New & Used Chrysler 300: In Depth
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The Chrysler 300 four-door sedan is one of two large sedans offered by what is now the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles group. With a standard V-6 engine and rear-wheel drive, plus available V-8 engines and all-wheel drive, it's a modern interpretation of the traditional big American sedan.
Image-conscious and luxurious, the 300 competes most directly against the Ford Taurus and Buick Lacrosse, while higher-performance 300 versions actually face off against the BMW 5-Series and the Cadillac ATS. And it shares underpinnings with its more raucous cousins from Dodge, the Charger four-door sedan and the Challenger muscle car. With those two Dodge models having been redesigned for the 2015 model year, the Chrysler 300 seems likely to follow suit as well.
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.