I just dropped off the Chrysler 200S and am left with one regret. That is, I didn’t test its sport mode until two days before I had to return it. Until then, it was an urban tootler, shuttling me around in sticky TO traffic. Stop. Go. Sprint! Stop! Only the most ardent fans of paddling bother with sport mode in such conditions.
At 10.7L/100km in combined city/highway driving, there are cheaper ways to get around (AWD also stands for “added weight delivered”) but the 200S has a sweet low centre of gravity and that remarkable modern steering that improves with speed. It was fun before the sport mode. Besides, it also offered plenty of distractions and bling including satellite radio, rearview camera for reversing (de rigeur for urban drivers), a superb infotainment system that makes logical sense—two minutes with the screen and dials before driving off the first time and you’re the programmer of your own ride for good—plus remote start, heated front seats and heated steering wheel.
Note those last three.
It’s late November here in TO, right around the time most people start feeling bad about not switching their tires; I hadn’t warned Chrysler that I’d be taking the car well north of the city and that the 200S would run straight through the first snowfall of the year—mostly because none of us saw any of that coming. It’s been an unseasonably warm autumn with temps into the teens till two days ago, the day I took my wife and daughter north of the city for a night in scenic Grey County—in the middle of the first snowstorm of the season (a mere deluge in the city).
If you’ve never been to Ontario, you are free to continue enjoying the prejudices you might hold regarding our drivers. We over-index on the idiot scale.
Nighttime, fat flakes of snow were hurtling into the windshields of the short procession of cars on the last stretch of highway before our destination. Among the highest plateaus in Ontario, this section is shut several times every winter by police because of visibility issues and sudden snowsqualls that instantly the driving area into a snow bank. In an 80kph zone, which grumpy Torontonians typically take at 100, we were led by a nervous novice understandably doing between 50 and 60. However his nervousness was being tested by the two testicular SUV drivers behind him. For 30km they simulated buggery, continually tailgating then suddenly having to jam on the brakes. I spared them such dickheadedness from behind but, being abroad on such a night without snow tires in a low-to-the-ground ride, was subject to the same weather conditions. It was tense. Furthermore, AWD may get you going in challenging conditions but it doesn’t making skidding or stopping any easier.
Enter the switch to S. In sport mode, the Chrysler 200S becomes a different animal, a fiery little badger that puts power where you need it and when. Unnerving as the ride through the snow was, the car was putting a smile on my face. With roaring engine—a 3.6L V6—the car reacts even quicker and you can sense the road better. I didn’t need to go faster but appreciated the power and control. My wife and daughter were happy to keep things slow, enjoying the variety of satellite classic rock stations, which remained accessible despite the storm and remoteness.
Next day, the surroundings were buried beneath 10cm of snow but, unlike Toronto planners, Grey County expects snow every year and the roads were already plowed within 3km of the chalet. I kept the 200S in S the whole way home though—and again this morning on the 200S AWD’s ride back to its owners.
Base price: $34,295
All in with bling and charges: $42,110
Steven Bochenek is a longtime writer/creative director and contributor to DailyXY, plus the Auto Journalists of Canada’s 2014 Runner-Up Canadian Auto Journalist of the Year.
Photo courtesy of Chrysler.