Chrysler made a big splash earlier this year with their Imported from Detroit ad campaign.
Chrysler’s “Born of Fire” Super Bowl commercial featuring Eminem, registered 15 million views. Eminem drives a Chrysler 200 through the streets of Detroit, celebrating the resurgence of the Motor City. I had a Chrysler 200S for my driver this week and wanted to talk about it.

The 2012 Chrysler 200 is a mid sized sedan with seating for five adults, four comfortably. The 200 was a huge surprise for me. I never expected it to be as good as it was. Unlike its predecessor, the Sebring, the 200 feels like a car you can live with. The Sebring, while popular, always felt like a rent car to me, probably because of how many went to the rental fleets. The 200 is a work in progress for the company. Even though Chrysler hasn’t completely finished with the 200, it has been refreshed to a pretty high level.

One of the first big changes the company made was to the interior. The 200’s new interior is comfortable and great looking with an upscale hand stitched dash, 8 way power leather seats, automatic temperature control and tons more. It reminds you of the Chrysler 300’s award winning interior. Unlike some of the foreign competition, the 200’s gauges are easy to read and the controls placed logically. Chryslers NAV and audio system are the best on the market and they are now included in the 200. Their U Connect hands free system works well and I found that connecting your phone to the system is a breeze. It is one of the few systems that understands my southern accent. The system includes a 40GB hard drive to store photos to show on the 6.5 inch screen along with your favorite music. The 200’s low interior noise level allows the Boston Acoustics audio system to really shine.

The exterior of the 200 looks great. This car is a real head turner. The new front LED trim around the headlights are similar to the ones on the new 300. Everyone liked the blacked out grille and the tall decklid. I had several people stop and ask about the 200 I was driving. That doesn’t happen often with sedans under $30k.

What made this vehicle come to life is the addition of the 3.6 liter, 292 hp, Pentastar V6. This new engine gets about the same fuel economy as the outgoing 4 cylinder. Who wouldn’t want the big power? For 2012, the 200 comes standard with a six speed automatic transmission. On a 300 mile trip, I got 29 mpg, which included some spirited driving. EPA economy ratings are 19/29. When Chrysler upgrades to the new 8 speed transmission used on other models, performance and economy will get even better.

One of the negative things about my test 200s was the steering and handling seemed vague. Sure, it was comparable to a Camry or Accord, and that is ok. However, for the public to step up and really clamor to buy the 200, the handling and steering needs to better than ok. I know Chrysler is working as fast as they can, but I am impatient. Luckily, I hear that there is a new model in the works that will solve those issues.

My test 200S was rated a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The base MSRP was $26,980. A loaded Chrysler 200 can have an MSRP around $29k.

The 200 still needs a little work, but I think it is a good choice over the Accord or Camry. For one, it is a lot more fun to drive. Another reason to look at the 200 are the incentives you can get on them right now. I saw 0% financing or $3500 cash incentives. Military involvement get you get an extra $500 discount. (That is before you dicker with the dealer.)

The 2012 Chrysler 200 is too good a deal to pass up if you are in the market for this type of car. They also make it in a really nice convertible, and it is one of my favorites too. I gave the Chrysler 200s 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Mike Herzing