Ever since Lee Iacocca ordered the roof off of a LeBaron for his summer enjoyment, Chrysler has been a leader in flip-top luxury touring machines. As the LeBaron’s successor, the Chrysler 200 continues the car’s place as a Bentley convertible at an affordable price. It seems like every 200 Convertible — as with the LeBaron before — is most often driven by old ladies with cigarettes hanging out of their mouths or a couple of old queens trying to re-live their club-spent youths. But they’re loyal, continually keeping the car at the top of the sales charts.
Not quite as big as a whale, the 200 Convertible is still a comfortable four-seater with enough trunk space to haul plenty of luggage on a voyage to Boca and back — even with the fully-electric top stowed. Owners can choose between a retractable hardtop or traditional canvas roof. Either way, the car shares many features with its sedan sibling, including a badge-enhanced, multi-faceted grille, LED front light pipes, and LED taillamps. Dual chrome exhaust tips and 18” alloys promise a little more than they deliver.
I spent too many miles in the 200’s interior, but was no worse for wear. Sweet-smelling leather seats — heated in front — are comfortable on long trips. Large analog gauges, piano finish around the center controls, ambient lighting, lighted cupholders, and a thick, leather-wrapped steering wheel imitate big luxury. Listening to music was a joy with the Boston Acoustics speakers connected to a USB port for iPods. Dash and door materials are definitely not up to Bentley standards, but the car is a very comfy place to while away the hours and is way more attainable.
No matter your gender or persuasion, it is easy to enjoy the Limited edition’s 283hp 3.6-liter V6 engine, connected to the front wheels with a slick six-speed automatic transmission. Even in a severe wind storm, the engine moved the sleek convertible swiftly and surely, easily accelerating away from semi-trucks at stupid speeds. I’m sure I didn’t achieve optimum fuel economy, but it is possible to achieve 19/29 mpg city/highway when not driving like a hell-bent banshee. Customers who’d like to downshift to a 173hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine are welcome to do so, but it’s hard to imagine why.
Contrary to the fresh power under the hood, there’s something old world about the 200’s chassis. The 200 is not as bad as my parents’ Model T, but there’s still a little shaking and quaking. In the old days, suspension systems were tuned softly to compensate for the body flex. Fortunately, the 200 is stiff enough for a firm four-wheel independent suspension that floats over bumps on the highway without becoming all jelly on bumpy city streets. It’s tuned towards the car’s purpose of providing a quiet boulevard ride.
As with the original LeBaron, the 200 is a stylish convertible that leaves the impression of a hand-built British cabrio without the hand-built price. Anything you could ever want in a convertible is present for a price that would barely buy you a Rolls-Royce test drive. The 200 Convertible starts at just over $27,000, but our loaded Limited came to $34,260.
2013 Chrysler 200 Convertible
Four-passenger, FWD convertible
Powertrain: 283hp 3.6-liter V6, 6-speed automatic transmission
Suspension f/r: Ind/Ind
Wheels: 18”/18” alloy f/r
Brakes: disc/disc fr/rr with ABS
Must-have features: Style, pace
Fuel economy: 19/29 mpg city/hwy
Assembly: Sterling Heights, MI
Base/As-tested price: $27,100/$34,260