If you need evidence that Chrysler has changed, look no further than the marketing for the redesigned 300 sedan.
Not the sedan itself — we’ll get to that — but the marketing. In the latest commercial, an announcer speaks to the concepts of character, conviction, pride... and a fuel-efficient eight-speed transmission. Meanwhile, the sedan is shown driving confidently and serenely through the streets of Detroit, passing by school children, firefighters, and families on its way to a house in the suburbs.
The commercial extends the superb “Imported from Detroit” campaign, reinforcing a compelling theme of success and renewal through commitment and hard work. Leaving behind the excess and bravado of the past, the reinvented Chrysler claims a sense of responsibility that we haven’t associated with it in a long, long time. And that’s exactly what many of us have been hoping to see.
The marriage between Chrysler and Mercedes-Benz in 1998 was supposed to be the catalyst for an improved Chrysler brand, but that relationship generated more frustration than synergy, lasting less than a decade and starting the American manufacturer down the path to its eventual 2009 bankruptcy. Credit for a kinder, gentler Chrysler instead goes to Italian automaker Fiat, which got Chrysler back onto its feet two years ago and became the majority shareholder when it acquired controlling interest from the Canadian and U.S. governments earlier this year.
For its part, the 300 builds upon the bold design and powerful stance of the original 2005 version, with refreshed styling that maintains its unique place in the sedan market. However, the real difference is in the small details. Gone are the little annoyances that made the past model more bark than bite, replaced by an attention to detail that dramatically improves the overall experience. The engines are still big and powerful, but Chrysler would rather focus on the cutting-edge eight-speed transmission, fuel-efficient all-wheel-drive system, and dramatically improved interior. If that’s not enough to convince you of the company’s transformation, consider that sales have increased for 19 consecutive months.
Combine the numerous across-the-board improvements with a more humble approach to marketing, and you have a new Chrysler and a new 300 sedan. A company with higher expectations, and a vehicle that’s able to meet them.
While many current family sedans lean toward sportier and more athletic exteriors, the 300 has more in common with super-luxury sedans such as the Audi A8 and Lexus LS, looking as if it was carved from a block of iron. Notable styling cues include the new LED daytime running lamps and elegant, trapezoidal grille.
The 300 is upright and solid, but has a surprisingly trim figure thanks to the clean lines and subtle creases running the length of the vehicle. The designers have done an amazing job, conveying a sense of power and strength without making the car overly muscular.
Inside, the 300 employs an understated design highlighted by excellent blue-backlit gauges and a smart-looking trapezoidal clock integrated into the dashboard. The cabin is comfortable, inviting, and—best of all—looks nothing like the platform-sharing Dodge Charger. Chrysler has often cut corners on its vehicle interiors, but that behaviour appears to be a thing of the past.
As far as build quality goes, the 300 is a vast improvement over its predecessor. It might not be perfect, but the materials, fit, and finish have caught up with the rest of the auto industry.
A new 3.6-litre V-6 produces 292 horsepower and 260 foot-pounds of torque, while the 5.7-litre Hemi V-8 carries over from before with 363 h.p. and 394 foot-pounds of torque. Then there’s the 6.4-litre Hemi V-8 found in the SRT8 model, producing a staggering 470 h.p. and 470 foot-pounds of torque. Rear-wheel drive is standard, and all-wheel drive is optional.
As great as it is that Chrysler is pushing a fuel-efficient eight-speed automatic, it’s a bit disappointing that it’s only available for the 3.6-litre V-6, and is an option on the base Touring model. It improves efficiency by roughly nine per cent, and that would be a welcome gain on the gas-hungry Hemi engines, which are stuck with five gears.
Considering how big the 300 is, you would expect the car to be soft and ponderous in the traditional American-sedan way. However, American sedans have undergone major changes in the past few years, and the 300 is no exception. The handling is direct and predictable, while the ride quality remains smooth and easygoing.
The eight-speed transmission comes with a “Sport” mode, but the 300’s forte is as a comfortable cruiser, getting you from Point A to Point B in relaxed style. From that standpoint, the base 3.6-litre engine is more than enough for its purposes, and will hopefully render the 5.7-litre and 6.4-litre engines unnecessary over time.
In addition to looking good, the cabin is highly functional, with loads of passenger and storage space, including a large glovebox and centre console, huge map pockets, illuminated cupholders, and a folding rear seat to expand the already considerable trunk space.
The best reason to skip the base Touring trim is to swap the small 4.3-inch touch panel for the excellent Uconnect Touch 8.4 Media Centre, which comes with a giant, 8.4-inch touch panel (an Apple iPad has a 9.7-inch screen). The redesigned Uconnect system is responsive, easy to use, and upgradeable with a Garmin GPS navigation system.
Chrysler has also brought Beats By Dr. Dre Audio Technology to the 300, providing it with a 10-speaker, high-definition audio system designed for accurate, studio-quality sound reproduction. Beats by Dr. Dre has already found its way into headphones and smartphones, and it’s fitting that the technology has shown up as part of the new Chrysler.
The 300 sells in Touring, 300S V-6, Limited, 300C, 300S V8, and SRT8 trims, with rear- or all-wheel drive available depending on the model. The price range is considerable, going from the starting point of $32,995 up to $48,995 for the SRT8.
Standard equipment on the Touring model includes ABS, electronic stability control, traction control, cruise control, dual-zone air conditioning, power-adjustable driver’s seat, tilt/telescope steering, fog lamps, 60/40 split-folding rear seat, and seven airbags.
Additional features, available as options or on higher trims, include an eight-speed automatic with paddle shifters, heated front seats, Uconnect Touch 8.4 Media Centre with 8.4-inch touch panel, Garmin GPS navigation, Beats By Dr. Dre Audio Technology, 10- and 19-speaker sound systems, remote starter, backup camera and sensors, heated/cooled cupholders, and a dual-pane panoramic sunroof.
Fuel efficiency for the base 3.6-litre V-6 (rear-wheel drive) is rated at 11.7 litres/100 kilometres in the city and 7.3 l/100 km on the highway with the five-speed transmission, improving to 10.9 l/100 km and 6.4 l/100 km with the eight-speed automatic.
Across-the-board improvements; excellent eight-speed transmission; intelligent Uconnect Touch 8.4 system.
Limited availability of eight-speed automatic transmission.
The bottom line
Puts the exclamation point on the reinvented Chrysler.
The $29,940 Regal features a 2.4-litre inline-four producing 182 h.p. and 172 foot-pounds of torque, or a turbocharged 2.0-litre inline-four tuned for 220 h.p. and 260 foot-pounds of torque or 270 h.p. and 295 foot-pounds of torque.
The Regal is a stunning sedan and, like the 300, has an important role in the resurgence of General Motors and the Buick brand. However, a V-6 option would be a good option for the front-wheel drive sedan.
For $27,999, the Taurus comes with a 3.5-litre V-6 with 263 h.p. and 249 foot-pounds of torque, or a turbocharged version with 365 h.p. and 350 foot-pounds of torque. It’s available with either front- or all-wheel drive.
Easily the 300’s closest competition in the family-sedan segment, the Taurus takes a more aggressive approach to styling. It’s not quite as classy, but matches the Chrysler’s size and imposing presence.
Infiniti G Sedan
At its starting price of $36,390, the G25 Sedan comes with a lightweight 2.5-litre V-6 generating 218 h.p. and 187 foot-pounds of torque. For $43,450, the G37 comes with a larger 3.7-litre V-6 tuned for 328 h.p. and 269 foot-pounds of torque.
If you’re comparing the 300 to a luxury sedan, the excellent G Sedan is a solid choice. With sporty handing and exceptional attention to detail, the Infiniti offers fantastic value.