The New-Generation Town and Country Mini-Van
words and photos by Kevin C. Limjoco
It took longer than expected but finally the mid-size Dodge Avenger/Chrysler Sebring models have been laid to rest. The replacement is this joint new Chrysler/Fiat 200 model using a wider but slighter, shorter, scalable chassis (CUSW) — first used in the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, then Dodge Dart followed by the Jeep Cherokee, which is also supposed to be used in the other near future Chrysler, Jeep and Alfa Romeo models. The outgoing 200 was simply a rebadged Sebring and it was a very lackluster product best suited for rental duties.
The all-new 200 begins the new breed of Chrysler vehicles that can be an all-wheel-drive (besides the 300C which currently already has it) and diesel engines, and hopefully a full independent suspension for the new generation of Town & Country mini-vans .The 300C just went through a major upgrade but still using the old platform for its final run.
Unlike its predecessors, I was looking forward to test the 200C which has a sort of an alluring serpentine face, but also looks much like the previous model of Hyundai Sonata despite of its fairly sleek coupé-esque roofline that boasts a .27 cd drag coefficient. If it wasn’t for the integrated rear exhausts, the unique HID headlights with LED DRL and foglamps, and a 19×8 inch alloys shod with 235/40R19 96H Nexen CP671 tires, our 200C test unit could easily have been overlooked. The big draw for me was trying the energetic 295 bhp V6 with the new rotary dial controlled ZF 9-speed automatic gearbox. I knew the cabin would be comfortable, uniquely designed, and well appointed.
Our test unit did have the cracking 506-watt Alpine 10-speaker audio system, 8.4-inch Uconnect(TM) touch screen infotainment system, LED ambient interior lighting, “Fly-Through” center console, a wealth of safety equipment, and wrap-around wood trim. The instrument cluster with its 7-inch central information screen is a top-grade stuff. The interior is much better than its exterior but the door panels are not as well executed as the dashboard. The seats are very plush and comfortable, which could be best in class. The dimension size of 200C feels smaller than the Honda Accord. It feels heavy on its four corners and it is reluctant on being driven aggressively.
The 200C can be driven well, exponentially better than the car it replaces. However, in comparison to its target mid-size executive competition, it performs dynamically in the middle of the pack. The Mazda 6 will out handle and brake better, while the Honda Accord V6 and even the current Camry V6 will walk away from it, which is a pity considering the promise of the 9-speed gearbox and the potent powerplant. I was expecting to get the best performance numbers in its class.
The new 200C is a good car, just not a great one, and could be a bit frustrating. The new chassis is excellent. The steering wheel itself is nice but the feedback is dull and even odd at times with confused boosting. The brakes are sufficient but not powerful. The handling can be plush but when you run over on uneven surfaces, it gets a bit clumsy and even allows too much sharp shock back into the cabin on tarmac that you would barely feel in other cars. The suspension needs better calibration and would be even better with a proper adaptive setup. But keep in mind that the competition uses conventional systems that work fabulously.
The current outgoing 300S and 300C, with the same Pentastar V6 engine using the 8-speed automatic gearbox, still performs better even it weighs more giving up mostly to only a touch of fuel economy. There is certainly a lot of promise where there wasn’t in the past. So I guess that is still positive. Chrysler has a lot of work ahead of them in this most competitive segment. I am confident that the new Alfa Romeo car that will use this platform will address these issues. So I am still optimistic.
Chrysler 200C Specifications
Engine: V6, 3605 cc, dohc 24V, VVT, 9-speed AT
Max Power: 295 bhp @ 6350 rpm
Max Torque: 262 lb ft @ 4250 rpm
0-100 km/h (0-62 mph): 6.2 sec.
Top Speed: 200 km/h (125 mph) Governed
Fuel Mileage: 19 mpg City & 32 mpg Highway
Price as Tested: US$ 33,420.00
(+) Strong general performance, very comfortable seats, full featured
(–) Inconsistent handling, styling is an acquired taste, too few truly standout features
Rating: 9.3 / 10