Chrysler 300 Road Test Review
by Martha Hindes
2012 Luxury Car Buyer's Guide - Top 10 Picks
How does an American automaker take aim at its international rivals with their longstanding reputations of luxury car dominance? In Chrysler's case, it's to add a luxury Executive Series, a sportier more youth-oriented model and a powerhouse performance version to its full-size, flagship Chrysler 300 sedans for 2012. Undoubtedly Chrysler is clear about its intentions. There are Audi A6 and Acura RL luxury sedan buyers in the same $40,000-plus luxury price range to conquer. And technology and amenities that have boosted those vehicles to nearly iconic status are available to include. So are the luscious Italian leathers, hand treated woods, and fine chromed trim that separate the every day from the exclusive.
Chrysler's new 300C Luxury Series models for 2012 address the executive quality buyer who wants a premium auto, laden with luxury, beautiful interior appointments, a wealth of technological firsts, handsome good looks and a "trophy" attitude for having the smarts to recognize it. And it suggests that whether company roots are in the U.S., Germany or now Italy (reflecting the traditional "domestic" auto company's nomadic ownership over the past couple of decades) that shouldn't stand in the way.
The 300 series of Chrysler autos originated as a less ambitious 300M then moved upstream to the current 300C edition. But the basics remain in the large, somewhat square shaped but infinitely usable design anchored by a rather flat, board face in front, ample headroom throughout and high rising trunk space that doesn't skimp on accessibility. There are no sloping style lines here that would compromise rear seating space. Rather, the long-nosed profile suggests the presence of stretch room both front and rear.
Also added for 2012 is an S series designed to offer less flash, more contemporary styling and a sportier ride for potentially younger buyers, and an SRT8 sport tuned version designed to blast one with lead footed tendencies into the next county.
Toned down trim gives the S versions a cleaner, more upbeat look. With Luxury Group package added, it includes Nappa leather sport seating in black or Radar Red, heated rear seats, heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, power adjustable pedals, power tilt and telescoping steering column, power sunshade, and heated and cooled cup holders plus more.
Either of the 300 model's two engines is available to S buyers. A new aluminum 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 is mated to the first-ever eight speed automatic in a "domestic" luxury auto, according to Chrysler. (Despite its current ownership by Fiat, the company retains its identity as one of the original U.S. Big Three auto companies along with General Motors and Ford.) The V-6 with state-of-the-art ZF transmission (pronounced "zed eff") that includes all-new steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters and "Sport" shift modes, delivers 292-horsepower. It earns an impressive 19/31 mileage rating in rear drive. All-wheel-drive, with all-season performance tires, gets an 18/27 MPG rating.
The holdover engine is the 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 with Fuel Saver Technology that mates with a five-speed automatic. In addition to being more powerful, it can shut down half its cylinders at cruising speeds for better fuel economy. With the V-8, Luxury Group add-ons include LED instrument cluster, rain sensing windshield wipers, Smartbeam headlamps and backup camera.
Standard on S models and available with the Luxury series is proprietary studio quality sound. The Beats by Dr. Dre audio technology system was developed in a partnership with Chrysler to provide music sounds as they are in a studio.
The new editions expand the Chrysler 300 lineup to five with base pricing from about $27K to $47K if loaded with luxury, navigation and other high tech and safety technology goodies. Sounds to us as if one stop shopping at Chrysler is a thing of the past.
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