By on February 4, 2014

200-5

I was shivering, I think, because I was low on blood. Ten days of internal bleeding, of cauterization, of six vials a day donated to the unworthy cause of redundant testing, of the dark brown surge through the catheter, of the bright red bloom in the water of the toilet bowl. Your blood keeps you warm. You don’t realize it, but it does. Low on blood, low on heat, shivering in my shearling and cashmere Gimo’s coat, backing my walker towards the open door of my rental.

There was an ugly whirr from the starter. A prehistoric noise, one that reminded me of the M-body Gran Fury my boss owned when I worked at a two-screen theater in 1989. The kind of scrape-and-moan that has long since been banished from modern cars. And it didn’t catch. A new car, in the Year Of Our Lord 2014, that doesn’t start. But when it did catch, on the second crank, the temperature display showed a nice round zero. Zero degrees. I can forgive that. I can forgive being a bit hesitant to start after days on the rental lot, at a temperature not so far above that at which Ketel One freezes.

“You and me, little guy,” I said, patting the soft-touch dash, “we have some work to do, so let’s get going.” And we did.

200-2
I didn’t want to return to driving. Not for a long time. I had it in mind that I would wait until spring, perhaps. At the very least, I’d wait until the bones stopped grinding in a way that I could hear and feel in my teeth, until I was healed up enough to survive an unlucky second crash, should one arrive. But the rest of the world wasn’t inclined to work at my schedule. I had doctors who insisted that I drive thirty miles to see them, an employer whose actions regarding my crash and the resulting downtime oscillated between simply bizarre and definitely threatening, and a lonely friend suffering in a hospital on the other side of the city. It was time to drive.

200-3

What can I tell you about my Chrysler 200? Well, it was a configuration that I can’t make on the Chrysler site, even when I select model year 2013. Four cylinder. Four-speed auto, but much better-behaved than the one in the Avenger SE I tested last year. No automatic headlights. Cloth seats. Oddly bling-tastic wheels. It was clearly some sort of leftover-parts special tossed to the rental fleet. You couldn’t buy a retail 200 this poorly equipped in 2013, and the 2014 transition models appear to either be V6es or loaded fours. Easier to list what the car has than what it doesn’t have: windows, locks, cruise, CD player, A/C. At a dealer, if you found it new, after the incentives, maybe seventeen grand. At an Enterprise Used Car lot for $13,999, more or less. They say the price is no-haggle. I’d haggle, I think.

200-4

For two weeks the 200 and I trundled down unplowed roads, through low-visibility snowfall, into crowded parking garages dripping with dirty snow that melted into brown stalagmites to catch a walker or stall a wheelchair. The Eagle LS tires weren’t comfortable at the sub-sub-freezing temperatures and the nose would occasionally slide without warning on the freeway. Not a problem; my son was safe at home and the passenger seat stayed empty. If the Chrysler never gripped with authority, it was also harmless in the way it let go of the road, just continuing along in the same direction until some trustworthy surface appeared beneath its paws.

I have yet to get out of the driver’s seat without significant pain, but I’ll call that an effect of the three cracked lumbar vertebrae. The Avenger’s seat, when I put hundreds of miles on it in a day, was fine, and the seat in the 200 is nominally better, featuring some adjustable support. The interior fabric showed no appreciable wear after 24,000 uncaring miles in random hands. The dashboard, too, looked brand-new. When they did the interior refresh on these cars, they didn’t skimp. Five years from now, these ex-rental cars will impress people with how they’re lasting.

The “World Engine” four-cylinder, on the other hand, is simply depressing. I’m tempted to write a children’s book about it, calling it “The Little Engine That Doesn’t Want To”:

Chug, chug!
Is that a tractor?
Is that a tow truck?
Is that a Tempo?
It’s the World Engine!
Listen to it mooooooaaaaannnn on the hills!
Feel it vibrate at the stoplight!
Chug, chug, World Engine!
You’re so sad and lonely!
Waiting for the red light
We hear you chug, chug!

In the winter, the 2.4 is supremely reluctant to do anything and it shakes the 200 lightly at rest while idling in a most unsteady fashion. To paraphrase Douglas Adams, it sucks in precisely the same way that the Pentastar does not. Earlier this year, I had the chance to drive a V6-powered 200 across Ohio, and it was a genuine pleasure in most respects. But the World Engine? Chug, chug!

200-1

Last week, I added an occasional passenger to my trips. She requires a wheelchair, for the same reason I’m leaning on a cane, and we keep her in the back seat for safety’s sake. Nontrivial bravery, to get in a car with someone knowing that you’ve done it before and ended the day taking an eighteen thousand dollar helicopter ride to an emergency CT scan. “What’s it like back there?” I asked.

“Not great… but not terrible, either. The armrest is good.” So, a 5’8″ woman can sit behind a 6’2″ man in this thing. The rap on this generation of Chrysler midsizers has always been that the back seat room is below-par. That’s true if you’re coming from a Camry or Accord, but when you compare it to, say, any of the other sub-twenty-thousand-dollar sedans, the 200 makes a solid case for itself. And there’s room in the trunk for a wheelchair.

Every once in a while, you come up against the fact that this is fundamentally a generation older than the competition. Somehow, today, I locked the keys in the 200 while it was running. However, the trunk was open because I was about to load a wheelchair into said trunk. No problem, right? Just pull the handle in the trunk and drop the rear seat. Except for the fact that the Chrysler doesn’t have those handles, because they weren’t yet popular when the Sebring was released. The solution: use my cane to bash the center pass-through open. Climb into trunk, banging all fractured bones in the course of doing so. Reach through center pass-through, grab fabric loop that releases fold-down seat, unlock rear door, climb back out of trunk, take all remaining Tylenol in the bottle, take a nap, make note not to tell TTAC readers about stupid adventure.

What’s it like at full pace, on a racetrack, at the limit of the tires? I couldn’t tell you. I haven’t exceeded seventy-three miles per hour in the 200. It’s been a lot of poking around in bad weather at low speeds. A lot of drab commutes with the surprisingly excellent heater battling the polar-vortex cold. A fair amount of chug-chug idling in phamarcy drive-thrus.

Under these conditions, the Chrysler has shown virtue. The controls are simple and easy to use. The stereo is weak but clear. Road noise is about what you’d expect from a Camry. As previously noted, the interior materials are definitely up to par, even if they are applied to an interior that is narrower and less exciting than what you’d find in the competition. If the 200 fails to excite, it also fails to annoy or disappoint at the price.

No, it can’t hold its own against a modern Camcord or Sonatoptima. But it isn’t priced against them. It’s priced against Corollas and Civics and Fortes. Hell, I’m pretty sure you can get a run-out 2014 V6 model for twenty grand. That’s not a bad idea, really. It’s more car than the compacts offer and if you are price-conscious it is worth considering.

A week from Thursday I’ll turn this car in and go buy something for myself. That will mark four rental weeks together. Viewed in the context of many of my short-term relationships, it’s been better than most. Frill-free but faithful and fit for purpose, the 200 has been reliable enough, capable enough. Good enough. It’s tempting in this business sometimes to forget that ninety percent of buyers simply want good enough. The new 200 will have more of what people want and none of that awkward turtletop Sebring legacy hanging over its head. But if you want good enough, right now, this will do.

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110 Comments on “A Long Last Dance With The Chrysler 200...”


  • avatar

    My only problem with the Chrysler 200 was the ugly roofline leftover from the Sebring – completely averted in the 200 Convertible.

    To a lesser extent, I was disappointed it didn’t get Uconnect touch and was stuck with MYGIG – which should have been thrown in STANDARD considering it was an obsolete Nav/infotainment.

    Other than that, The Chrysler 200 is a very good looking car. I see many of them on my daily commute and the few owners I’ve talked to LOVE them.

    The only one owner I ever talked to who felt he had a problem didn’t realize that the FWD 200 with a Pentastar V6 was a torque steer monster.

    No FWD car should have a V6. Any FWD car with a V6 should have AWD. PERIOD.

    As for the new 200, I’m in love. Everything I liked about the VW CC’s looks, in a car I can actually sit comfortably inside.

    The new Chrysler products are, intelligently modular.

    You want Uconnect 8.4n??? You’ve got it!!! In everything from the Ghibli on down to the Cherokee on down to the Dart. It is by far the best infotainment on the market – FAR SUPERIOR to the German $100,000 car’s in functionality with smartphones – and far easier to use. The touchscreen makes entering an address a 10 second affair and it’s FASTER than C.U.E./ Sync.

    9 speed transmission??? NO PROBLEM!

    Pentastar V6? Oh – Hyundai, Toyota and Honda aren’t giving it to ya? YOU GOT IT!

    AWD??? NO PROBLEM!!!

    Chrysler products at this point are a bunch of components that add up to more than the sum of their parts. I was wrong about the Cherokee “being ugly”. The looks grew on me. I see them everywhere now. The 200 is gonna sell like hotcakes.

    THE ONE THING THAT GRINDS MY GEARS is that the Dodge Magnum and Chrysler Pacifica didn’t live long enough to benefit from the new engines, new transmissions and new infotainment.

    If there was a way I could get a Magnum based on the current Charger with AWD, launch control, 8-speed and a 6.4-Liter – I’d have THREE CARS. The Magnum could have been the largest, most affordable, most powerful wagon – far upstaging the ridiculously more costly German’s.

    I know people (and a family member) who still have their Pacifica and love it. Imagine a Pacifica with the 9 speed and Pentastar.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      You have Asperger Syndrome – don’t you?

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      A couple of comments…

      – The biggest problem with the 200 and Avenger is suspension and steering refinement. The ride is bouncy, the noise is loud, and there’s no body motion control.

      – It’s perfectly possible for a V6 FWD car to be tractable and have only mild torque steer. Drive any V6 Honda or HiPer Buick.

      – Maybe I was missing something, but my last experience with uConnect was in a Ram 1500 rental. I could not figure out after days of trying how to get the radio not to turn on at startup. By the end I was shouting aloud to myself every time I got in: “I DON’T WANT THE @#*&%ING RADIO ON! SHUT THE @*&%* UP!” The radio was off every time I turned off the truck, and on every time I started it.

      • 0 avatar

        If you shout at it- it will troll you in spite!

      • 0 avatar
        05lgt

        That’s nothing. My neighbor has a new Grand Cherokee and if you stop the car while it’s bluetoothing Pandora, it starts back up to his phones ringtone library. I especially enjoyed the cat yowling. Very confusing and … alarming.

      • 0 avatar
        rialknight

        This is not true, the best thing about the 200 and Avenger is suspension and steering refinement. The ride is smooth, there’s no road noise and both cars have good body motion control.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          I think you must have driven a Fusion and thought it was a 200. The 200’s ride is smooth… on smooth surfaces. Get any serious bumps (such as driving down any given street in central Baltimore) and it feels like an ’81 Caprice with blown-out shocks. Way too soft with effectively no damping. The structure is flexible and adds a dose of squeaks. The steering isn’t the worst in the segment but is pretty sloppy.

          • 0 avatar
            rialknight

            Nope, my 200 ride is very smooth on any surface, you must have rented one with blown shocks

            THAT’S WHY U DON’T DO REVIEWS OFF RENTAL CARS!!!

            Rental cars are always jacked up

    • 0 avatar
      twotone

      4-speed automatic transmission? This must be a 1993, not a 2013 Chrysler.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        @twotone, remember – Neons had 3 speed autos. Back in the bad old days of Chrysler (that Fiat is slowly trying to leave behind) Chrysler sold a ton of 4 cyl 4 speed auto cars to the fleets of the rental companies. This of course only reinforced the stereotypes of renters about American companies.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        Or a 2014 Corolla L.

        But hey, it’s got LED lights!

      • 0 avatar
        billfrombuckhead

        Chrysler has now replaced that 4 speed with a NINE speed meanwhile Toyota still has 4 speed as standard on the Corolla. Ridicule Toyota, not FCA.

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      This is going back a bit, but I had a ’95 Intrepid with the bigger 6, it was still fairly well composed at full throttle (which, well, I was a teenager – it saw full throttle on occasion). Granted, 214hp is uncompetitive today, but the longitudinal layout helps cure torque steer a bit.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Glad you’re driving, you’ve got to drive, but you don’t have to lock your keys in a running car. I didn’t know you could still do that. That 200 is really old tech. The 200 is what it is a basic rental car

    • 0 avatar
      rileyru

      I didn’t know you could still lock keys in a running car either.

      Here in the South during the recent “Snowmageddon” I tried to lock out a running vehicle- to let my ’09 F-150 run for a while to warm up and melt ice on the windows (it has the key pad on the doors which I use all the time to unlock, plus I had a spare keyless remote). No matter how I tried to lock the doors, they would immediately unlock again while it was running.

      • 0 avatar
        kmoney

        Some cars will still kind of let you. On my suburban if you hit the door locks when running parked, the doors just unlock again right away, but if you lock it with the keyless entry remote (kept on your person of course) it will stay locked — presumably as a nod to people doing exactly what you like to do.

        PS, Can you lock the doors engine on by pressing the 7-8 9-0 keys at the same time. My old GMQ would do just what you describe, but would let you do it if you locked via the keypad.

        • 0 avatar
          Dave M.

          My new car has keyless, and I love it but am terrified I will lock the transponder in the car at some point in time.

          40+ years of driving, and I’ve only locked my keys in my car twice (twice more than some of you I’m sure…). The first in ’84 when I jumped out of the car to grab something at Whataburger, and the 2nd time last year with my old car. Cell phone sitting on the front seat. No idea of phone numbers. Trudge 4 miles home to get spare key and have my wife drive me back But the girls weren’t there. Banged on door. Rang doorbell 50 times. Waited an hour. Nothing. House hide-a-key not there. Trudged back to car, called pop lock guy ($200 because it was now 2 am).

          Long story less long, the girls were at home but very very sound asleep. I was pissed on a whole bunch of levels, especially at myself.

          • 0 avatar
            rpn453

            “My new car has keyless, and I love it but am terrified I will lock the transponder in the car at some point in time.”

            Get in the habit of never locking it any way other than by using the remote and it will never happen.

      • 0 avatar
        ppal1981

        In the 200 (or Avenger) if the key is in the ignition on Run/or accessory – the doors CANNOT be locked.

        He must have left his keys on the seat or something – and then locked the door. OR maybe since his was the base of the base rental fleet – MAYBE that option was disabled.

        • 0 avatar
          Jack Baruth

          The car was running.

          • 0 avatar
            Paul

            That is odd – this is straight from the manual, and as stated before maybe because this is BASE of the BASE model, it’s disabled per the manual below:

            “NOTE:
            • The Key-In-Ignition reminder only sounds when the ignition key is placed in the LOCK or ACC position.
            • With either front door open, and the key in the
            ignition, both the power door locks and Remote Keyless Entry (RKE) transmitter will not function.”

  • avatar
    the_yeti

    “The Eagle LS tires weren’t comfortable at the sub-sub-freezing temperatures and the nose would occasionally slide without warning on the freeway”

    I test drove one of these and felt the nose go sideways too. Except it was 60 degrees and I was in San Jose. It was the Pentair engine, but still.

    Crap. The interior on the car with leather was neat hard. The car had 30k on it and it looked wore.

    • 0 avatar
      993cc

      I always use snow tires in the winter, but once I was caught in a freak snow storm, far from home, in our car with it’s factory-supplied Eagle LS tires.

      SCARIEST DRIVE OF MY LIFE!. Those tires have no business being called “all season”.

      • 0 avatar
        zaxxon25

        100% agreed … had them on my CTS and they were ineffective with anything more than a sprinkle of snow on the ground. Swapped them out for Bridgestones Turanzas which were far superior. Never again with the Eagles.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    When I crashed my CRV in November, I realized that my insurance company pays for only the most basic rental (not including insurance so that was out of my own pocket), and only until 10 days after the case is settled, which in turn ment 20 days before I get money for the totalled car…I was handed a 6 month old Opel Corsa 1.2, with 69 mostly half dead ponies under the hood. Among it’s redeeming features were decent soundproofing and decent interior space compared to its size(402 cm’s long)
    For the two weeks I drove the thing I missed my grandfathers ’11 Honda Fit the whole time. The only downside to the Fit would be the lack of soundproofing, which to me only makes it more fun to drive. The 200 really sounds like a luxury car in comparison :P

  • avatar
    rileyru

    Jack, glad to hear you are back behind the wheel, and that your friend also came along.

    Hope you are still planning to instruct at VIR in May!

  • avatar
    jmo

    I had a bunch of 300s as rentals and the odd 200. What struck me driving out to CVG, up the hill, is the wonder that is the 8-speed auto. In the 200 with the 4-speed auto you need power to get up the hill so you press the gas…nothing…press some more….nothing…press some more and (downshift) and whaaaaaaaaay you’re moving.

    With the 8-speed you need a little power so you press down maybe 1cm, impreceptible downsift and you have the perfect amount of power. Oh, need to pass that semi? Another 1cm and another impreceptible gear shift and again the perfect amount of power.

  • avatar
    lastwgn

    Glad to hear you are up and about Jack.

    I experienced a rental 200 last year for a week while in Florida at my daughter’s softball spring trip. My daily driver is a Mazda RX-8. Previously owned a first gen Mazda6. My wife and I walked through the rental lot looking from something interesting to drive. There was nothing. I also owned a 1983 Mazda RX-7 in Havana Brown. There was a Chrysler 200 in Autumn Red, aka brown. We picked that car I guess because it was brown like the 7, and I fully expected by the end of the week to have a litany of nitpicking issues with the car.

    The interior was much as Jack described. Very nice, particularly for the price point. Seats were comfortable and quite honestly the cloth was impressive. Controls were logical. It did nothing great, and did nothing to stand out, but it did everything well. Other than the janky manner in which the rear door and roofline intersect, it was not bad to look at either. I have zero doubt my wife could drive that car every day for 5 years or more and never have a single complaint. She is like the 90% of the motoring public. Her daily driver is a 2006 Mazda Tribute we have had for 8 years. Seats are comfortable, controls are logical, it does nothing great, but it does everything well. In 8 years and 100,000 miles it has had one repair needed, that being an alternator needing to be replaced. She has zero interest in looking at upgrading to a CX-5.

    I have never yet quite understood the 90%, but they do purchase the vast majority of cars on the road, and for those, the Chrysler 200 is very nice, comfortable, competent, and good looking sedan.

    • 0 avatar
      Boff

      Stepping back into your RX-8 must have been like stepping into a formula car (I know, I owned one). For all the talk that today’s automotive fleet is more or less uniformly OK, it sure is amazing the different feel that can be engineered into a car.

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      Last spring I also rented a 200 for a week. I was in Florida for flight training and I found the 200 to be a competent, if unexciting, travel appliance. It certainly was comfortable. I traveled between Orlando, Fort Pierce and West Palm Beach and burned a couple of tanks of fuel.

      The 200 made an interesting comparison to the 1978 Cessna 152 I was flying. Both seemed to be reluctant to accelerate, but the 200 was way more comfortable. When you’re 6’2″ with long legs, you don’t climb into a 152, you put it on. Interestingly the market value of the 152 is about the same as the 200.

  • avatar
    DougD

    Nice review, I totally agree.

    My 01 Focus decided it did not like last week’s -5F weather and coughed it’s battery AND alternator. Faced with the prospect of fixing this in the driveway (at -5F) I rented a 200 for a couple of days.

    Normally when I rent a car it’s for business in another city, so this was a chance to compare on my normal commute. When my wife asked me how I liked the car I said “It starts in the morning, so that’s an improvement”. Basically it did the job, and that was exactly what I needed.

    If you could get a 5-speed manual in it (which you can’t) I would have even liked it.

    A neighbor took pity on me and lent me their garage to fix the Focus, and now I really appreciate the slim A pillars and sills on older cars.

  • avatar
    Pastor Glenn

    Jack, I did a very quick check in case you want to consider a Hyundai Genesis sedan. Personally I think the V6 would be just terrific, but that’s me.

    Apparently a Hyundai dealer near to you has 2013 leftovers for almost $6000 off retail, which if combined with low interest loan might end up far better than grabbing a used car (2009-2011) with 50-60k miles on it.

    http://www.hatfieldhyundai.net/new-inventory/index.htm?model=Genesis&&&&

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    You’re driving?! Holy moley. That crawl through the trunk is painful with all your bones intact, let alone busted up.

    Your tale reminds me of those POWs who make friends with the cockroaches in their prison cell, warmly remembered decades later.

    The 2015 200 is on my must-test-drive list, and a possible buy. But I’m only interested in the V6, I think. The 2.0 Tigershark in the Dart is ultra dull, and I can’t see the 2.4 Tigershark in the 200 being any better.

  • avatar

    IIRC, that engine’s related to the Lancer GTS’s 2.4L. Mated to a CVT, it’s not bad. Finds the optimal revs to be in and sticks there. Not sure how the Chrysler “World Engine” varies from the Mitsubishi version, though.

    That four-speed–in a place with a bunch of steep hills–is pure, unadulterated misery, though. Rest of the car = not bad. Four-speed slushbox + hills = please, kill it with fire. All the fire. And nuke it from orbit–just to be sure.

  • avatar
    ciscokidinsf

    Jack, what employers (of the many you have) came up short in the sanity department? (Blog or Magazine or Motorsports or Other)? That ain’t cool Bro, you deserve better.

    I bet you wish one of the two VW Phaetons was around to carry you on these times. I miss mine too.

  • avatar
    mjz

    Hope you will do a series of reviews of the cars you are thinking about getting, if you are up to it. Then announce the winner. Would be agood read.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    I had a friend looking at these used. 2011-2012, 283hp, <20k miles, all for around $15k-$16k. That's a lot of car for that kind of money. They all seem to have various degrees of options; in-dash computer, sunroof, etc.

    His used Mercedes was totaled. The check would of covered the price of the car, and then some. Unfortunetly, past his mid-20's he's a career student and it has left him completely broke (his parents bought that Mercedes) and he had to use a good chunk of that check to pay off a horrid amount of debt he racked in 5 quick months on his third venture for yet another educational degree…… and of course all the education in the world can't get you a car loan when you're unemployed, with hardly any real employment history, and living in a relatives basement.

    He ended up buying a 08 Impala SS for $10k. 80k miles, excellent shape, fully loaded, not bad, but I would of rather sprang the extra $5k for the barely used 200.

  • avatar
    cargogh

    I misread things often lately. “At Last A Long Dance With The Chrysler 200.” Look: Jack’s driven a new one.
    Wrong, but I loved this story.
    I can’t recall their starting sound, but I visualized something between a ’90 Accord and a Slant-6.
    You made me remember driving again a few days after rolling a Fiat 128 five times in ’82. I was on curvy hills in Land-Between-The-Lakes (Kentucky) when a wave of terror struck and smothered momentarily. I looked down at no shoulder and took in the steepness. Started laughing when I realized I couldn’t roll the ’78 Fiesta S that many times. Too many trees. Laughter still was painful, but it smashed the apprehension. I bet wrecks cause 90% of drivers returning to the wheel to feel something for awhile .
    A nice tribute to the old car and a humorous update on your progress. I’m anticipating you and the new 200 will be totally improved soon.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    Something I’ve recently been thinking about is that people (automotive press and enthusiasts) are constantly demanding the best from every car. The 200/Sebring is one example and the horrifying 2009 Civic.
    We demand soft touch everywhere and ridicule cars out of existence.
    But what we end up doing is pricing cheap cars out of the reach of those who actually want to buy one.
    The 2009 Civic sold in record numbers despite what the press had to say about it. And the refresh in 2010 that was forced on them caused the price of the base model to go up.
    Some people don’t care about their car other than that it starts when they want it to and stops when asked. Why are we dictating that they have Bluetooth and independent rear suspension?
    Having driven one as a rental the Chrysler 200 4 cylinder is an awful car – to me. I wonder aloud who would actually buy one in sympathy when I see one on the road. But that person doesn’t care. They didn’t want to spend a ton of cash on something they aren’t going to dote over like you and I would. And in all likelihood they got a pretty good deal.
    So with this forthcoming refresh, that person will have to look elsewhere for transportation when the time comes. Because the 200 won’t be as inexpensive and uncomplicated as the outgoing one. Where will one turn now?

    • 0 avatar
      teasers

      My sister know nothing about cars, bought a 2003 mountianeer that grenaded on her with in three months @ 150k. Yes, she remembers what pile it was, but she especially remembers the heated seats, the dual zone auto air control, the back up sensors, and the moon roof.

      The problem is that while lots of people may view their car as an appliance for transportation, people still want the shiniest appliances they can get. People who have never done laundry before buy front loading clothes washers because they come in red, have a display screen, and are the envy of their friends, they have fridges that tell them the temp of the ice, and dishwashers that look like cabinets. Same with cars. They have to have their kid set up the blue tooth, have no idea what a turbo is, and wonder why that tire shaped light is on, but know its all things they need because the salesman told them it did, and their friends car does it.

      • 0 avatar
        Land Ark

        All of that is true of folks who live in the suburbs, but there is a large population of people who buy the cheapest white fridge they can find because their old one broke and they can barely afford that one. Many people also don’t have a smart phone and don’t need Bluetooth.
        There are many, many cars on the market that cater to the people you are describing. I’m asking what the people who don’t live that lifestyle can buy new that fits their needs and not their wants. I suspect most of the people in that demo have to buy used and get all those features anyway.
        There used to be real stripper models that were offered, and that’s because people wanted them and bought them. Car makers have decided to completely abandon them and force everyone to get “standard” features. So you can no longer get the new Tercel with one side mirror, black bumpers, no radio, and wind up windows. The market for them never went away, the cars just did.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    I’m actually going to miss the JS 200 with the pentastar. It’s a bargain raw hot rod sedan. They’re more fun than they had any right to be. There’s another vehicle that could be bought at a bargain in large swaths that would make a great spec racing series, or at least a strong competitor in a factory sedan class.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    That first paragraph made me squirm. I can’t believe you are out and about, and crawling through trunks. I wouldn’t want to do that healthy.

    Glad to hear you’re recovering.

  • avatar
    jco

    i’m glad you’re coming around. good to hear your passenger is sort of moving around as well, really feared for her after the initial reports.

    that being said, your unfortunate pain has led to an entertaining review. glad to see that pain, awful medical bills, uncertain employment, and the polar vortex haven’t managed to kill your sense of humor. i’m pretty much just done in by winter by itself. i lose all hope and turn into an angry troll.

    i had a very minor car incident, which through incompetence on the part of the shop caused me to be without my car for six months. since it was on someone else’s insurance, i didn’t care, and allowed them to keep renting me cars for an entire winter. the sebring was by far the worst vehicle i’ve ever driven. and I owned a J-Body cavalier on purpose. i enjoyed the Dodge Charger (same model year) far more. Mazda 3 was good, previous era-Focus was also not unpleasant. all rental-grade.

    it wasn’t just the materials in the chrysler. it was the entire car. nothing wasn’t terrible. it handled poorly. it sounded terrible. it groaned and clunked and away doing seemingly basic tasks any car is asked to do.

  • avatar

    I’ve had several good laughs already this month, but “The Little Engine that Doesn’t Want To” is the best so far!

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    “Hell, I’m pretty sure you can get a run-out 2014 V6 model for twenty grand.”

    Certified, used, 30,000 miles, V6, heated seats, leather, no “U-connect” but it does have an aux jack: http://tinyurl.com/omzhhvb $13,773 in Phoenix, AZ.

    Certainly one of the cars on my radar for a purchase this year. Oh and it did do better in the side impact IIHS tests than the Panther platform. But then again, even a 2012 W-body does better in side impact than a Panther.

    (And yes Jack’s accident has me looking at crash data for the car’s I’m considering. It doesn’t have to be the best but has to be good enough.)

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      A MY14 with 30K already is almost certainly a rental $14K doesn’t sound too terrible, but I would push toward 10 and settle around 12.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Of course there is room for negotiation… Especially in a major metro area.

        I plan to go to CarMax and take advantage of all the late model inventory to test drive everything I might be interested in and then go to the traditional dealers to negotiate a better deal once I’ve settled on a make and model.

    • 0 avatar
      rentonben

      >>And yes Jack’s accident has me looking at crash data for the car’s I’m considering

      Every month when I’m wonder why I’m spending $450 for an old man’s Buick Regal, I remember the festival of airbags it promises upon crashing and the three kids in the back seat.

    • 0 avatar
      jim brewer

      Beware Principal Dan, those star-ratings are normed for vehicle size. A four star small car is not as good as a four star large car. According to IIHS, among fatalities ocurring in newer cars last year of data, only 134 were in larger cars.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        No not “star ratings” that’s the U.S. government tests. IIHS does the crash testing and measures it by how much intrusion occurs into the passenger compartment and actually posts the pics online. Besides you have to consider multiple sources of data (just like I do in my day job.)

    • 0 avatar
      Wheatridger

      Just a few weeks ago, The New Yorker did a detailed piece about the spread of valley fever, a sometimes-lethal, incurable fungal disease that’s growing in the Southwest. It spreads by air, especially in the “haboob” dust storms that have plagued Arizona and the California Central Valley. The article concluded with a disease expert who named used cars out of Phoenix as a significant vector for the disease. Just thought you might want to know that.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Jack:

    Glad to hear that you’re as ambulatory as you are. I for one appreciate you sharing your journey of reflection and healing, physically and emotionally with your audience.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    perhaps after the new ones have been out for awhile, some people will long for the good ole previous gen 200 after all.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    It is shocking the number of 4 speed automatic 2014 200’s/Avengers on dealer lots like this car. It’s also very obvious Chrysler is using up those old trans axles to make room for the new car. The funny thing is that a 6 speed has and is available with the world engine but for model year 2014 it seems in real short supply and super hard to find. In a sea of 38 MPG Altimas and 6’s and 36 MPG Malibus and Accords and 35 MPG Camry’s and the Korean twins that Chrysler can still be peddling 30 MPG highway mid size sedans. The best thing to do is go for the 29 MPG V6.

  • avatar
    AlternateReality

    Awesome to hear that you’re moving about, Jack, and especially that you’ve started driving again. Gotta get back on the horse, as the saying goes (and I’m also happy to see your friend is out of the hospital as well.)

    Anyone compelled to go the Fiasler route for their new car – Lord knows why, but I suppose it takes all kinds to make the world go ’round – would be well-served by avoiding ANYTHING that Fiat has laid its grimy mitts upon.

    200? Grand Cherokee? Charger? You’ll probably be mostly okay, in the same way the owner of a 2008 Caliber is probably mostly okay, if lamenting certain life choices made along the route to automotive banality.

    Dart? Cherokee? NEW 200? Get ready for problems, and you’ll receive little sympathy from me when (not if, WHEN) you have them. At least billyboyfrombuckhead will be your friend, though you’ll also be reminded ad nauseum of how close Fiasler is to beating Hyundai on the sales charts.

    • 0 avatar
      billfrombuckhead

      Actually Jeep all by itself is close beating Korean Government Motors Hyundai division in the USA.

      FCA closed in on TRDyota last month and crushed the other JapanInc appliancemakers, Honda. Nissan and a fast fading Mazda.

      Mopar uber alles!

      • 0 avatar
        AlternateReality

        Hey, that’s awesome, really.

        Lots of pi**ed off customers for the dealers to contend with once their lovely vehicles start imploding in short order. Enjoy your Pyrrhic victory while you can.

        • 0 avatar
          billfrombuckhead

          Facts are stubborn things like Ram is Canada’s longest lasting truck or a new Pentastar Ram gets 100 miles more per tank of gas than a TRDyota Tundra V6 even though the Tundra’s gas tank is bigger. Go to EPA gas mileage site and look it up, TRdyotabots. Read it and weep for your crummy sewing machine maker.

          KBB just said the Grand Caravan and Patriot beats JapanInc minivans and small SUV’s in cost of ownership in their respective classes.

          Month after month, Mopar sales go up, haters need to get used to it. Even Consumer Reports chief of automotive testing and his sister now own Dodge Durangos. The running dogs bark but the Grand Caravans move on.

          Mopar über alles.

          • 0 avatar
            AlternateReality

            There’s more than one glaring flaw in your logic, billy, but here’s the most hilarious one: all of the Chrysler vehicles you mentioned, and the Pentastar, were engineered long before Fiat took over.

            The future is Fiasler: the woeful Dart, the glitch-riddled Cherokee, and soon the new 200. That isn’t going to be pretty for you.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      Hmmm…I owned a Stratus for 11 years here in rust belt central and put very little money into it other than normal maintenance over that time. I finally had to replace the brake calipers (all 4) at around 115K since corrosion had taken it’s toll on them. The only other non-mantenance items were an A/C compressor, tie rod ends and front wheel bearings, but the roads here in the Detroit metro area are murder on suspension parts. I’d say I got good service out of that car considering I bought it used with 9,000 miles for about 50% of MSRP. Never failed to start – never left me stranded and I did all the repairs myself – including the compressor.

      Replaced the car last year with a Dart, the very same car you claim will implode in short order. Other than an ill-fitting fuel filler door (addressed in a TSB), the only failure so far has been a wiper blade that came apart, happily replaced under warranty. The car is a hoot to drive and the manual trans only adds to the fun. At least it doesn’t have a self destructing Hondamatic trans.

  • avatar
    84Cressida

    I’ve driven so many of these things, I have absolutely nothing nice to say about them.

    The V6 ones are fast, but just like the W body Impala, can’t control the power at all.

  • avatar
    davefromcalgary

    Hey Jack.

    Also glad to see you out and about. You mentioned you will be settling on new wheels of your own in the next little while.

    In your post asking for suggestions, you stated you wanted a manual (which I am all for) but many many commenters suggested that given the nature and extent of your injuries, you might have trouble rowing your own for the next while.

    Seeing as you are driving again, but obviously at the beginning of the road to recovery, can you comment on whether you still want a manual? Will your injuries allow it in the immediate future?

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      It’s my right hip and right side of the pelvis that are broken… so a stick shift is no additional trouble. The painful part is accelerating and braking. :) So yes, as of right now I’m still looking for three-pedal cars.

      • 0 avatar
        davefromcalgary

        Great to hear Jack.

        Glad you will be buying a new MT vehicle that can make its way eventually to the used market. We on TTAC speak a lot about voting with our own money. I know I will never save the station wagon, but I’ve recently voted with my money for the manual. Happy your injuries aren’t preventing you from doing the same.

        Cheers

      • 0 avatar
        Wheeljack

        Jack, have you driven a stick-shift Dart? I’d love to hear your opinion of it since you loved the handling of a Chrysler minivan of all things.

        I’m certainly nowhere near you in driving skill level, but I think the Dart handles well, and the stick is a pleasure to drive. I actually prefer the longer shift throws, but then I cut my “manual trans” teeth on trucks and Jeeps. I think the Dart’s clutch is well sorted – better than a lot of cars. It was easy to dial into the clutch and throttle calibration quickly, which I can’t say for a lot of other modern stick shift cars which can be hard to drive smoothly under various conditions thanks to hair-trigger clutches and engines that don’t shed RPM quickly when the 3rd pedal is pressed.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Jack I think the whole unfortunate experience has galvanized your writing style (if there is any positive thing to reflect upon).

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    You know, Jack, at this point the story of your accident and recovery has become a lot more compelling than the usual description of squishy dash plastics, mystifying infotainment systems and dynamic throttle response. Maybe it’s your special gift to write about accidents and their aftermath from the inside, a topic that’s usually absent from auto journalism. So far, you’re doing it with insight and eloquence.

    In my own case, life is also imitating your art. Yesterday I learned of an accident that happened to a young cousin of mine in Tennessee. His car hydroplaned and he hit a guard rail hard– but the nightmarish accident was just beginning. The car behind him was driven by a male nurse with helpful instincts. He stopped to help. As he was trying to extricate my cousin from the car, a semi-trailer roared up from behind. The Good Samaritan took his last, best chance and jumped over the rail, taking a 70-foot fall. My cousin, unbelted now, was ejected from the car when the semi struck it. Amazingly, there were no fatalities. The nurse somehow survived, breaking his leg and neck, but there was no paralysis. My cousin comes home from the hospital tomorrow, with facial and femur fractures, a brand new walker, and his Flight for Life wings.

    So it’s not just you, amigo. Sit back, relax and be sure to check out that new Pat Metheny Unity Group album, released today.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      That is genuinely terrifying. It’s also the reason I grabbed my son out of the car and ran, thirty days ago.

      I did the Nonesuch pre-order so I have the LP and CD with the signed poster. No, I don’t have much of a life, how did you guess?

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        No life ?

        You’re an involved Father and have a S.O. you seem to really care about , appreciate and make music then after all this , you manage to enjoy The Auto Trade and even have good ability as a Journalist .

        I should be so lucky =8-) .

        Keep on truckin’ Jack ! .

        -Nate
        (who understands the need for ‘ 90% ‘ vehicles)

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    (Inside Baseball Alert, non-Jazz-fans Should Ignore)

    Because it’s a big event. in a previous column, you had mentioned PM as always worth checking out, and I replied and agreed. My CD and poster hasn’t come yet. How its it, up to the level of TWU? I’m always torn between listening now or waiting for the tour. It’s great to discover new music live, but this stuff is complex enough that some prior study can be helpful.

    (All Clear, Back to Car Conversations Now)

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      I’ve listened to it a few times now. I think of Pat as having an “accessibility” scale, with Letter From Home and Secret Story on the far left and Zero Tolerance For Silence and The Sign Of Four on the right.

      This is farther to the right than the Unity Band record or TWU, but not as far as Song X or Rejoicing. Some of it just feels like Pat cruising — oh really, we’re going to end with a voiced harmony and a cymbal crash? — and some of it is almost unnecessarily complex.

      But overall it’s worth the time and money.

      • 0 avatar
        Wheatridger

        What sounds overly complex at first will pay off with repeated listenings. And I like Metheny’s song endings, especially when it’s a weird, unexpected chord that somehow sums up the harmonies of the whole piece.

  • avatar
    GST

    Good Enough. Rented one for a week in Maui recently and it was certainly good enough. Mother in law in the back seat said it was comfortable with plenty of leg room.

    It was comfortable to drive in the 45 mph speed limits. A/C worked well when needed.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    Oh, about the car– in this day and age, it’s too bad that it’s even possible to lock your keys inside a car. That’s one of the reasons I’ve stuck with VWs and SAABs for so long. Euro cars tend to lack the handy Lock buttons inside the driver’s door that lead to those mistakes. In the old days, you had to use your key in hand to lock the door. Then came remote locking, which still demanded a key in hand. I can’t recall the last time I’ve locked keys in a car, but it’s over three decades ago.

    Today’s world of keyless entry is more complicated– in the Tiguan, I’ve dropped off my wife only to realize that the remote key we used to start the car was still with her, in her purse. That means I can’t stop the car until I get home and retrieve the second key.

  • avatar
    panzerfaust

    Great read Jack, and we’re still praying here that you and your lady friend continue to mend and recover. I just got back from a couple of weeks in S.C. putting over a thousand miles on a ’13 Maxima. After a few miles of bad weather, and long days you begin to appreciate and get a bond with the faithful little workhorse that does its best to do whatever you ask of it, knowing it’ll never be loved any further than how much money it makes before it’s sold.

  • avatar
    Maymar

    I can’t deny Chrysler made impressive improvements when they refreshed the Sebring into the 200, about as good as they possibly could have done without a full redesign (so I’ll gladly give the new 200 a shot). But the old mediocre car shines through in just a few too many places for me to like it. That powertrain alone, it’s as if Chrysler figured out how to identify the point of mere adequacy with laser precision. It’s not dangerously slow, but for a modern car, it doesn’t feel far off (and it’s not like it returned exemplary fuel economy).

    The Avenger I rented several months ago was easily the worst car I’ve driven in a long time. This is admittedly a statement on how far the industry’s come – it still rode fine, exhibted no dramatic behavior at just slightly above legal speeds, and will probably last forever (out of spite). But, I’m not big enough for it to have absolutely any appeal to me over any number of compact competitors. I also rented a Focus, Sonic, and Mazda3 last year – the time I spent with them lead me to at least consider them if I’m ever in the market for a newish car. The best I can say about the 200/Avenger is that they beat walking long distances.

    Then again, my mom rented one a couple weeks ago, and she thought it was great. I’d never argue that she’s slightly closer to the average consumer than I am.

  • avatar
    jeffzekas

    Jack- well written. The last Chrysler I owned was a Dodge Aires wagon, so I probably am done with Fiat/Chrysler products (with the exception of Jeep)- superstition or something.

  • avatar
    sgtyukon

    I hope you’re kidding about taking all the Tylenol left in the bottle.
    Overdosing on Tylenol can destroy your kidneys. It has been known to be fatal and overdose isn’t a lot higher than dose. There are a lot of other pain killers that do less damage when you take too much.

  • avatar
    sketch447

    Jack is Back in Black(top)!!!……..Made that up myself. Hip road-trip song, blacktop refers to highway, and so forth. Ahem. (crickets chirping) I’ll keep trying…..

  • avatar
    oldyak

    Nice to hear a word for the “good enough” people out there.

  • avatar
    imag

    A Baruth review of a Chrysler 200 is more interesting than a Ferrari review from the average auto journalist.

    It’s good to see that the genius is still working, despite the pain and blood loss.

    • 0 avatar
      bomberpete

      Agree. Reading some self-satisfied “journalist” get fed & drunk on the manufacturer’s marketing budget while reviewing something unobtainable is so 1980s.

      Regular cars have gotten really good, and we’re the beneficiaries.

      Glad to see you doing well, Jack!

    • 0 avatar
      Wheatridger

      Are any Ferrari reviews ever that interesting? I yawn and skip right over them. All are fast, and the new one might be a hair faster. They’re purpose-built, without compromise– but it’s the compromises of cost, practicality and purpose that make more common cars diverse and interesting. You can all them “car porn,” but I prefer actual porn; some of that deals with situations I’ve been in, or might be in, and Ferrari ownership isn’t even slightly plausible for most of us.

      And it’s much more fun to read a trashing of a poor car than the fawning praise of a great one.

  • avatar
    ReSa

    As a European frankly I don’t give a rat’s ass about the 200 (especially not after just having taken my ’88 Alfa ‘The Death Trap’ Spider for a mid-winter spin :) )…

    But it does make me happy to see Mr. Baruth is making good progress in recovering and is able to enjoy the Dutch version of Vodka, Ketel One in the process! Which happens to be distilled 5 miles down the road from here…

    (ah… and a big round of applause for affordable health care)

  • avatar
    alsorl

    Chrysler Sebrings and Dodge Avengers with the 3.6 v6 can be had for about $17900. Not the perfect car. But, it also hits 0-60 in 6.2 sec. Probably the best bang for the buck under $20k

  • avatar
    Curt in WPG

    Last year my wife and I were looking for something to replace a Liberty that was starting o get expensive. We ended up with a 2012 200 Limited loaded up with 16,000 km for under $16k Canadian. We have a couple young kids so back seat room isn’t a big deal to us. It’s a great little car for the price and it goes like stink. Torque steer? Yeah, but hold on and try to wipe the grin off my face. Snow tires make a world of difference, especially living somewhere the polar vortex lasts 5 months a year, every year. 283hp is about 3.5 cars worth of power to someone who learned to drive on an 83 Reliant station wagon. I don’t have a lot of snob appeal for cars (hell, the other family car is a Dodge van…) but as Jack said most people are looking for good enough, especially when good enough means being able to smoke most of the phart can equipped kiddie cars out there ;-)

  • avatar
    Frank Galvin

    Jack:

    My day job is plaintiff side employment law. I’m assuming your FMLA paperwork is sorted with HR and that issue is cleared up. If you have any questions, my door (or email box )is open.

  • avatar
    rialknight

    Has a happy 200 owner with 2.4L and 6-speed gearbox, I sum up this has a boatload of crap…
    I think jack was high on meds when he wrote this.

    has a 200 owner, I’ll tell ya how the car really is, it’s a well-made car.

    it looks great and tho not the V6 the 2.4L is peppy and i get power when i need it with no hezztaion from the power-train, the ride is very smooth. the sound-system is nice & clear and the heat/AC works great.

    in 3 years of ownership she’s never been in the shop. for any reason outside of a basic oil change.

    • 0 avatar
      alsorl

      I agree. i owned a 2006 Dodge stratus. Ran it like I stole it for 98000 miles. Never had an issue, not one. Didn’t even burn a drop of oil. Traded it for a Hyundai Tucson, which never felt safe over 80mph. Should have kept the stratus. Bullet proof 2.4L engine. Have some friends with the same engine that have over 200000 miles and still do burn oil.

  • avatar
    mopar77

    all i can do is laugh and shake my head at this article, if i can even call it that. Buddy, you have a 4 banger base model 200, expecting BMW features is a dream. Go drive a Fully loaded S or Limited.

    find me a fully loaded car with all the same features and HP (best in class) for under 20K. Good luck.

    Haters gonna hate.

    • 0 avatar
      rialknight

      and he didn’t even do that, this moron reviewed a beat-to-crap rental car that mostly likely had all kinds issues, we all know rental car company’s don’t give a crap about the cars they rent out

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    I just had the chance to service a 200 rental (must’ve been a higher trim as it had the Pentastar, premium audio, and leather) and I was shocked to see that it had over 29k miles on it. Definitely felt as good as new. Would never have guessed it had that many hard rental miles on it.

  • avatar
    pb35

    I had a 200 as a loaner when I brought my Charger in for service recently. It was a 2.4 with cloth interior and about 40k on the clock. What a POS! A real penalty box that I had to pay $40/day for the privilege of piloting such a fine automobile to work.

    When I first saw the title of this post I thought you actually purchased one of these turds. Though that would have been fun to read about your ownership experience for a while.

  • avatar
    Josh Schneider

    I just went on Chrysler’s webiste to build a 200 for the fun of it… I was bored before I even finished.

  • avatar
    riverfishguy

    At the risking of getting car fashionista hate I must confess I bought an avenger brand new. I drive a great deal for my job and tend to burn cars up quickly. (37k in 4 months one year.) I got a base model ’12 V6 at the end of ’12 for a $17,300. And while it is far from the best car and is wildly unstable above 105 mph, I find myself quite content with it currently. No it is nothing like as refined as a toyota or honda product. It’s also as I stated far cheaper. For the money it’s very difficult to beat in it’s size class. It goes and stops and rides perfectly well and does so with reasonable economy. That’s all the avenger needs to do with it’s price point…..be adequate. (On a side note I also own a charger ’12 R/T with all the handling goodies which is my “fun” car.”


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