2011 Chrysler 300Posted on October 5th, 2011
Full-sized sedan offers contemporary styling, enhanced connectivity
By Nina Russin
A few years back, it appeared that the full-sized sedan was going the way of the land line. At the height of the sport-utility boom, a number of automakers abandoned their full-sized passenger car models in favor of crossovers and full-sized trucks.
The economic down-tic and rising fuel prices have made car buyers rethink their love affairs with two-box architecture. A full-sized sedan can carry up to five passengers and quite a bit of cargo, while providing significantly better fuel economy than a sport-utility vehicle. For families who don’t need to stash bicycles and other large cargo inside the vehicle, it can be a winning combination.
The new 300 which rolled out this past spring is Chrysler’s flagship. The 300 designation hearkens back to classic sedans from the 1950s, as does the newest model’s strong, angular profile.
But the 2011 Chrysler 300 is by no means retro. From its eye-catching new grille and LED daytime running lamps to the available Garmin navigation, Sirius real-time traffic updates and Uconnect audio systems, the full-sized sedan is a 21st century automobile. Best of all, the sub- $30,000 MSRP makes this technology affordable to families watching their budgets.
Seventeen-inch cast aluminum wheels come standard on the 300, as do some important active safety features: antilock brakes, electronic stability and traction control, seven airbags and active front head restraints.
The eight-way power driver’s seat includes an adjustable lumbar control, while a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel enables smaller drivers to maintain a safe distance from the front airbag. The standard audio system is CD, DVD and MP3 compatible, with a 12-month complimentary subscription to Sirius satellite radio. Standard dual-zone climate control keeps both front passengers comfortable in temperature extremes.
Base price on the test car is $27,170, not including the $825 delivery charge. An option package which adds the Uconnect voice-activated audio system and Bluetooth streaming audio costs $295, while cherry red pearl coat paint costs $295, bringing the price as tested to $28,585.
Fuel-efficient Pentastar V-6 engine
The Chrysler 300’s coupe de grace is not its styling or connectivity features: the new Pentastar V-6 engine combines ample power with surprisingly good gas mileage. Average fuel economy on my 300 mile test drive exceeded the EPA estimate of 27 miles-per-gallon on the highway. The engine rarely exceeds 2000 rpm, even when cruising at highway speeds. An “eco” light in the gauge cluster lets the driver know when he is driving for maximum fuel economy.
Peak torque of 260 foot-pounds is available at 4800 rpm: a bit over half throttle. A timing chain in lieu of a belt eliminates an expensive maintenance procedure at about 60,000 miles. The car’s 10.2:1 compression ratio is on the high side for a naturally-aspirated car, but within range for 87 octane gasoline. The engine can also run on E-85.
A five-speed automatic transmission seems well matched to the engine, progressing smoothly through the gears. A six-speed box might have extended fuel economy even further, but I can’t find fault with the five-speed unit’s performance. I noticed no hunting on steep grades. Shift shock is limited to downshifts when the driver accelerates hard.
Visibility around the perimeter is good. Chrysler offers blind spot monitoring as an option: it’s a great safety feature for drivers who routinely commute on crowded freeways.
Although rear-wheel drive cars can’t replicate the traction of front-wheel drive in snow, there are significant advantages in terms of performance on dry roads. The sedan has a better front-to-rear weight balance, which impacts steering response. If the driver does lose control, it’s much easier to regain traction on a vehicle which fishtails than one which goes into understeer. Buyers who live in climates with severe winters can opt for an all-wheel drive version of the 300.
A rack-and-pinion steering system provides good response at all speeds, with enough assist on the low end for maneuvering through crowded parking lots, and good on-center response on the freeway. A four-wheel independent suspension offers a compliant ride. It’s soft enough to absorb pothole bumps in the upper Midwest. Buyers who want a firmer ride can opt for the touring-tuned suspension and 20-inch wheels.
Stabilizer bars on both axles keep the chassis flat in the corners. I took a cloverleaf ramp at speed and was impressed by how well the car handled.
Four-wheel disc brakes stop the sedan in a firm, linear fashion.
The Chrysler 300’s spacious interior enables both rows of passengers to spread out and be comfortable on long road trips. The trunk has plenty of room for luggage, small camping equipment and the weekly groceries. My husband and I were able to fit a weekend’s worth of luggage and half a dozen grocery bags in the trunk, and still have room left over. A locking glovebox provides secure storage inside the passenger compartment.
The standard cloth upholstery is attractive and comfortable. I found the driver’s seat quite comfortable on my two-hour drive down to Tucson. The front passenger has an abundance of legroom to spread out.
Chrysler is exceedingly good at interior design, offering an abundance of storage areas around both rows of passengers, with cup and bottle holders large enough for 20-ounce water bottles.
Both the gauge cluster and center stack screen are easy to see in bright sunlight. I had no problems reading the bright graphics on the center information screen. The dual-zone climate controls are easy to reach for both front passengers. Redundant steering wheel controls enable the driver to program the audio system and read the digital information display in the gauge cluster with minimal distraction.
The trunk and gas cap releases are within easy reach for the driver, so he doesn’t have to dig around under the instrument panel. Both rows of passengers have access to twelve-volt power points: inside the center console bin and in back of the center console. Auxiliary and USB ports are also located inside the center console bin.
The car’s tall floor tunnel and the location of the center console bin restrict legroom in the center position of the second row. Two passengers will be more comfortable than three on anything but short trips around town. Vents behind the center console circulate air through the back of the cabin. Second-row seats fold flat to extend the cargo floor.
The Chrysler 300 comes with front, side, side curtain and driver’s knee airbags, antilock brakes, electronic stability and traction control. Hill start assist holds onto the brakes to prevent the vehicle from sliding backwards when accelerating from a stop up a steep hill.
Chrysler’s comprehensive factory warranty includes 24-hour roadside assistance.
Chrysler builds the 300 sedan at its assembly plant in Bramptom, Ontario Canada.
Likes: A fuel-efficient full-sized sedan with innovative connectivity features.
Dislike: Tall floor tunnel severely restricts legroom in the second-row center position.
Model: 300 sedan
Base price: $27,170
As tested: $28,585
Horsepower: 292 Hp @ 6350 rpm
Torque: 260 lbs.-ft. @ 4800 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 18/27 mpg city/highway
One response to “2011 Chrysler 300”
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