- Styling's matured
- New interior is a winner
- Eight-speed automatic #FTW
- HEMI still blows off doors
- Big, pretty LCD displays
- HEMIs still have five-speed automatics
- Dash plastics attract dust
- No longer the ersatz Bentley Continental
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.
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.