2016 Chrysler 300SPosted on March 17th, 2016
Full-size sedan carries rich heritage into the future
By Nina Russin
Sixty years ago Chrysler took the wraps off the C-300: the first mass-produced car to pack 300 horsepower under the hood, outpacing the Chevrolet Corvette and Ford Thunderbird. Back then the 300 was a two-door car, but it seated more people than the two roadsters it competed against in the horsepower war. And it made the point that a family car could be a heck of a lot of fun.
The newest 300-sedan is less muscle car and more family car, now that Dodge has become FCA’s dedicated performance brand. But the S model, equipped with an available 5.7-liter Hemi engine and eight-speed automatic transmission is no wallflower. A heritage egg crate grille and strong profile that harken back to the tailfin days.
Twenty-inch wheels inside wide wheel arches and dramatic daytime running lamps give the car’s front end an animate quality. Dual exhausts sit under black LED tail lamps, punctuating the car’s back end.
Base price for the test car is $35,470 excluding the $995 destination charge. Options include a panoramic sunroof, rear spoiler, GPS navigation, blind spot monitoring, Uconnect infotainment, performance-tuned suspension and tires, bringing the final MSRP to $42,855.
Test drive in Phoenix
While most people associate the muscle car era with midsize models such as the ’68 Dodge Charger and Plymouth Barracuda, the genre started with full-size cars such as the 300: megatons of Detroit iron that took no prisoners. The new 300 is like that, telling every other vehicle in its path to clear the way to the front of the entrance ramp. It’s the kind of thing that makes dad’s Sunday drive with the kids a lot more fun.
At the same time, the 300 is a very practical sedan: easily accommodating the everyday commute. The interior is quiet, the suspension supple and refined. Fuel economy for the V-8 version isn’t great: 19 mpg on average according to the EPA. Those wanting to stretch their budgets should opt for the base Pentastar V-6 that averages 31 miles-per-gallon on the highway and 19 around town.
While the 300 is a sexy looking car, it’s by no means a slave to style. A generous greenhouse provides good visibility around the perimeter. The standard rearview camera with cross traffic alert and optional blind spot monitoring make it easy to maneuver through crowded parking lots and rush-hour traffic.
Hydraulic power rack-and-pinion steering provides a welcome break from numb feeling of electric power steering systems that seem to have overtaken the marketplace. If the driver needs to make an emergency evasive maneuver he can count on the wheels moving where he wants them to.
A four-wheel independent suspension that includes stabilizer bars and monotube shocks on both axles is comfortable but not mushy. Drivers familiar with classic muscle cars will appreciate the dynamics of a rear-wheel drive chassis that enables them to push into corners without risking understeer.
An available all-wheel drive model makes the 300 more of a four-season car. Unfortunately, it is not available with the Hemi engine.
Four-wheel disc brakes consist of dual-piston vented rotors in front and single piston solid rotors in the rear, providing plenty of stopping power.
Engineers did a good job of minimizing road, engine and wind noise intrusion to the interior so occupants can easily converse on the highway or enjoy the premium audio system.
Stylists went for a premium feel in the 300 interior, with leather upholstery standard on the S model, keyless entry and start, heated front seats, the large sunroof and surround-sound audio system.
The rotary shifter saves space in the center console for storage. Both the gauge cluster with thin-film-transistor information display and the center stack screen are easy to read in bright sunlight and after dark. Drivers will appreciate being able to pull up exact tire pressure readings at each wheel as opposed to having to guess if the low tire pressure warning light illuminates.
I found the power driver’s seat easy to adjust with ample lower lumbar support for longer drives. Rear seats can fold flat in a 60/40 pattern to extend the cargo floor. The 300’s trunk has plenty of room for luggage, golf bags and small camping equipment. With the seats folded flat it might be possible to shoe a road bike inside if the weather turns ugly.
The Chrysler 300 comes with seven airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control and tire pressure monitoring.
Chrysler builds its full-size sedan at the Brampton, Ontario Canada assembly plant.
Like: An attractive full-size sedan with a powerful engine, good steering response, ride and handling.
Dislike: The V-8 model is not available with all-wheel drive.
Base price: $35,470
As tested: $42,855
Horsepower: 363 Hp @ 5200 rpm
Torque: 394 lbs.-ft. @ 4200 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 16/25 mpg city/highway