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First Drives: 2015 Chrysler 200C V6
For the first four months of last year, more than half of all Chrysler 200 sedans were sold as fleet vehicles. No wonder it's widely seen as the official car of the rental lot. And it's doubtful those fleet sales did anything to help Chrysler in the long run. We imagine that very few people who shelled out $20 per day for the displeasure of driving a 200 later plunked down $20,000 for the displeasure of owning one.
Luckily, this is a much better car, so a fleet of rentals might just sell a few. The new 200 is an enlarged version of the Dodge Dart, itself an enlarged version of the Alfa Romeo Giulietta. Its anodyne looks hide a size bump—the 200 is bigger than a Dart in every dimension. Gaining 8.4 inches means it, like the last 200, sits square in Camry-ville. And Chrysler did badge engineering the right way: The 200's automatic has three more gears than the Dart's, it's available with all-wheel drive, and its interior is an order of magnitude nicer than the Dodge's. Most important, the 200 gets a big wallop of optional firepower under the hood.
Chrysler's big V6 has been taking voice lessons, perhaps from the company's Italian owner. Its audio fury is ever present; its output, prodigious. All-wheel drive might save you from a reckless-driving ticket here: Our front-drive 200C instantly ignited its front tires in first gear. Second, too, was a struggle.
So was keeping the wheel straight, though, since the electric power steering lets through a significant amount of torque steer. The helm can be equipped with shift paddles, but using them is pointless, since the transmission's responses could be measured by a sundial on Pluto. And shifts themselves are rarely smooth. The 200 is unexpectedly capable in the corners, though its ride is bouncy and feels underdamped over large road undulations. The pretty cabin offers great storage and excellent ergonomics, and double-pane front windows help to hush wind noise. Unfortunately, that just highlights the interior rattles—which, together with wide and uneven body-panel gaps, reinforces our recent concerns about Chrysler's fit and finish.
Redemption? Hold the parking-brake button and floor it, and the 200 V6 will perform world-class burnouts. Sometimes, rental cars are our favorite cars.