2015 Toyota Camry XSE V6 vs. Chrysler 200S AWD - Which to buy?
Toyota recently updated its venerable Camry. The all-new 2015 XSE Camry trim features a new exterior, interior, and other changes. All of these have been almost universally found to be big improvements by reviewers. Most importantly, the XSE V6 is now the top trim Camry and combines the great SE looks with the luxury appointments formerly reserved just for XLE models.
Chrysler has been struggling forever to compete in this segment. However, for 2015 it comes to market with a completely new 200, which competes head to head with the Camry. These two are priced very similarly. A loaded Camry XSE V6 prices out at about $34,000. The Chrysler 200S with AWD and most of the option packages (less the safety suite) comes in at $35,390. Torque News was lucky enough to spend time in both vehicles and we found that both are winners. That said, they have dramatically different personalities. The question is, which would be right for you?
2015 Camry XSE V6
We writers kibitz, gossip, and argue behind the scenes most of every work day. This unseen round-table helps us to sharpen our wit and keep our facts straight. It also reveals our biases. One writer who will go un-named, recently paid the new 2015 Camry a comment. He said “I tested the new Camry XSE, and now I have to find a new car to make fun of.” He was not alone in teasing the past Camry models. Many found the looks common, the ride so-so, and the car to be lacking in passion. No more. The Camry’s new look uses the proven successful front grill and body style that elevated both the Corolla’s and Avalon’s sales. Indeed since the make-over the new Camry’s sales have increased.
Reviewers are having a hard time finding things to make fun of with regard to Camry’s ride too. The XSE has a sportier feel now. This is not a sports sedan. Lexus already has the IS 350 to handle that market. Rather, this is a family car that comes with a ride that goes beyond good. The V6 is also not a rocket, but it is smooth and in a stoplight sprint it will embarrass base model Lexus, Audi, and BMW cars and pretty much every mid-size family car with less than 6-cylinders.
I attended a press introduction for the new Camry line and drove the vehicle then and also drove it at a public event. In both cases, I spent quality time with the XSE trim. There are no bad Camry trims. However, the XSE is a very special car that is not trying to be better than its peers in the mid-size family market. Rather, Toyota is trying to make the Camry XSE better than similar Acura TLX, Audi A4, and Mercedes CLA models costing more. It may very well be.
Inside the new Camry XSE V6 has some big surprises. When I first got in, the perforated synthetic suede seat inserts made me smile. This is a material only the sportiest premium cars used until about last October when the Camry XSE showed up wearing it. The rest of the trim is high-quality leather, so this is not an attempt to shave pennies.
The new infotainment and HVAC controls are just about perfect for those that like things simple. The buttons to make the most popular things work are large, and the driver never has to peck through menus to turn up the heat, change the channel on the audio system, or call up the Nav. The touch-screen is large, clear and it works intuitively. You will synch your phone in about 10 seconds.
The 2015 Camry XSE V6 also offers very good fuel economy. Although it has 268 horsepower, the Camry XSE V6 is rated at 21 mpg city/ 31 highway/and 25 combined using regular unleaded of course. Our price of $34,000 includes all the goodies. At this price one also gets all the optional driver aids like forward collision prevention. One can easily outfit a very nice Camry for under $30K, but not one that will compete with the new Chrysler 200S AWD V6.
Chrysler 200S AWD V6
Like my counterpart above, I used to make fun of the Chrysler 200. Once M&M sold-out and pretended he liked it I felt it was fair game. No more. I first saw the 200 at a press introduction. I could not believe what I was seeing. Here is a great looking car, particularly in its S trim, that simply has the best interior for the money at this price point. Compare this car to an Audi A3 that also costs $36K, and you will be shocked by how much more of everything the Chrysler offers.
My tester had black leather seats with raised stitching that rivaled anything I have ever seen in any Lexus. Heated and also ventilated, these seats belong in a Bentley GT. The center stack is also the best in the business in my opinion. The system is intuitive and easy to use. It’s a bit more modern and flashy than the Toyota Camry’s, which comes danger close to having the look of your grandma’s big-number phone (but doesn’t quite). The steering wheel was heated and felt so good in my hands I never wanted to let it go. What jumps out is that this car has style. And that style is ‘Murican.
The drivetrain of the 200s on paper is also a winner. 295 horsepower and nine forward gears driving all four wheels. That is 75 more hp than the Audi A3’s optional engine. This car moves out when pushed. Interestingly, it is more of a cool-cat cruiser than a sports car. Most of that power stayed unused in my public-road testing.
I knew I was not alone in loving the new look of this car when I came out of a donut shop and found 4 DPW guys ogling the 200S. They were all smiling. They could not believe it was a Chrysler. I got the sense after a couple quick words with them that in some weird way they felt proud. ‘Murican.
The AWD works great when the car is pointed forward, but in ice and snow my tester badly needed winter tires. The huge, beautiful 19 inch alloy rims and low profile tires did not like the slippery stuff. That said, it had no trouble going forward. Shoppers should just be aware that the AWD does not make this car much more of a winter car unless they replace the rubber in fall and spring.
Fuel economy suffered in the 200s due to the optional V6 and AWD. The 200S only rates 18 mpg city/ 29 highway/ and a tough to swallow 22 mpg combined. At least it uses regular unleaded.
Toyota is the most reliable non-premium brand. Toyota is also one of the top brands for resale value. Chrysler is still struggling a bit here. However, the Chrysler smells like a leather jacket when you open the door, and it looks like something George Thorogood might sing about. One of these is the safe date. One is trouble, but in a way that is hard to resist.
There is no loser in this comparison. The Camry XSE V6 can easily compete in every way with an Acura TLX costing much more. The Chrysler 200S AWD can easily compete with an Audi costing much more. Each of these cars feels great when driven. The Camry has the edge on the 200S in all things practical. The 200S has an edge when it comes to power, its AWD system and swagger. Whichever you choose your friends and family are going to be impressed, and you are going to enjoy the car immensely.
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Main story image by John Goreham