Auto Review: The sky is the headliner

By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Thu., Apr. 12, 2012
- Contributed Photo

One of the best attributes you can search for in any car is versatility. Whether we’re talking about a huge SUV or a compact coupe, the more adaptable the auto in question, the more use and enjoyment you can get out of it.

This week, we’re taking a look at the type of auto that used to be considered a fair-weather-only car – best suited for a climate that didn’t have much in the way of winter. I’m talking about a Sunbelt ride that lets you enjoy a locale where abundant sunshine could be enjoyed to the fullest, even when just driving to work. This used to be the limiting factor of a convertible until they started building them with a retractable top that’s made of metal, thus transforming the car into a coupe when the roof is up, so it could tackle all the seasons comfortably.

Chrysler’s new 200S mid-size two-door convertible can be had with either a fabric or steel top, and the latter is a great pick for this part of the country that (unlike this last mild season we just experienced) does know of snow, ice and plows. Unlike many convertibles, it also can comfortably seat four people, letting you share the open-air experience with your friends.

The base Touring front-drive 200 convertible is powered by a 2.4-liter inline four with 173 horsepower, and a 283-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 is optional on the Touring and standard on the Limited and S models. Both engines get a six-speed automatic transmission (with Auto Stick manual interface), and we sampled an S model with the V6 and the retractable steel top.

Acceleration is brisk, and handling is fairly crisp with a softish ride, but no major control issues when pushed. There is a bit of cowl shake when traversing bumpier surfaces, but it’s not as bad as many convertibles in this regard. Brake pedal effort is firmer than a lot of cars out there, but stopping distances were commendably short.

The 200S convertible steel top breaks into panels when retracted, and folds into the trunk in about 30 seconds. It is a cool thing to watch, and when the top is down, turbulence is never a big issue. With the top in place, the ride is quieter than with a canvas top (not to mention it can more effectively seal out winter’s chill). Support is good in the front bucket seats and the leather (with suede inserts) is stout and of good quality. The rear seats are passable for two adults, although access is a bit tight, but the bottom line is four people can enjoy the convertible experience instead of just two. Trunk capacity is 13.3 cubic feet with the top up and 7 cubic feet with the top down, which is better than a lot of the competition out there.

The 2012 Chrysler 200S convertible is EPA rated 19 MPG city/29 highway and has a base price of $32,070. With options, our sticker came to $35,510.




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