2015 Chrysler 200 takes AWD to ranch mansion

The 2015 Chrysler 200S along the Inverness golf course in Arapahoe County. (Bud Wells photos)

The 2015 Chrysler 200S along the Inverness golf course in Arapahoe County. (Bud Wells photos)

Selling the qualities and features of the new model was rather easy for three Chrysler execs – Rick Denau and John Nulty from Detroit and Wendy Orthman from Chicago – at a gathering Wednesday evening of 20 invited automotive journalists at the old castle-like Highlands Ranch Mansion.

The praise being peddled was for the 2015 Chrysler 200; elsewhere, say Atlanta, Phoenix or Seattle, it might have received a few “ho-hum, another Chrysler midsizer” reactions.

It showed up here, though, a state as rugged as the look of the big mansion, with new exterior, an interior approaching the luxuriousness of the 300, a 9-speed automatic transmission and, prepared specially for our Rockies and our snow – all-wheel drive.

The AWD system is available not only with the V-6 version, also the cheaper 4-cylinder 200; same with the new 9-speed automatic, it is teamed with both the 4-cylinder and the V-6.

Provided to me for driving to the event and the return home was a granite-hued four-door, which also accommodated Stu Wright of Greeley as my copilot. Maybe a bit light on low-end acceleration, the 295-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 engine, with the help of the 9-speed, was a smooth performer at midrange.

A rotary-dial shifter sits in the center console within easy reach of the driver; it’s similar to the type introduced by Jaguar several years ago, though the Chrysler dial doesn’t recess flush into the console when the car is turned off, as does the Jag.

Paddle shifters offer all sorts of quick-gear capabilities with the nine speeds; in addition, a Sport mode button will turn the 200 into a rear-axle-favored setup, as up to 60 percent of torque is directed to the rear. The Sport mode also increases throttle response, quickens shifts and lessens the normal traction control. In regular mode, however, the all-wheel-drive system will actually disconnect the rear axle when torque is not needed, a fuel-saving move.

Highlighting the interior are well-bolstered cloth-and-leather seats and an 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen with high-end audio and navigation, though I found the nav less than specific on a couple of occasions while heading into the southeast metro area Thursday morning. The new 200 sedan offers storage beneath the console, similar to the style adopted by Volvo.

Two other nice interior touches are blue backlighting for the instrument panel gauges and info/entertainment center and the Detroit skyline embossed on the mat at the bottom of the storage area. A second cavernous storage compartment is revealed beneath sliding cupholders in the center console.

Catching my attention in late afternoon, as we stood around the 200s outside the mansion, was Denau’s mention of the fact that sticker price on one of the Chryslers was $3,000 below that of a comparably equipped Ford Fusion AWD. Wait till the Ford boys hear that. The Fusion with available AWD and the Subaru Legacy, for which every one is built that way, are prime competitors of the new 200.

The Highlands Ranch Mansion was home to the Lawrence Phipps Jr. family for more than 40 years. (Bud Wells photos)

The Highlands Ranch Mansion was home to the Lawrence Phipps Jr. family for more than 40 years. (Bud Wells photos)

With AWD standard for the 200S model, options pushed the sticker price to $34,065 from a base of $28,695. Among amenities are heated steering wheel, heated front seats, backup camera, blind-spot and cross-path detection, 19-inch black aluminum wheels and remote start.

Here are the ’15 Chrysler 200’s specifications:

Wheelbase 108 inches; Length 192.3 inches; Width 73.6 inches; Height 54.9 inches; Curb Weight 3,475 pounds; Track 62.1 inches front, rear; Ground Clearance 5.8 inches; Turn Circle 39.2 feet; Engine 3.6-liter V-6; Horsepower/Torque 288/262; Transmission 9-speed automatic; Fuel mileage estimated 18/29, average 27.1; Fuel Tank 15.9 gallons; Wheels 19-inch; Cargo Volume 16 cubic feet; Warranty 3 years/36,000 miles basic, 5/100,000 powertrain; Competitors Ford Fusion, Subaru Legacy, Volkswagen CC, Toyota Camry; Assembly Plant Sterling Heights, Mich.; Parts Content U.S./Canada 73%; Base Price of Lowest Model $21,700; Base Price of Review Model $28,695; Sticker Price $34,065.