2012 Chrysler 300 Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
March 13, 2012

Riper and more mature, the latest Chrysler 300 has classically handsome looks and in the right versions, big rear-drive fun.

The most satisfying Chrysler sedan you can buy, the 300 returns for the 2012 model year with better performance at the entry level and the top end, and with more tech and luxury features.

It's a swaggering hulk of a sedan, and the redesign it received last model year made the Chrysler 300 a more appealing luxury machine in almost every sense. The broad-shouldered look is more muted than in the first-generation car, and the cartoonish grille and brash details are toned down. Suave's the word, not showy. The cabin's richer, too, with regrouped controls and an LCD touchscreen taking a place in the middle of the dash, ringed in metallic trim. Wood trim swaps out for a carbon-fiber look on some versions, while others wear a more naturally finished wood that's modern and elegant.

The base Chrysler 300 sports a 292-horsepower version of the company's new mainstay Pentastar 3.6-liter V-6. A five-speed automatic swaps out for a new eight-speed transmission on some versions. The new transmission combines excellent shift response, a sport mode and shift paddles to turn in 0-60 mph runs of about eight seconds--and highway fuel economy at an EPA-rated 31 miles per gallon. The higher-end luxury 300S and 300C can be fitted with a 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 with 363 horsepower and a five-speed automatic; they're more aggressively aural and insistent in their acceleration, capable of sub-six-second times. At the top of the range, the 300 SRT8 has the latest big HEMI, the 6.4-liter with 470 horsepower, teamed with a five-speed automatic sending power to the rear wheels. Acceleration drops to less than five seconds to 60 mph, and the SRT8 belts out a meaty, NASCAR-ish throb that few cars--even musclecars--can match.

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The 300's handling rises from controlled to truly sporty as you step up the performance ladder. All models have an absorbent ride and responsive electrohydraulic steering, but all-wheel-drive versions get a specific tuning and 19-inch wheels, while the 300S and SRT8 have up to 20-inch wheels and even tauter suspensions, and on the SRT8, adaptive shocks with normal and sport modes of ride control. The 300 doesn't drive or feel small at all, but it has a big-car charm without the usual body roll and mushy, pitchy body motions.

While it doesn't have the extreme spread-out space of a Toyota Avalon or VW Passat, the 300 is one of the more spacious sedans in its class. The front seats have good bolstering and great head room, even when a sunroof is fitted. Overall dimensions haven't changed much from the first generation, but the back seat feels more spacious--mostly because thinner roof pillars and larger glass areas brighten up the interior. The trunk's large, though it's a few cubic feet shy of the Taurus' massive cargo hold.

The 300 has the usual airbags and electronic traction controls. A package of safety technology on higher trim levels adds on lane-departure warnings, blind-spot monitors, a forward-collision warning system, front and rear parking sensors, and adaptive cruise control.

All editions come with standard power windows, locks and mirrors; LED daytime running lights; pushbutton start and keyless entry; a power driver seat; cloth upholstery; dual-zone climate control; satellite radio; a USB port; and an 8.4-inch LCD touchscreen display. The 300S adds sport leather front seats; shift paddles; piano black trim; and performance tires. The 300C gets a premium grade of leather upholstery; natural wood trim; navigation; power-adjustable pedals; and a heated steering wheel. SRT8s have carbon-fiber trim; heated and ventilated front seats; and a layer of instrumentation in its navigation system that displays performance stats like acceleration times and lateral grip. A 900-watt Harmon Kardon sound system is now an option on most models.

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2012 Chrysler 300

Styling

The 2012 Chrysler 300 is a swaggering, uniquely American, and surprisingly suave sedan.

The Chrysler 300 is classy, ornate, and a swaggering hulk of a sedan, with a uniquely American look.

Thanks to the redesign it received last model year, the 2012 Chrysler 300 is a more appealing luxury machine in almost every sense. The broad-shouldered look is more muted than in the first-generation car, and the cartoonish grille, faux-Bentley look, and brash details are toned down. Smaller headlights wear LED eyeliner, while the fenders are more rectilinear, especially on the rear where they've picked up some of the intricate stamped-in details seen on the current Ford Taurus, Buick LaCrosse, even the most recent E-Class. From dead on, the rear end's vertical-tube taillamps have never glowed as expensively. If they were any thinner, they'd strike a distinctly Caddy note. Yet suave's the word, not showy.

And for that reason we think the subdued 19-inch wheels are more fitting; 20-inch chrome wheels are still available and provide the bold note others will want.

The cabin's richer, too, with regrouped controls and an LCD touchscreen taking a place in the middle of the dash, ringed in metallic trim. The expensive-looking cabin wears new shapes, new trim and new materials, most of it emphatically better than ever. The cockpit doesn't look so plain anymore, with its timepiece-faced gauges. Wood trim swaps out for a carbon-fiber look on some versions, while others wear a more naturally finished wood that's modern and elegant.

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2012 Chrysler 300

Performance

A new eight-speed automatic in V-6 versions makes the 2012 Chrysler 300 a sophisticated performer; meanwhile Hemi-powered models remain about brawn, not subtlety.

The base V-6 versions of the Chrysler 300 have in the past failed to live up to this sedan's brash, assertive image, but for 2012 that's not at all the case. Last year, Chrysler introduced a new 292-horsepower version of the company's smooth Pentastar 3.6-liter V-6, and now for 2012 the 300 gets a new eight-speed automatic transmission on all V-6 models except the fleet-focused base model.

The new transmission is exactly what this sedan needs to complete its personality transformation and achieve a more sophisticated feel throughout. With the V-6, it combines excellent shift response, a sport mode, and shift paddles to turn in 0-60 mph runs of about eight seconds--and highway fuel economy at an EPA-rated 31 miles per gallon. During gentle acceleration, it ratchets quickly up the gears, not wasting revs, while a quick prod of the right foot prompts a quick downshift and a rush of power.

Some sporty 300S models, as well as all lux-trim 300C models can be fitted with a 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 with 363 horsepower and a five-speed automatic; they're more aggressively aural and insistent in their acceleration, capable of sub-six-second times. At the top of the range, the 300 SRT8 has the latest big HEMI, the 6.4-liter with 470 horsepower, teamed with a five-speed automatic sending power to the rear wheels. Acceleration drops to less than five seconds to 60 mph, and the SRT8 belts out a meaty, NASCAR-ish throb that few cars--even musclecars--can match.

The 300's handling rises from controlled to truly sporty as you step up the performance ladder. All models have an absorbent ride and responsive electrohydraulic steering, but all-wheel-drive versions get a specific tuning and 19-inch wheels, while the 300S and SRT8 have up to 20-inch wheels and even tauter suspensions, and on the SRT8, adaptive shocks with normal and sport modes of ride control. The 300 doesn't drive or feel small at all, but it has a big-car charm without the usual body roll and mushy, pitchy body motions; steering is secure on center--in the sense that you could truly eat up the highway miles--and while it's not at all enthusiastic in feel it loads up nicely off center.

The Chrysler 300 is a rear-driver, except when it's not: the HEMI-equipped 300C can be fitted with all-wheel drive, which has an advantageous axle-disconnect system that helps fuel economy and handling when there's no need for all wheels to be engaged in power delivery. It's fitted with 19-inch wheels, which aren't much of an enemy to the 300's ride quality on rear-drive models.

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2012 Chrysler 300

Comfort & Quality

The 300 has a charming interior that's now luxury-class, in both materials and refinement.

The 2012 Chrysler 300 has rear-wheel drive and a roofline that favors design over utility--so it's no big surprise that compared to other sedans of this size, the 300 isn't quite as roomy in back as other large front-drivers like the Toyota Avalon or even Volkswagen Passat.

The front seats have good bolstering and great head room, even when a sunroof is fitted, and we like the front seats' softer-skinned leather and nice compromise between wide cushions and side bolstering. As for the back seat, it you might need to duck your head to get in, and knee room is limited, but once back they feel like spacious quarters--and thinner roof pillars and larger glass areas brighten up the interior.

You'll find plenty of places to hide things in the 300's cabin. The cupholders hide under a roll-away tambour; the center console hides a usefully deep well, and there's a nicely sized bin in the console ahead of the shifter. All the doors have molded-in bottle holders. In the trunk, 16.3 cubic feet of space will hold plenty, even if it's not as big as the titanic 20-cube trunk in the Ford Taurus.

While the textures all feel swell, the rubberized dash cap has a gummy grip that lint loves to call home--detracting slightly from the modern-Sinatra vibe that the 300 (especially the all-black versions) toss off casually.

The 300 family has advanced by leaps and bounds in refinement and cabin isolation over the past couple of model years. In V-6 models, there's only a semi-pronounced, midrange thrum emanating from the V-6 engine, blunted by thicker glass but still noticeable. You'll also hear the burble and thrum of V-8 engines, but in any of these models road and wind noise are well shut out.

9

2012 Chrysler 300

Safety

With top-notch ratings, a good list of features, and available all-wheel drive, the 300 and 300C have a compelling safety set.

The 2012 Chrysler 300 has an excellent set of safety credentials--including all the usual airbags and electronic traction controls. A package of safety technology on higher trim levels adds on lane-departure warnings, blind-spot monitors, a forward-collision warning system, front and rear parking sensors, and adaptive cruise control.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has awarded top 'good' ratings in frontal, side, and rear impact, as well as in roof strength; so the 300 earns the IIHS Top Safety Pick rating for 2012. It's also been rated five stars overall from the federal government, with four stars for frontal impact and a top score in side-impact protection.

Chrysler says it's paid extra attention to visibility from inside the 300, and it's evident. With its last redesign, last year, the 300 got slimmer roof pillars, and the larger glass areas mean the view to the rear corners in particular is much wider.

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2012 Chrysler 300

Features

UConnect Touch and a host of infotainment features keep the 2012 Chrysler 300 family on the leading edge.

All editions of the 2012 Chrysler 300 come with standard power windows, locks and mirrors; LED daytime running lights; push-button start and keyless entry; a power driver seat; cloth upholstery; dual-zone climate control; satellite radio; a USB port; and an 8.4-inch LCD touchscreen display.

The upgraded version of that system, called UConnect Touch, is included with 300S, 300C, and SRT8 models, and adds hands-free texting capability, text-to-speech capability on incoming texts, voice-command navigation, Sirius Traffic information, and iPod controls.

The 300S adds sport leather front seats; shift paddles; piano black trim; and performance tires. The 300C gets a premium grade of leather upholstery; natural wood trim; navigation; power-adjustable pedals; and a heated steering wheel. SRT8s have carbon-fiber trim; heated and ventilated front seats; and a layer of instrumentation in its navigation system that displays performance stats like acceleration times and lateral grip.

In addition to the higher-performance engine, the SRT8 adds a host of heavy-duty extras under the hood, a performance suspension with adaptive damping, a performance braking system, 20-inch SRT-design wheels, fog lamps, auto-leveling HID headlamps, rain-sensitive wipers, heated-and-ventilated front seats, leather-and-suede upholstery, a heated steering wheel, heated/cooled cupholders, power-adjustable pedals, and more. 

A 900-watt Harmon Kardon sound system is now an option on most models, and a "uConnect Web" option plugs in a 3G dongle into the car and turns it into a mobile WiFi hotspot.

6

2012 Chrysler 300

Fuel Economy

Hemi V-8-powered versions of the Chrysler 300 and 300C are thirsty; but V-6 versions are much more fuel-efficient.

All the retail versions of the Chrysler 300 models get a big boost in fuel economy for 2012--thanks to the introduction of a new eight-speed automatic transmission, which yields new EPA numbers of 19 mpg city, 31 highway in rear-wheel-drive form.

All-wheel drive drops ratings to 18/27 mpg, while the 300C HEMI V-8 will earn highway numbers of up to 25 mpg. And you might see even better real-world numbers with the V-8 if you can keep your right foot light, thanks to cylinder deactivation.

SRT8 models provide a thrill and enthusiast appeal unmatched by the rest of the lineup, but it has its costs--namely EPA-rated city fuel economy as low as 14 mpg. And based on our experience with this combination, that's optimistic. 

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April 23, 2016
2012 Chrysler 300 4-Door Sedan V8 300S RWD

great car one of the better values on the market

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this car has about 43,000 miles i bought it new it is the 300s 5.7 litr eng. it has the beets stereo system special red interior white exterior 20" wheels not one problem it gets about 18 mpg around town 28... + More »
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June 24, 2015
2012 Chrysler 300 4-Door Sedan V8 300C RWD

Beastly Amenities In A Luxury Wrapper

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This car has been about 40,000 miles of joy since being purchased. It has all of the options except the adaptive cruise control, turn signals in the side mirrors, power tilting mirrors, and rear fog lights... + More »
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