The Chrysler 300 has been good for Chrysler, and, renewed back in 2011, it has helped return some prestige to the brand.
The 300 series goes all the way back to the 1950's, when the potent Hemi V8 engines were part of the explosion of power and fins that defines that age for us today. The 300 name died out in the mid 1960s, but in 2005, it was brought back to define a new kind of car for Chrysler. After the handsome, softly rounded "cab forward" sedans of the 1990s it delivered a chunky, traditional feel, more like a Rolls-Royce than the designs that preceded it.
What to do with the new 300? With the company's revival under Fiat leadership, it got the full beauty treatment. The shape remains, but the windshield is a little bit more reclined, and the surfaces, once edgy and brash, are softly shaped and subtly upgraded. The blocky taillamps now have a gentle curve and edge along their lenses and the deep indent in the lower trunk is minimized. Up front, the once jutting grille is more smoothly integrated, using the marque's slightly angled chrome bar theme.
Inside, time and money have been well spent. A dual-pane panoramic sunroof in my Luxury Brown Pearl Coat 2012 300C tester brought light to the elegantly appointed surfaces. My car had an impressively thick wood and leather heated steering wheel. The 8-inch screen in center dash was easy to see and use, feeling almost like the interface of an iPad, with touch buttons along the bottom.
The real wood steering wheel toned in with the wood trim in the car itself, although I think the trim was not from a real tree. The center console, with its roll-top cover (like a fine old desk) was elegant.
The dash panel is one area that really got the love in the new model. It's a deco wonderland of chrome and soft blue lighting worthy of Busby Berkeley or your favorite Art Deco building.
The seats, covered in my tester in light brown, soft leather, were very comfortable--neither too soft nor too firm, although I'd place them on the softer side of medium. The illuminated door handles added another touch of something special.
Chrysler 300s come with a range of engines. My 300C boasted a mighty 5.7-liter Hemi V8, putting out 363 horsepower through a five-speed automatic to the rear wheels. All-wheel drive is available, too.
The Hemi hauled the 4,300-pound car nicely and with very little sound. But, you can also equip a 300 with a 3.6-liter, 292-horsepower V6, which, with its first-in-segment eight-speed automatic, is good for 31 miles per gallon Highway per the EPA. My car was rated at 16 City, 25 Highway (19 Average); I achieved 17.9 mpg in my heavily-commute-oriented week.
The EPA's Green Vehicle Guide numbers for the 300 are 6 for Air Pollution and 3 for Greenhouse Gas.
The car, despite its impressive stance, proportions, and poundage, drives remarkably nimbly. There's some road feel through the steering wheel, and the steering is reasonably assisted. Despite being accused of looking like a "gangster" by a colleague, I was actually pretty content inside the 300.
Just because the car's a little retro doesn't mean it's not totally with the second decade of the 21st century. My car had Customer Preferred Package 29T, which includes a parking assist system so you don't need to scrape those lovely 20-inch alloy wheels. Adaptive cruise control keeps the distance between you and the car ahead and warns you if you approach the car ahead too quickly (even when not using cruise control). I had one instance of seeing "BRAKE" flash at me from the instrument panel when someone stopped suddenly in front of me on the freeway.
Blind spot and cross path detection works like a sentinel to keep you informed of when someone is potentially in your way so you can take defensive action.
I heard things in the optional audio system that I had never noticed in tracks off the iPod I had plugged in and stashed in the center console. With 19 speakers and 900 watts of power it was like few I've experienced.
What kind of price would you expect for this kind of a ride? Well, how about $46,300? Sound like a lot? Look at the list of goodies. It does have its work cut out for it in the competitive luxury sedan market, but it could change some minds about buying North American (it's built in Ontario, Canada). Other than one slightly misaligned trim piece, it looked sharp and tight from one end to the other.
You can pick up a 300 for as little as $30,840 if you like the style but are put off by the price.