2009 Chrysler 300


2005 Chrysler 300C

This 2005 review is representative of model years 2005 to 2010.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 8

Bottom Line:

Bold styling, Hemi V8 and rear-drive layout help make 300 a hot car.
  • Adventuresome styling
  • Hot Hemi V8
  • Posh and Roomy
  • Marginal base V6
  • Thick roof pillars hamper rear visibility
  • Small radio controls

The first Chrysler 300 arrived for 1955 as the first mass-produced American 300-horsepower car you could buy without being wealthy. The hand-built 1930s Duesenberg had 300 horsepower, but cost more than $15,000 and was for millionaires—when average folks had a hard time scraping together about $600 for a new Ford.

Colorful 300 History
Like many Duesenbergs, the 1955 C300—as it was officially designated—was a big, fast, posh coupe. It was powered by Chrysler's mighty HEMI V8 with its extra-power-producing hemispherical combustion chambers.

The C300 came only with an automatic transmission and such items as leather upholstery. It was a prestige item, although some C300 buyers who got it because it was Chrysler's flagship felt that its sport suspension was too firm and traded for softer-riding upper-line Chryslers.

The boldly styled new 2005 Chrysler 300 is a sedan, with no coupe version in sight. But it's also large and luxurious—and is Chrysler's flagship model. The top-line $32,370 300C has leather upholstery, an automatic transmission and a modern 340-horsepower version of the HEMI V8.

Audacious Styling
The 300C and other 300 versions have audacious styling, with a big grille reminiscent of the grille on the 1957 Chrysler 300C and 1958 300D. The 300 also has the chopped (lowered) roof look of the fast, posh, rear-wheel-drive 1950s Chrysler 300 models, including the C300.

Not to be confusing, but Chrysler called the 1956 300 the "300B," putting the letter behind the numbers. It continued that practice with subsequent letters until it dropped the last rear-wheel-drive 300 model in 1965. That one was the "300L."

Radical Break
The look and layout of the new rear-wheel-drive 300C is a radical break from Chrysler's front-wheel-drive sedan "cab-forward" layout and follows the practice of high-performance sedan producers such as Mercedes-Benz and BMW. (A Mercedes-style all-wheel-drive 300C will be added this fall.)

Chrysler is transferring the 300 model designation from its front-wheel-drive 300M sedan, which arrived a few years ago and only has been offered with a V6.

"The 300 is one of those instantly popular cars that comes along once in a blue moon—and is the hot car of the moment," said Michael Flynn, director of the Office for the Study of Automotive Transportation at the University of Michigan.

The 300C is a favorite among young, trend-setting music industry stars. It's also the type of American car that was the envy of the world's foreign automakers from the 1950s through the 1960s. It's the sort of car that Detroit built before it lost its way during the fuel crisis of the 1970s and began building imitation foreign autos.

"The major test will be if the 300 will have staying power over a 4- to 5-year period," said David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Michigan. "Chrysler certainly has done a terrific job marketing its HEMI V8, which has been put in its trucks."

Popular HEMI
The HEMI V8 enhances popularity of the 300, accounting for an impressive 40 percent of 300 engine installations, although it's in the most expensive version of the car.

The 300C is a big auto with lots of power and torque that can tow such things as large boats. Many Americans tow, but such sedans vanished years ago and were replaced by gas-guzzling sport-utility vehicles many drivers no longer want.

Cylinder Deactivation
While the 5.7-liter HEMI V8 is potent, with an impressive 390 pound-feet of torque, it has Chrysler's new seamless Multi-Displacement System. The system deactivates four cylinders to save fuel when V8 power isn't needed. I found that nothing can be heard or felt when the engine switches between four and eight cylinders.

The HEMI V8 delivers an estimated 17 mpg in the city and 25 on the highway—figures a muscular sport utility can't match.

The $22,970 Base 300 has a 190-horsepower V6, and the midrange $26,770 Touring and $29,265 Limited versions have a 250-horsepower V6.

The 190-horsepower V6 provides an estimated 21 mpg in the city and 28 on highways. The 250-horsepower V6 provides 19 and 27. Neither V6 has Chrysler's cylinder deactivation system.

Mercedes Transmission
The V6 engines work with a 4-speed automatic transmission, while the HEMI V8 comes with a Mercedes-designed 5-speed automatic with a manual shift feature.

Anti-lock brakes, traction control and an anti-skid system are standard on the Touring, Limited and 300C and optional for the Base trim level.

The 300C has big 18-inch wheels and fairly wide 60-series tires, while the V6 versions have 17-inch wheels and narrower 65-series tires.

Comfort and Convenience
All 300 versions have a tilt-telescopic steering wheel and power driver's seat, along with many comfort and convenience items. The Touring adds features such as leather upholstery, while the Limited adds chrome aluminum wheels and a power front passenger seat, besides heated front seats.

The 300C adds a sportier suspension, larger brakes, tortoise shell style interior accents, dual-zone automatic climate control and, of course, dual exhausts.

Options include power adjustable pedals and walnut wood interior accents. Safety extras include front and rear side-curtain airbags and a rear object detection system. That system is a good idea because it's impossible for a driver to see the back end of the 300 through the rear window.

The 3,721-pound 300C does 0-60 mph in 5.9 seconds, making it fast for a big guy. As has been the case with Chrysler 300 HEMI V8s dating to the 1950s, the latest HEMI feels as if it has an endless power reserve. But the 250-horsepower V6 should be fine for most 300 buyers, with the 190-horsepower engine best suited for in-town driving.

The quick steering has good road feel, and a Mercedes E-Class suspension helps provide sharp handling. The ride is on the firm side, but is supple. The brake pedal has a reassuring feel, and stopping distances from highway speeds are short.

Classy Interior
Big door handles and large door openings allow easy entry and exit. The quiet, upscale interior easily accommodates four tall adults. Large front bucket seats provide good side support, and rear seats are comfortable for long trips, with especially good thigh support.

Gauges have a nice classic style—as does the dashboard analog clock—and can be easily read. Climate controls are large, but sound system controls are rather small. There is a big center console storage area and decent beverage holders. Thick roof pillars hamper rear visibility, but overall visibility is good. Rear windows roll all the way down.

The roomy trunk has a low, wide opening, flat floor and a lid that smoothly raises on struts that don't rob cargo space. Neither does the compact rear suspension. The 60/40 split-folding rear seats allow more cargo room.

The hood also raises on struts, and fluid filler areas can be readily reached.

The new 300—especially the 300C—is reminiscent of big, old, spacious domestic sedans, but is far better than they were. The 300C costs more than some people would expect to pay for a Chrysler sedan. But it looks and feels more expensive than it is—and gives Chrysler its first entry in the foreign-car-dominated sports-luxury sedan market.


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BB02 - 9/22/2014 1:30:27 PM