I preface my comments on the Chrysler 200 convertible by noting that I have a lot of experience with its predecessor, the Chrysler Sebring convertible. There was a trip from Ann Arbor to Sarasota, Florida, and back for Thanksgiving 1996. There was Boston to Provincetown, Fourth of July weekend 1998, with four of us squeezing in for the drive back to Logan. And there was a day trip, Fourth of July 1999, Ann Arbor to Saugatuck, over on Lake Michigan, with my friend Charley and a cooler of fried chicken, prepared to his southern grandmother’s recipe, in the back seat. All this is to say that I know what the Chrysler four-seat convertible is all about: It’s not a sports car and I don’t expect it to be one. It’s an entry-luxury, comfortable, capable, stylish American droptop, an accessible indulgence for someone of reasonable means.
The present 200 is an extensively reworked version of the former Sebring, a car developed under Chrysler’s former German owners, Daimler, and hence one that you might think would have a bit of German-engineering flavor under the surface. No such luck; the Sebring was at the bottom of the pile of mid-size car platforms. The reengineering work that has transformed the Sebring into the 200 can only do so much. So we have a convertible that suffers from vague, nonlinear steering; an overly sensitive throttle interface; and the ride quality that’s okay over smooth pavement but which goes to hell over rough roads. The car shudders and jiggles, not so particularly in the steering column or the cowl; it’s just that the whole body flexes. This is not unexpected, as the 200 has a very large roof opening.
There’s plenty of power from the 3.6-liter V-6, but accessing it through this six-speed transmission is no fun at all. There’s an excessive amount of pedal travel, then a long pause before the V-6 kicks down and delivers the goods. There’s huge torque steer. The 200 pulls to the right anytime you accelerate hard — pulls all over the place, in fact. If you’re going straight down the road without accelerating hard, the car tracks reasonably well, but as soon as you dip hard into the throttle, all bets are off.
The 200 convertible is, in my opinion, quite unattractive when its optional power steel roof is up. I find it much better looking with the roof down.
The interior is not bad. Our test car had black leather seats with gray French stitching; nice. Yeah, some of the dashboard materials could be better, but I’m not complaining on that front. There’s some soft-touch material on the doors. So, you know, this cabin is pretty much okay.
The driver’s seat is good but the side bolsters on the seat bottom are too soft.
The 200 gets a lot of looks. People are aware of it.
The saving grace of the 200 convertible, not to overstate the obvious, is that the top goes down. Cargo room is still decent when the metal top is stowed, but I’d rather have the fabric roof. The other big positive is the great stereo.
Our test car had 1029 miles on its odometer, and its trip computer indicated that it had been averaging 18.8 mpg. I would expect a car like this to get more than 20 mpg.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
In creating the 200 from the Sebring, Chrysler engineers performed Cinderella-esque magic. The monumental transformation left us with a car that masks its humble roots behind an upscale fascia, powerful V-6, and impressive ride. It’s still a long way from challenging the class leaders, but it’s also not a rolling punch line, either, and that’s about the best you can ask for without a clean-sheet redesign. Without reservation, you can say that the 200 is tastefully designed, comfortable, and well mannered.
I’m significantly less impressed with the droptop 200. While the convertible received the same comprehensive makeover that the sedan did, the Chrysler engineers couldn’t cover up the structural shortcomings that came with cutting off the roof. While the sedan rides nearly as well as a Ford Fusion or a Toyota Camry, the convertible shudders so much that you tense at the site of patchwork pavement. The 200 also suffers from horrendous torque steer, but the actual sensation of the wheel jerking in your hands is masked in the rack and power-assist hardware. The net effect is a car that wants to drive somewhere other than your intended path without giving any tactile warning to the driver.
There’s not much in the way of direct competition for the 200. But between the Volkswagen Eos and sportier convertibles like the Ford Mustang and the Chevrolet Camaro, there are choices for those who want an affordable, four-seat, open-air car.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
The rain was coming down in buckets on the day I signed out the Chrysler 200 convertible, so the hard top remained firmly in place the whole time the car was in my hands. On the plus side, I can report that the top did a stellar job of keeping out the elements and is well-insulated from road and tire noise. On the other hand, although the front and rear fascias of the Chrysler 200 are a definite improvement over the previous Sebring, the roofline of the convertible is quite awkward-looking. (To be fair, most cars with retractable hard tops suffer the same fate.)
The 200’s V-6 produces an ample 283 horsepower, a marked improvement over the Sebring’s 235-hp V-6. Even with the extra power, however, there’s nothing exceptional about driving the 200. “Perfectly adequate” is probably the best descriptor. Still, the interior is well put together, with legible instruments and comfortable, leather-trimmed seats. There’s enough room in the back for two adults (at least for shorter trips), and the cargo space with the top up is 13.1 cubic feet, which is right in the ballpark compared with most mid-size sedans. With the top down, cargo capacity shrinks to 6.6 cubic feet, but again, that compares pretty well with its competitors. Now that’s a statement we rarely – if ever – made about the Sebring.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
The Chrysler 200 has gotten a bad rap thanks to its Sebring predecessor. The Sebring was panned as the worst automotive offering on the market, uncompetitive, and a symbol of everything that was wrong with Chrysler. The 200 is leaps and bounds above what the old Sebring was, but, sadly, that’s not saying much. The car still shimmies and shakes more than a dancer at the Copa Cabana and an interior well below its peers in the midsize class.
However, keep in mind that the 200 convertible has no real direct competitor — while costing about the same (around $35,000), the Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang Convertibles are both rear-wheel drive, cloth-topped, and more sporting. The Volkswagen Eos is really the closest rival, and when similarly equipped cost about $4000 more than the 200. Gone is the 200 convertible’s nearest rival, the Toyota Solara.
The 200 convertible does stand out as the gold standard of any car in one area — Bluetooth system clarity. In most cars, the caller on the other end can tell that you are in a car due to road and wind noise (and the fact that your face isn’t right next to the microphone). I asked numerous people if they could hear me alright, and two of them asked if I was even in the car; I was travelling about 80 mph on the highway, top down. On the receiving end, the sound quality is crystal clear thanks to the optional Boston Acoustics sound system that is well worth the additional $475.
Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor
After reading Donny’s assertion that the 200 has no real competitors, I’m tempted to say the lack of competition is the only reason this car is on the market.
Convertibles usually seem like a fun idea, but rarely deliver a favorable driving experience unless the weather is perfect, the top is down, and there’s a lot of interesting scenery to take in on the drive — or if you happen to be tooling along at idle speed in a parade. As someone who enjoys driving, I have little interest in convertibles unless we’re talking about a sporty roadster that can still deliver the experience a driver wants, such as a Porsche Boxster.
Still, the 200 Convertible has an important role to fill as the token convertible in the rental fleet at sunny vacation destinations. I imagine it’s much more economical to rent out 200s to people looking for top-down driving than any Mustang, Camaro, or Eos.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
Not all Mopar makeovers are created equal. Although Chrysler’s engineers and designers have managed to completely change the character and content of most of its lineup while working on a shoestring budget, the 200, at least in convertible form, doesn’t feel markedly different than its predecessor.
But it is, at the very least, a mild improvement — and if you enjoyed the previous Sebring convertible in the past, Chrysler’s upgrades for 2011 will likely be appreciated. The nose and tail restyling brings an air of elegance previously absent on the car, and the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 is a perky, powerful engine. It’s a refreshing upgrade over the aging 3.5-liter V-6 previously found in this product line.
Inside, the rounded instrument panel is a mild departure from the blocky forms used elsewhere in the Sebring’s cabin. I’d have liked to have seen a little more upscale materials, but I’m told Chrysler saves those (notably suede for the arm rest; perforated leather for the steering wheel, etc.) for the new 200S trim, which now stands at the top of the ladder.
Do these revisions allow the 200 to stand at the top of its class? Hardly. Then again, it hardly has a class — as my colleagues note, there isn’t really a true competitor for the 200 convertible, seeing as drop-top models with similar price tags are decidedly more performance-oriented, while those with similar intentions (i.e. luxury cruisers) usually cost thousands more. Until Chrysler can orchestrate a more extensive overhaul, content and pricing may once again be the main factor luring people behind the wheel.
Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor
2011 Chrysler 200 Limited Convertible
Base price (with destination): $31,990
Price as tested: $34,855
3.6-liter 24-valve V-6 engine
6-speed automatic transmission
4-wheel disc brakes with ABS
Tire pressure monitoring system
Electronic stability control
Keyless entry with remote engine start
Uconnect voice command with Bluetooth
Bluetooth streaming audio
Auto-dimming rearview mirror
Air conditioning with automatic climate control
Leather-trimmed bucket seats
Heated front seats
6.5-inch touch screen display
30 GB hard drive with 6700-song capacity
Sirius satellite radio
Audio jack input for mobile devices
Leather-wrapped steering wheel
Tilt/telescoping steering column
LED daytime running lights
18-inch aluminum wheels
Options on this vehicle:
Bright silver hard top — $1995
276-watt Boston Acoustics speakers — $475
Media center 430N CD/DVD/MP3/HDD/Nav — $395
30 GB hard drive with 4250 song capacity
Garmin navigation system
Key options not on vehicle:
Media center 730N — $895
S trim package — $500
19 / 29 / 22 mpg
3.6L 24-valve V-6
Horsepower: 283 hp @ 6400 rpm
Torque: 260 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm
Curb weight: 3389 lb
Wheels/tires: 18 x 7.0-inch alloy wheels
225/50R18 all-season tires