Chrysler 200 Flips Its Lid

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Ever since Lee Iacocca ordered the top off of a LeBaron for his summer enjoyment, Chrysler has been a leader in flip-top luxury touring machines. As a lineal successor to the LeBaron, the Chrysler 200 continues the car’s place as a Bentley or Mercedes convertible at professional-man prices.

Even though the 200 seems to have an audience that is completely different from the Camaro, Fiat 500, or Mercedes SL, owners are loyal and have kept the Chrysler convertible at the top of the sales charts for three decades.

Not quite as big as a whale, the 200 Convertible is still a comfortable four-seat convertible with enough trunk space to haul a couple of golf bags or enough luggage for a voyage to Boca and back—even with the fully-electric top stowed.

Owners can choose between a retractable hardtop and traditional canvas roof that fits as tight as one on a Rolls-Royce. Either way, the car shares its multi-faceted grille, winged badges, LED front light pipes, projector headlamps, and LED taillamps with sedans. Dual chrome exhaust tips and 18” alloys imbue a sporting demeanor.

I spent too many miles in the 200’s interior, but was no worse for the wear. Sweet-smelling leather seats, heated in front, are plenty comfortable on long trips. Adjustable headrests and notched gear selector are hold-overs from Chrysler’s Mercedes days.

Large analog gauges, piano finish around the center controls, ambient lighting, lighted cupholders, and thick leather-wrapped steering wheel add luxury. Bluetooth hands-free calling brings in the tech.

Listening to music was a joy with the Boston Acoustics speakers, USB port for iPods, and Sirius Satellite Radio. A large touchscreen controls audio and navigation. Dash and door materials are definitely not up to Bentley standards, but the 200 is a very comfy and upscale place to while away hours and is way more attainable.

No matter your lot in life, it is easy to enjoy our Limited edition’s 283 hp 3.6-L Pentastar V6, connected to the front wheels with a slick 6-speed automatic transmission. Even in a severe wind, the engine moved the sleek convertible swiftly and surely, easily accelerating away from semi-trucks at speeds above 80 mph.

Off the line, the front tires squeak, then dig in for a quick launch. I’m sure I didn’t achieve optimum fuel economy, but it is possible to achieve 19/29 MPG city/hwy when not driving like an idiot. You can also choose a 173 hp 2.4-L 4-cylinder engine, but it is hard to imagine why you’d want to.

There’s something old world about the 200’s handling. Long, large convertibles usually have body flex that gives the impression the car would like to move in two directions. The 200 is not as bad as my parents’ Model T, but there is still some shaking and quaking.

In the old days, suspension systems were tuned softly to compensate for the body flex. Fortunately, the 200’s body is stiff enough for a firm 4-wheel independent suspension that floats over bumps on the highway without becoming all jelly on bumpy city streets or fast on-ramps. It’s a pretty good balance, tuned towards the car’s purpose of providing a quiet boulevard ride.

No other automaker offers a car that fully competes with the 200 Convertible. As with the original LeBaron, it is an upscale and stylish drop-top that leaves the impression of a hand-built British cabrio without the hand-built price tag.

Sure, there are concessions like working-class interior materials, swishy body, and stiff suspension, but anything you could ever want in a convertible is present for a price that would barely buy you a Rolls-Royce test drive. The 200 Convertible starts at just over $27,000, but our loaded Limited came to $34,260.

Other choices include the Ford Mustang Convertible, Chevy Camaro Convertible, VW Eos, BMW 1-Series, and Volvo C70.


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