Chrysler’s next-generation 200 midsize sedan transforms itself with an entirely new interior and exterior that packages a segment-first standard nine-speed automatic transmission with an electronic shifter, and the segment’s first application of an all-wheel-drive system that automatically disconnects and reconnects the rear axle as needed.
“It’s very similar to the Active Drive I system on the 2014 Jeep Cherokee. Both vehicles offer a one-speed power takeoff unit, but the 200 brings some unique calibrations to the AWD disconnect strategy,” Doug Verley, the Chrysler 200’s Chief Engineer, said in an interview with Automotive Engineering prior to the car’s world debut at the 2014 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit.
The AWD system’s engagement is triggered by specific events such as shifting the transmission to the sport mode or disabling the electronic stability control; changes in weather such as rain or snow; as well as dynamic occurrences such as a passing maneuver or a stability control event.
Up to 60% of the V6 engine’s torque can be directed to the rear wheels via a torque algorithm that is unique to the 200.
“The system puts the torque exactly where it’s needed. So if you’re driving along at 70 mph and it’s sunny and dry roads, the system only needs to pull with the front wheels. But if the car experiences a wet roadway and wheel slip occurs, then torque gets applied to the appropriate wheels,” said Verley about the on-demand AWD system with torque vectoring.
Chrysler 200’s platform is the Compact U.S.-wide (CUS-wide), a Fiat Group architecture that originated on the Alfa Romeo Giulietta.
The 200’s front suspension cradle, made of die-cast aluminum, employs independent MacPherson struts, coil springs, twin-tube dampers, and stabilizer bar. The rear suspension’s fully isolated cradle has Chrysler 200-tuned springs and struts “to give the car its unique flavor,” according to Verley.
“Instead of continuing to do the rear suspension assembly work off-site, we brought the suspension build-up line into our Sterling Heights plant. Because we’re now managing the process within our assembly plant, that reduces the pipeline between the component suppliers and vehicle assembly,” Verley said.
As the first all-new vehicle produced at the automaker’s modernized Michigan factory, the 200’s frame will be assembled by more than 1000 robots inside a new one million ft² body shop. The facility’s $1 billion overhaul also includes a new three-story, one million ft² paint shop.
Power choices for the new 200 are a 3.6-L V6 and a 2.4-L four-cylinder.
The 3.6-L Pentastar V6 is standard on AWD models and the 200C, and is an option on the front-wheel-drive 200S. In its new 200 application, the V6 will produce an estimated 262 lb·ft (355 N·m) at 4250 rpm and an estimated best-in-class rating of 295 hp (216 kW) at 6350 rpm. Those numbers top the engine’s prior ratings of 283 hp (211 kW) at 6400 r·pm and 260 lb·ft (353 N·m) at 4400 rpm.
An inline 2.4-L MultiAir2 Tigershark four-cylinder has estimated ratings of 184 hp (135 kW) at 6250 rpm and 173 lb·ft (234 N·m) at 4600 rpm.
More than 80% of the 2.4-L four-cylinder engine’s components are new in comparison to the outgoing engine. The engine, upgraded to include MultiAir2 electrohydraulic fully variable valve-lift technology, is expected to achieve an estimated 35 mpg U.S EPA highway rating compared to the current engine’s 31 mpg highway.
A standard nine-speed automatic transmission from ZF replaces the 40TES four-speed automatic and 62TE six-speed automatic transmission that were available on the prior model 200. The 200’s electronically controlled automatic overdrive transmission with torque converter clutch has forward gear ratios of 4.70:1 (1st), 2.84 (2nd), 1.91 (3rd), 1.38 (4th), 1.00 (5th), 0.81 (6th), 0.70 (7th), 0.58 (8th), and 0.48 (9th). Reverse gear ratio is 3.81. The ratio spread is 9.81. Final gear ratio with the 2.4-L engine is 3.73, and 4.08 with the 3.6-L engine.
The segment’s first application of an electronic shifter was a joint design between Chrysler and Kostal. Although the 2014 Ram 1500 and the Dodge Durango also feature an e-shifter, the 200’s console-mounted, rotary dial shifter has additional capability.
“Instead of a four position shifter with PRND (park, reverse, neutral, drive), we have added a fifth position. That’s unique to the 200. This allows the customer to select L (low) on the Limited and C models, and S (sport) and the S model,” said Verley.
Replacing the prior-generation car’s mechanical shifter saved about 2 lb (0.90 kg) and enabled the interior design team to create a floating center stack and center console with pass-through storage. The all-new cabin also features an 8.4-in dashboard touchscreen screen linked to the UConnect communications system and front cupholders that slide forward and backward.
“The precision in how this unique mechanism moves the cupholder unit is remarkable. It’s definitely not disappointing. And that’s really been our mantra with this car: We don’t want anything to disappoint the customer. We strived to develop a car that doesn’t have any excuses,” said Verley.
Having all suppliers invested and engaged in the production process is crucial, and that’s especially true for the car’s 160 tier-one suppliers. Said Verley, “I usually told suppliers, ‘I want you to be sure you’re proud of that part before you put it in a box, so that we’re proud to put that part on the car’.”
The 2015 Chrysler 200 is available in four trims: the LX, the Limited, the premium 200C, and the sporty 200S.
According to Andy Love, Head of Chrysler 200 Brand Marketing, “Over the last couple of years, buyers in the midsize segment have wanted a little bit more sport in this vehicle class.” Love predicts that the 200S will account for 25% of the 200 model’s overall sales. The 200S features a sports-tuned suspension as well as standard sports seats and paddle shifters.
The next-generation, 108-in (2743-mm) wheelbase four-door sedan spent more time in the wind tunnel than any other Chrysler Group vehicle to date. With a best-in-class 0.27 Cd, the next-generation 200 notched a substantial improvement over the previous model’s 0.34 Cd.
Said Verley, “Just for the side mirrors alone, there were more than 10 trips to the wind tunnel. We tuned and tweaked every aspect of the car’s exterior, including the underbody where we added belly pans from the front fascia to the exhaust pipes.”
More than 60% of the structure is comprised of mild steel, high strength steel, advanced high strength steel, press hardening steel, and boron steel. The use of lightweight steels means the car has a 7% greater torsional stiffness than the prior-generation 200. “These steels are also crucial to the car’s crash-energy-management strategy,” noted Verley.
There are more than 60 available safety and security features on the 200. The list of segment-first applications includes perpendicular park assist; Adaptive Cruise Control-Plus, which enables in certain situations and without driver intervention a full stop of the car; and LaneSense Lane Departure Warning-Plus.
The new 200 starts production in the second quarter of 2014. The 2015 MY car’s starting MSRP for the U.S. market is $21,700 (excluding $995 destination).