The Chrysler 300 is a throwback to the era of large American sedans, which is fitting, because the 300 dates to the 1950s. It's for those who like room for five, a big V-8 and rear-wheel drive. Chrysler reintroduced the 300 nameplate in 2005 and has overhauled it for 2011.
Appearance: The 300 has become known for an aggressive, slightly retro look — high belt line and prominent grille — that's become popular with the after-market set. Peter has always thought it had a kind of gangster (not gangsta) vibe. For 2011, Chrysler has kept the spirit of its previous design, but given it more stately bearing. More grown up, Lyra says. Our tester was white, which doesn't really flatter this car. Black? Now, we're talking, especially with the 300's abundance of chrome accents and classy new LED running lights and taillights. The grille is Chrysler's new, somewhat generic slat design, and the distinctive winged emblem seems to disappear on it; chrome on chrome just doesn't work. Our top-of-the-line 300C rode on the optional 20-inch polished aluminum wheels.
Performance: We wonder if anything less than the V-8 HEMI could pull this 4,200-pound car. (The new Chrysler V-6s are much improved; we'd like to see how they do in the 300.) The 5.7-liter V-8 provides steady and strong acceleration, but the 5-speed automatic (V-6 models are supposed to get 8-speed transmissions in the near future) leaves something to be desired; Lyra felt it lagged in its shifts. The electric-assist steering made turning the big car easy, which came at the cost of feeling a bit disconnected. Then there's the driving feel, which has the pluses (comfortable, cushiony ride) and minuses (somewhat "floaty" handling) of a large sedan.
Interior: Chrysler has upgraded the interiors on all its models and it's obvious here. The 300 has a roomy and quiet cabin, with more soft surfaces and better-quality plastics (except for a few of the console knobs). The steering wheel is polished wood and wrapped leather. Peter felt it was the thickest steering wheel of any vehicle — car or truck — he has wrapped his hands around. There are intuitive, soft-key controls on the console screen for the AC, radio and phone. Our 300C had lots of bells and whistles, literally: forward collision warning, park assist, blind spot and cross-path detection. Yes, they beep a lot. The heated and ventilated front leather seats are comfortable, but we would have liked more bolstering. The front doors open so wide that it makes them difficult to close.
Our 3 favorites
Refined styling: I was never a fan of the 300, but this version tones down past excesses.
Big wheels: The double-spoke polished aluminum is sharp.
Trunk space: It's huge at 16.3 cubic feet.
Cup holders: They keep your drinks cool or warm.
Ambient lighting: The pale blue glow of the dash gauges is calming and attractive.
Panoramic sunroof: The huge opening brings in lots of light.
The bottom line: With all the refinements, Chrysler's flagship is finally closer to the luxury car it aspires to be. It now deserves a second look from buyers looking for a full-size sedan.