Mountain Wheels: Entirely reconfigured Chrysler 200 begins a bold journey |

Mountain Wheels: Entirely reconfigured Chrysler 200 begins a bold journey

2015 Chrysler 200

MSRP: $21,700-$25,995

Powertrain: 184-HP 2.4-liter four-cylinder or 295-HP 3.6-liter V-6, 9-speed automatic transmission

EPA mpg figures: up to 36 HWY with four-cylinder engine; 29-32 in V-6 models

Lo and behold, 2014 brings further miraculous change from that hardscrabble bunch of kids in Detroit, and an all-new Chrysler 200 that is absolutely retooled and reimagined.

The 2015 Chrysler 200 has an approachable mix of good looks, modern technology and an engine range wide enough to satisfy various tastes and bring mileage into the 36-mpg zone. The interior, especially, is quite nice, in the same way that the insides of new vehicles such as the new non-grand Jeep Cherokee have turned out.

The car’s redux also builds a better chance for the company to capture a larger share of the unstoppable midsize sedan market, as folks in Middle America just can’t get enough of those midsize sedans. But they did not see the previous 200/Sebring as a viable or interesting option, even with a starting price of around $22,000. You can indeed head down to a dealer and find a very basic new 200 for just $21,700, plus destination, which is a pretty good deal, all things considered.

To help reach that not insignificant mileage figure, the 200 employs a nine-speed automatic transmission — controlled from the center console by a rotary gear-changing knob — which offers to ease one of two engine choices with a range of shifts so multitudinous that the car never breaks a sweat.

The highest mileage models will feature the 2.4-liter four-cylinder Tigershark engine, rated for 184 horsepower; you can also significantly change things with the 3.6-liter V-6 Pentastar engine, which will imbue the 200 with 295 horsepower. It can also be ordered up in all-wheel drive, with a disconnecting rear axle that essentially makes it a fuel-saving front-wheel drive machine at times when you don’t need that extra grip and push.

I got a brief opportunity to try out the 2015 200 on some suburban roads in Highlands Ranch, of all places, and the entire driving experience is indeed light years from the 200 of old. You’re not going to scream away from stoplights in the smaller engine, but the V-6 can be coaxed into some more amoral behavior, and does indeed enjoy the extra boost.

While considerably more curved and lithesome than its big brother, the still-blocky Chrysler 300, the new 200 can also be ordered up in a tough-looking S edition with darkened chrome and big wheels and a range of details intended to sex up its appeal.

Truth be told, it’s now so sculpted and futuristic you might mistake it for an Audi or a Lexus, with deeply indented body lines and LED inserts in the headlamps and brake lamps serving to gloriously illuminate things in the dark.

In fact, from a rear view, you’ll have difficulty believing this vehicle shares much in common with the late Sebring/200, looking more like it sprouted from some expensive European heritage. Exhaust ports and a slight aerodynamic lip to the tail, plus those large and impressive open-spoke wheels, on the higher models? Who knew?

Kudos to Chrysler for moving the design needle so far, so quickly, with much of the same aesthetic also carrying forward to a thoroughly contemporary interior, complete with optional wood-grain effect throughout.

That’s resulted in a layered and intimate look that simplifies the controls, softens the surfaces and gives you a genuinely fancy look. The rotary shift knob — initially found as a space-saving feature on some Ram trucks — is a slick piece of work, next to a new electronic parking brake and below a simple three-knob AC control unit. Moving to a higher-mounted knob also allows extra center console space that can be reconfigured as you’d like — slide the cupholders forward or back and put the deep storage bins where you’d like — and there’s an iPhone-sized, pass-through storage space in an arch beneath the gear-control platform that can connect to the power supply in the center console.

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