4. Chrysler 200
Model class and body style: Midsize sedan
Last full redesign: Model year 2011
Base price range: $22,695-$31,190
“Imported from Detroit” is an odd advertising slogan for a midsize sedan that traces its engineering to a compact Alfa Romeo. But its Chrysler’s way of saying the new 200 comes from a place that’s still excited about making cars.
Indeed, the 200’s designers have aimed for visual pizzazz, creating a body with low, swept-back lines and a graceful prow. Their enthusiasm is evident inside as well, with a handsomely laid out cabin featuring a “flying buttress” center console holding a transmission shifter that’s a rotary dial instead of a stogy old gear lever. That transmission, by the way, has nine speeds, more than any other in the class.
There’s zest under the hood, too, with an available V-6 packing a class-leading 295 horsepower. It can be combined with the expected front-wheel drive but also with a relative rarity in this competitive set, all-wheel drive (AWD). Most buyers, though, choose the less expensive four-cylinder, which has 184 horsepower and comes only with front-drive. Its 28-mpg city-highway combined rating is a little easier to swallow than the V-6’s 23 mpg with front drive and 22 with AWD.
Unfortunately, all this excitement doesn’t quite make for a category leader. The swoopy sheetmetal and crouching roofline mean less usable passenger space than in top rivals such as the Toyota Camry and Nissan Altima — as well as a slightly cave-like cabin atmosphere. Interior materials are good but largely undistinguished, although the rotary shifter is a novelty that works.
Despite the V-6 powerhouse, this is not an athletic-driving family sedan in the fashion of a Honda Accord or Mazda 6. The four-cylinder 200 has just-adequate power and the V-6 comes alive only with very deliberate use of the throttle. The ride favors a sort of floating comfort instead of buttoned-down control. As for the Alfa connection, it’s courtesy of Chrysler’s Italian parent, Fiat, which owns both brands. By that light, perhaps the 200 is an import, even if it is built in Michigan.