It’s not often that I get giddy anymore when Monday rolls around and I make my weekly Press Car switch from one vehicle to the next as part of the Enviro Dad Test Drive. However when the Monday arrived that had me picking up the 2012 Chrysler 200 Convertible, I have to admit that there was perhaps a little more giddy-up in my gallop than usual.
When you review cars and you find yourself in a different vehicle every week, at times it can feel like you are just going from one version of the same kind of vehicle to the next. So when the stars align, and you line up a hard-top convertible right in the middle of one of the longest and hottest patches of summer in recent memory, well it certainly makes one believe it won’t be an average week.
AT FIRST GLANCE
When I picked up the 200 Convertible the first thing I noticed was how different in appearance it was from its non-convertible sibling. The convertible is about 3 inches longer with a larger rear trunk area in order to accommodate the hard top when retracted. The convertible is also a 4 seater while the non-convertible seats 5.
While different in appearance, it certainly has an eye-catching design. The 200 convertible replaces the Sebring Convertible in the Chrysler line up and the hard top design of the 200 is far more appealing than the soft top design that was found with the Sebring. The deep cherry red exterior and the black leather interior of the tester were especially attractive as well.
BEHIND THE WHEEL
The 200 Convertible comes with two engine options available. The entry level touring configuration comes standard with a 2.4L 4 cylinder engine that puts out 173 hp and 166 lb/ft of torque. The Limited and S configurations come with a 3.6L V6 that produces 283 hp and 260 lb/ft of torque.
The seats in my tester were a leather/suede combination that was admittedly among the most comfortable I’ve sat on. High quality leather with a soft, yet sturdy design meant that long drives with the top down would not produce back aches or leg cramps of any kind.
The hard top design of the 200 convertible adds a significant amount of extra weight. At 4000 lbs, it’s a full 425 lbs heavier than its non-convertible sibling, yet despite the extra weight, the 200 convertible drives well and felt neither heavy, nor cumbersome to drive.
THE GREEN FACTOR
What struck me about the two engine options available in the 200 Convertible was just how similar they were in regards to fuel consumption. The 2.4L V4 has a fuel rating of 10.3 L/100KM or 27 MPG (City) and 6.9 L/100KM or 41 MPG (Hwy), while the 3.6L V6 offers 11.0 L/100KM or 25 MPG (City) and 6.8 L/100KM or 42 MPG (City). The poorer city rating can be attributed to the bigger engine and the bulky weight of the car, but on the highway both vehicles are rather efficient for the type of vehicle they are.
I suppose it’s also worth noting that in the warmer months a convertible should normally be driven with its top down, and therefore the need for Air Conditioning would be minimized thereby creating even more efficiency over-all, not to mention the cool factor of driving that way.
THE FAMILY FACTOR
Firstly as a 4-seater it’s family suitability will be limited. The rear seats of the 200 Convertible also offer a full 3 inches less of legroom for rear seat passengers than does the non-convertible version. It’s a cramped ride in the back unless the driver is willing or able to move his seat forward. As someone who likes and needs legroom when I drive, I found that my most comfortable distance left all but a sliver of legroom for anyone sitting directly behind me.
The other huge knock against the 200 Convertible in this category is in regards to cargo capacity. When the top is up, the 200 Convertible offers about 13.3 cubic feet of cargo space in the trunk. This is already barely meeting the needs of most families however when you put the top down, the amount of cargo space available drops to an almost laughable 7.0 cubic feet. You’d be hard pressed to fit a couple loaves of bread in there, never mind groceries for a week or sports equipment for the kiddies in transit from one event to the next.
FOR THE TECHIES
The 200 Convertible with the S configuration came equipped with Chrysler’s noteworthy large touchscreen and user-friendly interface. The GPS system, along with the upgraded 9 speaker Boston Acoustics sound system create a solid opportunity to blast the right tunes when the top is down, as was evidenced by my 3 sons having a sort of out-of-body experience when I toured them around with the top down and one of the latest Flo-rida songs pumping through the system.
My one criticism of the touch screen is that in a convertible they need to up the illumination a bit since when the sun is shining down and I was wearing shades, it was pretty tough to make out just what the heck was being displayed.
Aside from the above the 200 Convertible offers pretty much the standard techie offerings such as Bluetooth hands free and large HDD memory capacity among others.
To fairly asses the Chrysler 200 Convertible, one truly needs to understand what this car IS and what it IS NOT.
From this writers perspective this is NOT a family car. With limited seating and an almost non-existent cargo area, it would take some pretty slick salesmanship to convince anyone that this is a great family car.
However, it needs to be said, that what the Chrysler 200 Convertible IS…is that it’s one heck of a fun car. With high quality appointments, a choice of two powerful, yet reasonably fuel efficient engines, an attractive look/design and the availability of retracting the hard top and being able to experience the true joy of convertible driving, this is a vehicle that is darn near impossible not to enjoy.
Perhaps, in keeping with the family-focused theme here, maybe the best time to consider this vehicle is when the kids are a bit older, the bigger family Minivan/SUV is still able to handle the hauling needs of a family and (dare we say it) the dreaded mid-life crisis begins to set in. Trust me, this is a mid-life crisis car if I’ve ever seen one and as I approach my 43rd birthday later this summer, I personally heard that voice in my head saying “ditch the van dude…and go for the top down”.
My gut tells me that I’m not likely to be alone in that regard.
BY THE NUMBERS (Out of 10)
LOOK/DESIGN - 8.5
DRIVE - 10.0
THE GREEN FACTOR - 7.5
THE FAMILY FACTOR – 5.0
TECHIE STUFF - 8.0
VALUE - 8.0
(MSRP as Tested $41,295)
OVERALL SCORE - 8.0