Chrysler 300 sedans offer engines from thrifty to forceful

2010, Chrysler, 300 C Heritage edition

COCONUT GROVE, Fla. -- Crisp driving characteristics, smart styling and luxurious cabin appointments combine with attractive price points to make the 300 series sedans a best-seller for the Chrysler brand.

With four passenger doors and seats for five inside plus multiple choices for trims and powertrains, Chrysler's flagship series of large-scale sedans for model-year 2010 dresses in dramatic sheetmetal packages which resemble uber-expensive luxury coaches a la Bentley with an audacious face, upright structure and chiseled-block body.

Cast low to the ground on big wheels with sharp-edged lines strafing across an exaggerated hood, the 300 features a stub-nosed prow with massive egg-crate grille in chrome and slab-sided flanks but muscular bulges around wheelwells for multi-spoke wheels also gleaming in chrome.

Three different engines are available to power Chrysler's largest sedan through trims tagged as 300 Touring, luxurious 300 Limited and flagship 300C. The 2010 300 Touring edition packs a fuel-thrifty V6 engine which earns EPA fuel economy scores up to 26 mpg for highway cruising. The 2010 300 Limited edition employs a high-output V6 which works with a rear-wheel-drive (RWD) or all-wheel-drive (AWD) traction mechanism.

The 2010 300 C Heritage edition caps the series packing a legendary HEMI V8 rippling with power. For entry-issue 300 Touring, the twin-cam 2.7-liter V6 produces 178 hp at 5500 rpm and torque of 190 lb-ft at 4000 rpm. It links to a Chrysler four-speed automatic shifter. For 300 Touring Signature as well as all 300 Limited editions, a high-output V6 -- Chrysler's single-cam 3.5-liter six-pack -- runs up to 250 hp at 6400 rpm with 250 lb-ft of torque at 3800 rpm.

With a RWD 300 Touring Signature and RWD 300 Limited the transmission remains Chrysler's four-speed automatic, but for the AWD 300 Touring Signature and AWD 300 Limited there's an electronic automatic five-speed transmission in place and it adds Chrysler's AutoStick for shift-it-yourself control like a manual.

For 300 C Heritage, the HEMI 5.7-liter V8 makes 360 hp at 5150 rpm and 389 lb-ft of torque at 4250 rpm through that electronic automatic five-speed with the AutoStick. And the HEMI V8 comes with a multi-displacement system (MDS) that can switch seamlessly and transparently to fuel-saving four-cylinder mode when all of that horsepower is not needed to romp.

A 300 C may also be configured for RWD or AWD traction. Chrysler's AWD device, using an active transfer case plus front-axle disconnect, divides the engine's power between the front and rear axles to maintain tire grip on slippery pavement. But when AWD traction is not needed, the intelligent system automatically disconnects the front axle, thus reverting to RWD mode in order to conserve fuel.

Measures for passenger safety in the 300 cabin extend from the sturdy safety-cage construction to front seatbelts with load-limited and pretensioning apparatus, backseat restraints with upper and lower anchors to mount a child's seat, smart multi-stage air bags up front plus side curtain-style air bags for all outboard seats.

And the car contains active safety systems to possibly avoid an accident, including a quick-response rack and pinion steering system and a big disc brake at every wheel linking to an anti-lock brake system (ABS), all-speed traction control (ASTC), emergency brake assist (EBA) and electronic stability control (ESP).

Chrysler organizes the passenger compartment of 300 series sedans around a cab-rearward concept, whereby the bulk of the cabin's volume occurs behind the windshield pillars in boxy and vertically-oriented quarters. It's not only spacious but comparable to room in vintage limo-style livery from the likes of, say, Rolls-Royce.

With the length between front and rear wheels extending for ten feet, there's vast space inside for riders. Layout of the cabin poses two large bucket seats up front with a bench in back broad enough for three but with indented sections for two.

The car seems to hunker low against the pavement with a ground clearance of less than six inches while all chairs in the cabin rise high so it's easy to slip laterally into a seat to climb aboard. Space for heads and legs is superior -- and passengers on the rear bench may sit with crossed legs and still find room to stretch.

Up front, the driver of a 300 sedan fits in a comfortable bucket seat which adjusts under power and adds lumbar back support. Electroluminescent instruments in the dashboard cluster include large round analog gauges with bright white faces and chrome rims.

And in a vertically-flush stack of controls at the center of the dash there's a round analog clock topside with controls below for climate and audio equipment plus the optional navigation system. A floor-mounted center console contains the transmission's lever in a shifter gate ringed by chrome.

The new-for-2010 300 Touring edition provides a number of upscale enhancements, including foglamps and bright touches of chrome on mirrors and door handles, plus 17-inch machined aluminum wheels capped by 215/65R17 all-season tires. The cloth-trimmed driver's bucket has eight-way power controls and standard cabin content ranges from an air conditioner to front map lamps, a tilting/telescoping steering column, auto-dimming mirror, cruise control and a four-speaker audio kit with AM/FM/CD/MP3.

The 2010 300 Limited edition adds 18-inch chrome-clad aluminum wheels with 225/60R18 all-season touring tires, leather upholstery on seats and leather wrapping steering wheel and shifter knob, a dual-control automatic climate system, eight-way power for the front passenger seat, cabin LED accent lights on console cupholders and door map pockets, an electronic vehicle information system, and a six-speaker audio package with Uconnect hands-free phone communications plus a 30-gigabyte hard drive.

The 2010 300 C Heritage edition piles on premium gear like leather seats with suede inserts, cabin trimmed in poplar burl wood, Keyless Entry/Keyless Go and a Boston Acoustics 5.1 surround sound audio system with 276-watt digital signal processor.

Chrysler's MSRP chart for the 2010 300 series begins below $27,300 for the 300 Touring RWD and climbs to $40,060 for the 300 C AWD.

By Bob Plunkett

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Images of the 2010, Chrysler 300 C Heritage edition

2010 300 C Heritage edition
2010 300 C Heritage edition
2010 300 C Heritage edition
2010 300 C Heritage edition
2010 300 C Heritage edition
2010 300 C Heritage edition
2010 300 C Heritage edition
2010 300 C Heritage edition