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PERFORMANCE | 8 out of 10
...The Pentastar V-6 is powerful enough, and good enough, that we think far fewer buyers will be pining for the Hemi this time around.
Although not the thrill ride of the V-8, the six is more than competent, something we could almost say about the old 3.5 but never about the 2.7.
Car and Driver
Step up to the optional 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 and the five-speed is no more responsive, but the engine erases much need for that.
Over notoriously rough freeway pavement, the big 300 rode serenely. Road, wind and tire noise seemed distant while body motions were well controlled and never floaty.
It's a vehicle in which one does not now feel deprived with the V6.
Base V-6 versions of the Chrysler 300 perform well enough to satisfy anyone who mainly looks to the 300 for its styling and luxury. The 292-horsepower version of the company's Pentastar 3.6-liter V-6 is smooth, strong, and responsive with the eight-speed automatic that's included in most versions. Times to 60 mmph land at around eight seconds, while highway fuel economy is up to 31 miles per gallon--extraordinary for a large sedan in this class. Also for 2013 on the step-up 300S, the V-6 gets a cold-air intake and performance exhaust making it good for 300 hp.
For some, the real appeal for the 300 will be in the brash V-8 powertrains in the 300S and 300C, as well as the top-performance SRT8. The 300S and 300C are offered with a 363-hp, 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 and a five-speed automatic. While the V-6 is smooth and luxury-car-like, the Hemi is more aggressive and muscle-car-like in sound and responsiveness. These models can get to 60 mph in less than six seconds, but the SR8 can get there in less than five seconds with its 470-hp, 6.4-liter V-8. A NASCAR-like throb completes the sensory experience in the SR8.
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.
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. As you might guess, 300 models move up the ladder from more comfort-oriented to firm and sport-sedan-like as you step up in engine performance. All models have an absorbent ride and responsive electrohydraulic steering, but as you move up to the 20-inch wheels in some of the models there's a bit more ride harshness. SRT8 models get an adaptive damping system with normal and sport modes, which helps. And no matter which model, this is a car that feels most at home on the highway, or on a two-lane road with long sweepers.
Hemi-powered models remain all about brawn, but Chrysler 300 models with the V-6 are surprisingly well-rounded performers.