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