LA JOLLA, Calif. -- This ritzy seaside enclave near San Diego lures the uber-rich and movie stars to bask in brilliant California sunshine and shoot for par on manicured golf links like the cliff-hugging Torrey Pines.
Shopping for the wealthy residents of La Jolla occurs along Prospect Avenue, a palm-fringed boulevard rivaling Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills or Worth Avenue in Palm Beach with exclusive courtiers, bling-bling jewelers and galleries for antiques and fine art.
And the coaches for these Armani-draped and Cartier-dotted shoppers decorate the curbs along Prospect with exotic labels like Jaguar, Bentley, Ferrari.
So what's the stir on Prospect over the appearance of a stately big sedan that sparkles in sleek skin stretched over a five-place cockpit filled with sumptuous appointments and the silver-winged badge of US-based automaker Chrysler fixed on that blunted prow?
This elegant transport -- a new second-generation treatment of Chrysler 300 for 2011 -- adds up to a completely reworked flagship for the brand possessing classy but comfortable interior fittings, superb driving dynamics and buyer choices for two muscular powertrains plus rear-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive traction mode.
Titled under a numeric label as the 300 series, which commemorates special performance cars tracing back six decades at Chrysler, the new touring sedan for the large-car class of 2011 represents luxurious motoring in a kinetic work of art.
With four passenger doors and seats for five inside plus choices for trims and powertrains, Chrysler's flagship series reflect dramatic new sheetmetal packages which resemble 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 projects a stub-nosed prow with massive finned grille in chrome and slab-sided flanks but muscular bulges around wheelwells for multi-spoke wheels also gleaming in chrome.
Two different engines are available to power Chrysler's largest sedan in 2011 editions through trims tagged as 300, luxurious 300 Limited and flagship 300C plus the 300C AWD.
The 2011 300 and 300 Touring editions employ Chrysler's new Pentastar 3.6-liter V6 engine which applies all torque to the rear wheels through a five-speed electronic automatic transmission with AutoStick shift-it-yourself side-tap gear control like a manual.
The dual-cam aluminum-block six-pack engine produces healthy power numbers -- 292 hp at 6350 rpm and 260 lb-ft of torque at 4800 rpm.
Yet the V6 runs on regular unleaded (87-octane) gasoline (or E85 ethanol) and earns EPA fuel economy numbers of 18 mpg for city driving and 27 mpg on the highway.
Top trims carry the 300C and 300C AWD badges and get a high-tech rendition of Chrysler's fabled Hemi V8 plant with hemispheric combustion chambers.
The contemporary Hemi V8 displaces 5.7 liters and produces 363 hp at 5200 rpm and 394 lb-ft of torque at 4200 rpm through the electronic automatic five-speed transmission with AutoStick.
It comes with Chrysler's Fuel Saver Technology (FST) mode which switches seamlessly to fuel-saving four-cylinder mode when all of that horsepower is not needed.
Fuel scores for the 5.7-liter plant net to 16/25 mpg (City/Highway) with the 300C RWD version and 15/23 mpg (City/Highway) for 300C AWD.
Chrysler's part-time AWD device, using an active transfer case plus front-axle disconnect, distributes the engine's power between the front and rear axles to maintain tire grip on slippery pavement. When AWD traction is not needed, the intelligent system automatically disconnects the front axle, thus reverting to RWD mode to conserve fuel.
All of the 2011 300 issues have a new ultra-rigid unibody structural design with redesigned suspension geometry front and rear plus new suspension hardware to deliver grand-touring handling traits akin to the top luxury touring sedans out of Europe.
But 300C AWD goes further with a tighter tire-to-fender fit with the ride height lowered (by 0.15-inch) and bigger (19-inch) cast aluminum wheels capped by wider (235/55R19) black Michelin MXM4 all-season performance tires.
The standard 300 suspension consists of an independent front SLA arrangement with high upper A arms plus coil springs over gas-charged monotube shock absorbers and stabilizer bar. The rear independent five-link design has coil springs and gas-charged monotube shocks plus stabilizer bar and an isolated rear suspension cradle.
Measures for passenger safety in the cabin extend from the sturdy safety-cage construction to front seatbelts with pretensioning apparatus, backseat restraints with anchors to mount two child seats, reactive head restraints and the cabin surrounded by hidden air bags -- up-front inflators for front seats plus seat-mounted side air bags and one more to shield the driver's knee, then curtain-style air bags mounted in headliners above side windows for two rows.
And all 300 editions contain active safety systems to avoid accidents, including four-wheel disc brakes tied to an anti-lock brake system (ABS) with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) plus a traction control system (TCS) and anti-skid electronic stability control (ESC).
The dramatic design of Chrysler's flagship is hard to miss: It looks like an exclusive luxury coach of bold dimensions in the manner of a Bentley with the audacious face, upright structure and chiseled-block body.
Up front, a new grille with sculpted horizontal blades mounts at center-point between corner headlamp clusters with bi-functional projector headlamps nested with LED daytime running lamps.
Profile of the 300 shows a sculpted hood and raked windshield, bulging fenders, larger side windows and thin pillars, and a stubby tail with chrome bar stretching the decklid width between corner LED taillamps.
As the length between front and rear wheels extends for ten feet, there's vast space inside for riders. The cabin layout poses two bucket seats up front with a bench broad enough for three but with indented sections for two.
Entry issue 2011 Chrysler 300 provides cloth upholstery, air conditioning, keyless entry, power controls for windows/mirrors/locks, cruise control, 12-volt outlets, Sirius satellite radio, Uconnect touchscreen and audio gear with AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA/USB.
Other 300 trims upgrade to luxury fittings like leather upholstery, power controls for seats, auto-dimming exterior mirrors, and premium audio systems.
Chrysler marks the MSRP for 2011 300 at $27,170, with 300 Limited for $31,170, 300C RWD to $38,170 and 300C AWD at $40,320.