Get the V-6

I'm at a loss to explain why a car so small on the inside weighs more than nearly every major competitor. I can only describe the consequences: Chrysler's aging 2.4-liter World Engine is tasked with pulling the heavy 200 up to speed, and it emits a harsh, grainy sound as it does so. It gets the car there eventually, but the experience is neither quick nor refined. The also-heavy four-cylinder Chevy Malibu is similarly sluggish; others are both quicker and more fuel-efficient.

With 283 horsepower — 110 hp more than the four-cylinder — the optional 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 is well worth the upgrade. Fellow editor Mike Hanley drove the V-6 sedan last fall, and he says it's a potent engine, moving the 200 with a vigor similar to the V-6 Honda Accord. If absolute power is your thing, though, the 200 can't outmuscle the V-6 Malibu or V-6 Toyota Camry, which are so quick you may not want to hand the keys to your teen driver.

All 200s but the LX sedan get a six-speed automatic. It upshifts smoothly and quickly around town, which is more than I could say for the 2010 Sebring's lurch-prone automatic. Still, the 200's auto can be indecisive in interstate passing lanes (that should be the left one, California), hunting for gears when you need it to kick down and pick one already. I didn't drive the base LX, which gets a four-speed automatic.

Regardless of the transmission, the four-cylinder 200 sedan gets 24 mpg in the EPA's combined city/highway rating. That's subpar, given that many four-cylinder family cars get 26 or 27 mpg. Chrysler says a dual-clutch automatic is coming for the four-cylinder, which should improve mileage.

The 3.6-liter 200 is rated 22 mpg, which isn't bad for a V-6. One complaint: Chrysler recommends midgrade (89-octane) gasoline for maximum performance. Most competing V-6s achieve full performance on regular.

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