CHELSEA, Mich. -- A twirl around a curvy blacktop track at Chrysler's Michigan vehicle research facility shows off some taut handling traits and precise road manners of the front-wheel-drive Chrysler 200 sedan.
The vehicle, set in the mid-size segment of 4-door sedans, bears the numeric label of 200 as a step down in size and price from Chrysler's 300 series.
It's pitched as a family car with two powertrain choices, a pile of on-board standard equipment and reasonable price points.
Chrysler 200 for 2014 splits into three trim levels with the entry-model LX, a well-stocked Touring edition and luxurious Limited.
The 200 presents a shapely body with the front hood scored by lines strafing across the top and a raked windshield tipping rearward to enhance aerodynamic efficiency.
A chin-forward prow carries a glimmering chrome-finned grille and corner-mounted projector-beam headlamps with LED light pipe accents.
Etched into the trailing edge of each front fender, a crisp character line stretches rearward across flank doors and rises gradually toward the tail deck. And a high beltline pitched parallel to the character line gains a chrome trim piece along the bottom edge of cabin windows.
A stubby tail houses a chrome bar drawn to the decklid width between corner LED taillamps.
All 2014 200 issues employ a rigid unibody structure rigged with independent suspension elements tuned to favor a smooth ride quality. In front are MacPherson struts with coil springs over gas-charged shocks and stabilizer bar, and in back there's a multi-link arrangement with coil springs, link-type stabilizer bar with gas-charged shocks plus an isolated rear suspension cradle.
Chrysler 200 provides many active safety systems designed to keep an alert driver out of harm's way by avoiding accidents. The equipment includes a quick-response rack and pinion steering system and four-wheel disc brakes tied to the anti-lock brake system (ABS) with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), electronic brake assist (EBA) and anti-skid devices via the electronic stability control (ESC) system and all-speed traction control (ASTC).
Measures for passive passenger safety in the cabin extend from the sturdy safety-cage construction to active head restraints on front seats, three-point front seatbelts with shoulder adjustment, backseat restraints with upper and lower anchors to mount a child's seat, smart multi-stage air bags up front with seat-mounted side air bags and curtain-style air bags concealed in headliners above side windows for outboard seats on front and rear rows.
Chrysler lists two different engines to propel the 200.
Price-leader 200 LX totes a 2.4-liter 4-in-line plant with dual overhead cams (DOHC) and variable valve timing (VVT) to muster 173 hp at 6000 rpm with 166 lb-ft of torque at 4400 rpm. The 4-cylinder plant links to a 4-speed automatic transaxle, the 40TES, or an optional 6-speed electronic automatic, the 62TE.
This powertrain racks up the best fuel economy numbers -- 21 miles per gallon (mpg) for city driving and 29 mpg for highway cruising using the 40TES auto 4-speed, or 20/31 mpg (city/highway) with the 62TE 6-speed automatic.
200's other trims -- Touring and Limited -- carry the 4-cylinder engine tied to the 62TE auto 6-speed.
Optional power upgrade for 200 Touring and Limited is a DOHC 3.6-liter aluminum-block V6 mated to the 62TE 6-speed automatic with AutoStick shift-it-yourself manual mode. The dual-cam 6-pack delivers 283 hp at 6400 rpm and torque of 260 lb-ft at 4400 rpm. Yet it still earns keen fuel economy numbers -- 19 mpg city and 29 mpg highway.
Chrysler 200 LX model stocks 17-inch steel wheels with 225/55R17 tires, air conditioning, power windows/locks, cloth-covered front seats with driver-side manual height adjustments, the rear bench for three with folding seatbacks split 60/40, and a 4-speaker sound system with AM/FM/CD/MP3.
Chrysler 200 Touring adds 17-inch aluminum wheels, automatic headlamps, LED reading lamps, automatic temperature controls, 8-way power for driver's seat, a leather-bound steering wheel and 6-speaker audio kit.
Chrysler 200 Limited upgrades to 18-inch aluminum wheels and 225/50R18 tires, foglamps, heated leather seats, Bluetooth and a Media Center 430 CD/DVD/MP3/HDD/NAV.
Chrysler 200 Limited S package adds a black grille, black treatment headlamps and foglamp bezels with projector foglamps, plus a perforated leather steering wheel.
The price list begins at $21,195 for the 200 LX.