful and pronounced. This is the only car stereo in recent memory where I've actually had to turn the bass down when listening to hip-hop or electronica. For fans of the bump and the boom, this could be a very good thing.
The dashboard tech improvements are good, but the 200's crowd-pleasing feature is its ability to automatically park itself. Like its distant cousin, the 2014 Jeep Cherokee, the new 200 is also available with a one-touch Active Park Assist system that can detect and steer the sedan into an available parallel or perpendicular parking spot.