Review: 2011 Chrysler 200 Convertible LX

Cosmetic and mechanical improvements to the 2011 Chrysler 200 Convertible LX make it a much more enjoyable drive than its predecessor, the Sebring.

First, the mechanics. The physics of a convertible make it a vehicle type susceptible to rattling on rougher roads (hello, Toronto and Montreal!). There’s nothing to anchor the rest of the car, so to speak. To address that, the Convertible’s engineers fitted a brace beneath the hood, between the towers. So, when you drive, there’s little rattle, even in the most pothole-rich, gravy-starved NDP ridings.

Changes in looks also impress: A sloping hood, cat’s-eye headlights, a grill reminiscent of the manliest barbecue, and LED taillights. The deep black hardtop is sleek and looks especially cool halfway through its movement up or down. (Cloth-top option is also available.)

Here’s the thing, though: Barring the roof, these same features are available with the 2011 Chrysler 200 Sedan LX — the model that I prefer, perhaps surprisingly.

Aren’t droptops inherently more awesome? you ask. Certainly, with the roof down, the Convertible looks terrific and is truly a thrill to drive. Consider the Sedan’s elegant profile, though, running from the ground up and in a single sweep, its roof arching back like a ’30s bullet train. That baby looks fast just standing still.

Both Convertible and Sedan come with a hearty 3.6L 6-cylinder engine and a 6-speed automatic transmission with sport-shift, plus 18″ x 7″ wheels.

Where the Sedan really shines is in the cocoon it builds for the driver. It’s like you’re being spoon-fed: everything is just where it should be, exactly within reach. It’s a quiet drive. Even the softness of the interior seems to swallow sound, creating a recording studio effect. You instinctively feel safe, meeting the corners rising at speed.

When the roof is down, the cossetted environment of the Sedan is obviously traded off for that Convertible feeling. Ultimately, any preference for one over the other is purely personal (as are most decisions in car purchases), and it bears mentioning that there is little noise with the Convertible’s roof down. It’s easy to talk to passengers without raising one’s voice — impressively, even on the highway.

So, was it just the difference in space? Possibly. If you’re considering the Convertible, spend time riding in the back seat. The storage required to accommodate the roof swallows a goodly part of the trunk, and there’s an obvious-enough commensurate trickle-down. (Ironic, considering the aforementioned roof-down openness that I complained about.)

Or, was it the difference in cost? The most stripped down Sedan starts at $16,495, while the opening gambit for the Convertible is $29,995. Simply put: If you’re considering the Convertible, test both.

Less simply put: The 2011 Chrysler 200 Convertible LX is a better drive than the Sebring… but so is the 2011 Chrysler 200 Sedan LX! (Slaps forehead.) Forget the muddle: Let’s meet in the middle and call it a win-win.

2011 Chrysler 200 ConvertibleLX,
2011 Chrysler 200 SedanLX

MSRP, Convertible: $38,496
MSRP, Sedan: $27,995

As driven, Convertible: $43,685
As driven, Sedan: $30,935

Image courtesy of Chrysler-Group.

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