New & Used Chrysler 300: In Depth
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The Chrysler 300 is a mid- to full-size sedan that sits at the top of the American automaker's range. The 300 comes standard with a six-cylinder engine and rear-wheel drive, but can be configured with all-wheel drive and a powerful V-8 engine.
Because of its drivetrain layout and engine options, as well as old-school big-car styling, the 300 has few remaining direct competitors. It's most commonly cross-shopped with big front-drivers like the Ford Taurus, Buick LaCrosse, Toyota Avalon, and Hyundai Azera, and possibly even the Cadillac XTS. The 300 is related to a pair of slightly more youthful Dodges, the Challenger muscle coupe and Charger sedan.
Launched way back in 2005, the Chrysler 300 marked the comeback of rear-wheel drive to Chrysler's sedan lineup and replaced the front-wheel-drive Chrysler LHS and 300M. The automaker took advantage of its Daimler ownership at the time, borrowing some components from an older version of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Appearance-wise, the 300 and 300C (the more luxurious version) were a breath of fresh air to the Chrysler lineup, with a taller, boxier look overall and a high beltline that gave these models a macho yet classy look. It was a complete about-face compared to the "cab forward" designs that Chrysler had followed through the 1990s and up until then.
Over the years, the Chrysler 300 lineup changed little. Fleet-oriented base models included a 190-horsepower, 2.7-liter V-6 that was just barely adequate for the 300; a much better choice was the 250-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6, which could move the 300 with more enthusiasm while not getting any worse real-world mileage. The 300C HEMI versions included the 5.7-liter HEMI V-8, making 340 horsepower. Both of the V-6 models came with a four-speed automatic, while the V-8s got a five-speed automatic. Both the V-6 and V-8 models were offered with an available all-wheel-drive system.
Chrysler also offered the performance-oriented SRT-8 (SRT8 in some years), which sported a 425-horsepower, 6.1-liter version of the HEMI V-8 along with upgraded brakes and suspension. Overall, the SRT8—or the 300C—provided the performance of a muscle car, with a gruff, forceful responsiveness to the powertrain and reasonably good handling, without a lot of finesse in the steering.
Chrysler sells the 300 and 300C as a premium large car, which is where they have run into trouble. A common criticism is that while the 300 is full-size, its backseat space is more cramped than that of many mid-size sedans. The 300's interior materials have been better than those used elsewhere in the Chrysler lineup, but until recently, they haven't quite been up to the standards expected of a model that could sell for well over $40,000 either. Additionally, the Chrysler 300 has been plagued with recall and assembly-quality issues over the years and it comes up a bit short in terms of safety features and crash-test results in a class of top-rated vehicles.
In 2011, most of those deficiencies were remedied with the launch of a considerably redesigned version of the Chrysler 300. While the 300C's rip-roaring V-8 was carried over, the revised 300 gained a new look inside and out, plus Chrysler's excellent 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6, making 283 horsepower, a much-upgraded interior—in both materials and refinement—and features like a standard USB port, a navigation system with Sirius Travel Link services, and a uConnect Web WiFi hotspot option. For 2012, Chrysler introduced a new eight-speed automatic transmission with the V-6 that further improved performance and boosted highway fuel economy to 31 mpg. The high-performance 300 SRT8 offers up the latest, 6.4-liter high-output version of the HEMI, making 470 hp, plus an adaptive suspension and many other extras.
For the 2013 model year, a new 300 Glacier Edition was introduced, with all-wheel drive plus a special set of appearance extras. The 300S also upped the V-6 output to 300 horsepower through a cold-air intake and sport-tuned exhaust, and there's a new black-painted roof option. There's also a new 2013 Chrysler 300 Motown Edition, with chrome accents, 20-inch aluminum wheels, blacked-out Chrysler wing badges, and Motown badges on the front fenders. At the 2013 Chicago Auto Show, Chrysler introduced a new SRT8 Core model from its in-house high-performance brand, SRT, essentially offering big horsepower with a smaller price tag.