Boys night. Steak house. And we are rolling out.
You can almost hear the soundtrack thumping as my two sons and I slow walk to our ride.
And what better way to roll on a night out with my boys on the town than in a ride imported from Detroit.
Ready to roll.
My wife and daughter are in Dallas for the weekend at a soccer tournament, leaving me and my boys, now 16 and 10, to fend for ourselves. It seems the right time to splurge, to get my boys off the sheltered boarding school campus where we live, and into the big city. Time for some boy talk. Time to live large.
To help us to that end, we have a Chrysler 200 at our disposal, and it fits right in with the program. Our loaner is a deep, almost oxblood color that the brand calls Velvet Red Pearl, and with the sculpted lines you might expect to find on an import; the thing is extremely handsome at the curb. When seated inside the high tech interior, my first question — how big is this car? It’s like some kind of fun house. From the outside it looks like a smallish midsize sedan, akin to a Altima or an Elantra, but once inside, it feels big and substantial. My giant teen — who now towers over me at 6’1” opines that this is a “big car.”
Fire it up using the push button ignition and the tech geek in you goes wild. My tester had so many technological safety and entertainment features that I can only start to describe them here. You have to live with this car for a while before you can really appreciate all the features.
It doesn’t take long, however, as my teen quickly points out, to discover that the Alpine speakers can deliver the kind of beat that makes even the old dad feel cool as we head out to the steakhouse. The Panoramic moonroof amplifies the coolness effect and also contributes to the feeling of spaciousness in the cabin.
Using the knob on the console to shift the car into reverse activates the back up camera and the sensors that surround this car — it just about parks itself. Once in forward motion, the large dash mounted screen brings the excellent nav system back into view. I’ve used a lot of these systems and this one was the best in several categories. The touch response was outstanding, and the voice recognition was the best I’ve ever used. I used it to find addresses and change entertainment. I found myself looking around at my companions in amazement after this system did its thing.
Cockpit. (Heh.) Stylin’.
The seat and steering wheel had more buttons on them than an F1 car, and it took some orientation, but I soon came to appreciate both. While I was exploring all the technical options, I also came to appreciate the lane departure system. The system gave me a welcome nudge through the steering wheel when I became distracted by gizmos and began to wander.
Winding through the hills west of downtown Austin, the car feels competent and comfortable, over various pavement conditions. The nine speed automatic transmission (yes, you read that right) is smooth and subtle, though it did intimidate me out of trying to manage the paddle shifters. So many gears! The 3.6 liter V6 makes a nice noise when you hit the throttle, but the car doesn’t really encourage aggressive driving overall. Which was fine with me and boys. We wanted posh on our ride downtown.
Diggin’ our ride.
When we pulled up at the stylish and upscale urban steakhouse, I was more than proud to turn over the keys to the valet — the car can hold its head up against much pricier competition.
The steakhouse wasn’t the only destination the 200 ferried us to. We also hit the road for a visit to the grandparents. On the highway, the 200 is a first class ticket all the way. The huge trunk swallowed our gear with ease. The adaptive cruise control was impressive, the cabin quiet, the seats comfortable over a longer haul, and the ride smooth. I felt good about the incredible array of air bags and other safety equipment.
The car uses gas more like it feels inside than it looks outside — we got a modest 22 miles per gallon in mixed driving, and while the car is available at a modest $26k entry price, our loaded model topped out at more than $36k. Still, with all the features and technology, I felt like I was driving a much more expensive ride. It feels like an entry level luxury car.
Our steak dinner was amusing and satisfying. My boys and I swapped stories, gave each other a bit of grief, worked on our table etiquette (just a little) and generally had a fine time. It was money well spent. Like a fine modern steakhouse, the 200 was satisfying, classy, distinctly domestic — a fantastic iteration of a long standing tradition. Any family looking for a safe, stylish and high tech companion on the road should certainly take a look.
Good times with the fellas.
Disclaimer: A test vehicle and a tank of gas were provided to DaddyClay free of charge.