Timing, it's often said, is everything. That was certainly the case with the review period for the Chrysler 200 S convertible.
My wife Paula and I got the 200 S just after the recent heat wave and were done with it just as the rains came. It was perfect convertible weather. The only remaining question concerned the 200 S: Is it the perfect convertible for you?
The answer depends on what you want in a convertible. If you want high-speed performance, blinding acceleration, a barking exhaust tone with sports car handling, and are willing to tolerate a rough ride, you should probably look elsewhere. But if you want reasonable room for four, a comfortable ride, responsive handling and a generally sunny disposition, even when it’s raining, this could be your soft top.
That wasn’t always the case. The 2013 Chrysler 200 convertible has a number of upgrades meant to improve its on-the-road performance, starting with revised damper rates, an upgraded front stabilizer bar, improvements to the front suspension and a recalibration of the power steering that requires a little more effort but provides more feedback. The result is a pleasant driving experience. The car is responsive, stable and rewarding to drive. There also seems to be much less torque steer – the tendency of a powerful front-wheel drive car to pull away from the driver’s intended path on acceleration – with these upgrades.
Three trim levels are offered. The starting point for both price and equipment is the Touring model, with its 2.4-liter, 173-horsepower four-cylinder engine. Optional in the Touring, but standard in the Limited and our top-of-the-line S model is a 283-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6 that was smooth, refined and capable of delivering more than enough power. It propels the car to 60 miles per hour in seven seconds flat.
Unless paying lowest price is important, there would seem to be little reason to buy the four-cylinder version. Not only is the V-6 much more powerful, it’s also more economical, boasting superior EPA ratings. Our car managed to go 24.5 miles per gallon on regular gasoline. All Chrysler 200 convertibles, regardless of engine, feature front-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic transmission.
Our review car had the fabric soft top. Limited and S buyers may also select a retractable hardtop at extra cost. We’ve had this top before. Both tops work easily with a simple push of a button. There is no need to pinch fingers or break fingernails trying to latch and unlatch the raised top to the windshield header. This task is done automatically in this Chrysler.
With either top, buyers will notice some minor chafing sounds over rough roads with the top and windows closed, a result of the body’s looseness and its willingness to quiver a bit over bumps and potholes, not an uncommon problem in convertibles. Convertibles have been getting better in this regard and the 200 S would have been one of the best several years ago. Now, it’s in the middle of the pack, but still on par with or better than some much more expensive imported luxury convertibles.
It rained during our last day with the Chrysler 200 S. This proved that the raised top provides coupe-like dryness, and it also showed off the interior roof lining, which provided a finished appearance.
A pleasant driving experience with room for four is what the Chrysler 200 convertible is all about. If not the sportiest or most exciting, it might just be the easiest to live with as time marches on.
The timing for the arrival of this 2013 Chrysler 200 S for review couldn’t have been better. I was between hairdos, so I actually got to enjoy the top-down experience with no worry about wind buffeting. As it turned out, even at highway speeds on I-84 and I-91, there was not all that much buffeting to worry about, even without installing the windscreen that was in the trunk.
Performance was very good, the ride was comfortable and the seating was fine. The interior in the top-of-the-line S model is also pretty spiffy, with leather seat bolsters and suede inserts.
If you leave the top up, there’s a surprising amount of trunk space: 13.3 cubic feet. Lower the top and trunk space drops to seven cubic feet with a hard plastic separator that keeps cargo from interfering with the folded top. Putting the top up or down is automated and works with the push of a console -mounted button. The big trunk lid rises from the rear to swallow the top and then closes, covering the opening at the same time. There is no need to snap on a tonneau cover, as was once the case, to achieve a finished top-down appearance.
With the top up, the plastic separator can be folded out of the way, creating an impressive storage area. However, it takes a lot of effort to work the trunk lid manually for cargo. It’s a heavy lift. The trunk lid also gives the rear of the car an ungainly appearance. You’ll look better coming than going.
Chrysler rates the 200 convertible for four passengers. It is roomy in the front and also sufficiently large in the back to accommodate adults, but won’t do so comfortably. They fit in the rear, but the 33 inches of leg room, versus the 42.4 inches up front, will make taller passengers feel confined. Head room with the top up is more than sufficient.
It’s not perfect, but convertible enthusiasts should find the Chrysler 200 easy to live with. Top down, it’s a delight. Top up, it remains a pleasant car to drive.
Engines: 2.4 four cylinder 3.6 V-6
Horsepower: 173 283
Torque (lb/ft): 166 260
EPA: 18/27 19/29
Starts at: $27,525
Next week: Acura MDX
Jim MacPherson is the host of "The Car Doctor" show airing Sundays at noon on WTIC-AM. Paula MacPherson is his wife and new-car review partner. Send comments, questions, suggestions in care of Special Publications, Hartford Courant, 285 Broad St., Hartford, CT 06115, or email email@example.com