Chrysler’s new 300 sedan demands attention. Not like a new baby at 3 a.m., but like when Shaq walks into a room.
The 300, redesigned from the wheels up for 2011, now takes its place as one of the best-for-the-money full-sized sedans on the market today.
With its daytime LED running lights lining SmartBeam halogen headlamps, the 300 displays all the class of a world-class European sedan. But with its optional 5.7-liter V-8 HEMI engine, this class act has as much backbone as any blue collar stalwart.
And lest you think that “HEMI” means “GIMMIE” at the gasoline pump, this 363-horsepower engine delivers an excellent 25 miles per gallon on the highway and 16 mpg in town. The highway mileage is made possible partly because at highway speeds, the 300 runs on four cylinders rather than eight.
If you select the 300’s standard 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6, you’ll still get best-in-class 292 horses and 260 lb.-ft. of torque. Those numbers represent increases of 63 percent and 36 percent respectively over the previous 2.7-liter entry-level V-6. Mileage estimates for the V-6 are 18 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway. Both engines are mated to a 5-speed automatic transmission, and AWD is available.
Our 300C test vehicle turned heads all over town. The clerk in the drive-through lane at Popeye’s couldn’t resist leaning out the pickup window as the 300C approached from the cashier’s window.
“I like your car man. Is it an Audi?”
“Nope. Chrysler 300.”
“Wow! Man, it’s nice!”
And so it went during our week behind the wheel of the uplevel 300C.
One glance explains why the 300 gets so much attention. Besides the C-shaped LED running lights, the front end features a new 7-blade grille and a more tailored appearance. The windshield has been raked back three inches, and thinner pillars provide greater visibility. In back, the integrated deck-lid spoiler wears the new winged Chrysler logo prominently, and jeweled LED taillamps sit above dual exhausts.
Inside, the cabin has significantly improved, with fine leathers and real-wood appliqués. Eight-way adjustable front seats are heated and ventilated, and covered in Nappa leather. The thick, heated steering wheel is real wood on top and leather elsewhere. Sapphire blue ambient and instrument lights cast a soft, soothing glow at night. And at 8.4 inches, the Navigation system/backup camera screen is easy on the eyes.
The 300 handles well on the road, and is extraordinarily comfortable. But it is a large sedan and won’t take corners like a sports car. Braking is excellent, and steering is confident, with good feedback.
Chrysler says there are 70 advanced safety and security features on the 300. I didn’t count them all myself, but for my money the top features are the forward collision warning system, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross path detection, rain-sensing wipers and a full complement of airbags, including full-length side curtains, driver’s knee bag and standard front seat-mounted side-thorax airbags. It’s enough to win the 300 a “Top Safety Pick” from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety this year.
You can slide into a base 300 for less than $28,000. But if you want the uplevel 300C, it starts at $38,170. The loaded test 300C — with a dual panoramic sun roof and lots of other extras — stickered at $44,730.