The 2011 Chrysler 300 stays closer to its styling roots with its crisply pressed sheetmetal, while it tosses out the past inside.
You'll have to look closely at the old and new 300s to sense the subtle injections of drama that have replaced the big, almost cartoony, elements that abstracted themselves on the pre-2011 Chrysler sedan. It starts at the front: the first 300 became the "bougie Bentley" when buyers started swapping out its tall grille for synthetic Brit-looking ones. It wasn't always an improvement, but it pointed out exactly how exaggerated the 300's front end and shoulders had been drawn, intentionally.
This time Chrysler's toned most of that down. The grille's now shrunk into a softer shield. Smaller headlights wear LED eyeliner. 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. Point of taste: polished chrome 20-inch wheels hit the proper blingy note on the old car, but on this one, the more subdued 19-inchers seem more fitting.
There's more love to go around once you step inside the 300. 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, elm trim and matte-finish plastics. The big metallic ring around the LCD screen and air vents looks more like a thought balloon than a styling element, though--an unfinished idea, though well-finished. And while the textures all feel swell, the rubberized dash cap has the gummy grip that lint loves to call home.
For our money, blue LED lighting doesn't read all that well in a car that looks its best in hushed tones of black, grey and brown. And the optional wood-and-heated steering wheel is overly thick--nearly the only cartoonish piece left in a comprehensive, tasteful redo.