Test Drive: 2011 Chrysler 200 Convertible

?Chrysler?s 200 Convertible: Redesigned and reengineered for 2011?

The sky is literally the limit with the new 2011 Chrysler 200 Convertible ? just drop the top and go. Not a fan of ragtops? No problemo fresh air fans, there?s also a retractable hardtop version available in place of the soft cloth top for added security. The 2011 Chrysler 200 Convertible joins the Chrysler 200 sedan in the lineup as an all-new vehicle. The 200 models represent a replacement for the Sebring of old.

The 200 Convertible is a true mid-sized vehicle that is capable of seating four adults in comfort, and that actually provides usable trunk space, even when the top is down and stowed. Incidentally, the top operation ? up or down takes place in a flat 30 seconds.

The new Chrysler 200 Convertible will be available in three levels of trim: the Chrysler 200 Convertible Touring; Chrysler 200 Convertible Limited; and the Chrysler 200 Convertible S. There is no longer an LS trim level. The Touring version starts pricing at $26,445 , the Limited model begins at $31,240; and the S model pricing will be announced, when it goes on sale in the Spring. Add $750 to each for Destination and Handling charges. The retractable hardtop may be ordered in place of the soft convertible top for added peace of mind, which will add $1,795 to the 200 Touring model, and $1,995 to the more upscale models. Both power tops fold in three sections and may be operated by a center console switch or a button on the key fob. A standard hard tonneau covers both tops when down.

There are two engine variants for the 200 Convertible: a standard 2.4-liter inline 4-cylinder World Gas Engine that delivers 173 horsepower and 166 pound feet of torque; or an all-new 3.6-literPentastar V6 engine that generates 283 horsepower at 6,350 rpm, while developing 260 pound feet of torque at 4,400 rpm. Both engines currently mate to the 62TE six-speed automatic transaxle, with an all-new Dual Dry Clutch Transmission becoming available in the second quarter of 2011 on Touring models powered by the2.4-liter World Gas Engine.

In terms of its aesthetic appeal, the new Chrysler 200 Convertible displays the styling of a coupe with the open-air driving enjoyment of a Convertible. The design showcases a new sculpted front fascia and hood, featuring the Chrysler brand?s distinctive new grille design that was inspired by the iconic Chrysler 300,?with a liquid chrome finish and new signature winged badge. The hood is flanked by projector headlamps in a graphic shape along with LED positioning light-pipes. The lower fascia integrates projector fog lamps with bright blade accents. In the rear, the deck lid features a chrome light bar that connects the new LED taillamps. The rear fascia is new as well, finishing off with an integrated accent color valance panel carrying dual chrome exhaust tips. A bright sculptural blade is placed atop the valance. The overall form sits lower all around for a more aerodynamic image.

Moving to the inside, the new Chrysler 200 convertible exhibits a clean modern look, with greater attention to fit, finish and detail. The instrument panel?s design flows to the center console which now provides increased storage capabilities. Interior choices consist of Black or Black with Light Frost Beige, both of which are available in either cloth or leather.

Engineering modifications to the new Chrysler 200 include: redesigned front suspension componentry, retuned steering gear, revised spring rates and stabilizer bar geometry, new premium tire application and a 200 percent increase in lateral stiffness. Safety features consist of: advanced multi-stage front passenger air bags; front-seat-mounted side air bags; active head restraints; Electronic Stability Control with electronic traction control and Brake Assist; four-wheel ABS; child seat anchor system; and available Uconnect? Voice Command.

My test 2011 Chrysler 200 Convertible was the Touring version, powered by the 2.4-liter inline four-banger mated to the six-speed automatic gearbox. The exterior was sprayed with a Bright Silver metallic finish, while the interior was executed in Black cloth to match the top. My convertible came with a power soft cloth top. The base price was set at $31,340, while the final sticker read $32,450.

SUMMARY: Driving the 2011 Chrysler 200 Convertible provided a pleasing open air motoring experience even with the soft cloth top and four-cylinder powerplant. I wasn?t able to drive a retractable hardtop version, nor was I afforded the opportunity to pilot one of the V6 powered models. Given a choice, I would more than likely opt for a V6 powered hardtop example for the additional power and extra security provided.

Acceleration from the four-cylinder engine seemed adequate for the majority of driving scenarios and the transmission offered transitions in gearing smoothly?and efficiently. The ride quality was comfortable, but leaned to the firm side of the equation. Handling characteristics bordered on sporty, with good feedback and nimble response. There was a noticeable level of cowl shake in evidence however, over extremely rough surfaces.

Outward visibility is obviously better with the convertible top stowed than with it up due to the large sail panel area. but the whole premise of a convertible is to enjoy the wind through one?s hair and the sun warming one?s skin.

The 2011 Chrysler 200 Convertible should definitely be considered when shopping for an open air motoring vehicle, capable of seating four. It is attractive, loaded with amenities and it is economical as well, especially in the four-cylinder example. There?s also a 5-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty as an added advantage.