|The Chrysler 300 makes a striking pose no matter the trim level. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
After being blown away by the concept during a private introduction held in a little theatre-style auditorium at the New York auto show in April of 2003, I’ve had the luxury (literally) of driving every single iteration since this LX-based 300 started rolling off the Brampton, Ontario line in mid-February 2004. Chrysler launched the car two weeks later in Palm Springs with yours truly and a gaggle of auto scribes in tow, all of which appeared thoroughly impressed by this game changing four-door. I was absolutely dumbfounded then, and even now, some 13 years and one generation later,
|Our 300 AWD Limited tester’s big 19-inch alloys make it look smaller than it really is. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Before I get accused of being on Chrysler’s payroll, or at least in charge of the 300 fan club’s newsletter, let’s be totally honest for a moment. While we can all sing praises of that original 300 and the impressive update that came in 2011, Chrysler hasn’t done much particularly well over the past dozen or so years. In fact, since the brand’s 2005 high of 695,546 sales, its annual tally in the two northernmost North American countries plunged to just 248,023 units last year, which
|It’s still a classy ride despite all its years. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
When I started out as a fledgling car writer at the turn of the millennium, Chrysler was a very hot property with a host of cab-forward designs that were the envy of every domestic brand and a number of imports. These included the compact Neon (it was a Dodge in the U.S.), the mid-size Cirrus sedan, the Sebring Coupe and Convertible, as well as the full-size Intrepid (also a Dodge in the U.S.), Concorde, 300M (this model’s front-drive predecessor) and LHS (yes, four unique luxury sedans under one “Pentastar” brand name), plus the Town and Country minivan.
|LED DRLs enhance standard lighting elements. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
To help paint a picture of just how far Chrysler has fallen in recent times, back in the day the place to be at a major auto show was the Chrysler stage, with concepts
|A nice and clean front fascia with LED fog lamps join classy 19-inch alloys that come standard with the upgrade to AWD. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
After that it was as if Chrysler lost its ability to dream, with the awkward 2007 Nassau, the boring 2008 EcoVoyager, the pretty albeit too production-ready 200C EV, the Lancia-based “Design Study Concept” (even the name was dull… it’s written
|LED taillights are ultimately tasteful. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Not a single notable Chrysler concept was created from 2013 through 2016, with this year’s Portal being a boxy electric people mover that could’ve just as easily been imported from the wacky Tokyo auto show. If it weren’t for the new Pacifica minivan I’d say Chrysler has completely lost its vision as a brand.
|Dual chrome tipped exhaust whether powered by the V6 or V8. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
The mid-size 200 family sedan is still available as a 2017 model, but according to FCA it’s being cancelled to make way for more SUVs. A shame as it was selling fairly well as of last year (just below the Nissan Altima and ahead of the Kia Optima, Volkswagen Passat/CC, Subaru Legacy, and Mazda6 in Canada), which means when it gets discontinued later this year its 64,213 collective U.S. and Canadian 2016 sales (which totaled 188,850 in 2015 before they announced the cancellation) will make a significant dent in Chrysler’s total head count.
|An upscale interior environment awaits. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
I know I paint a bleak picture, but I’m stating nothing new to anyone who follows the auto industry. Chrysler’s been kept alive thanks to Dodge branded models that have, up until now, shared underpinnings, and most often sold in greater numbers. With the Avenger gone the 200 wasn’t able to sustain itself, so we’ll have to wait and see if FCA allows the Pacifica (which no longer shares anything other than the powertrain with the Grand Caravan) to remain solely a Chrysler, or if the automaker finally breaks down and builds a cheaper Dodge version in order to pull up sales volumes-although it’s doing pretty well as far as minivans go.
|Large and roomy, the 300 Limited cockpit is also equal parts performance and luxury car. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
As it is, the second-generation Chrysler 300 before you is now a seven-year old model, which is pretty ancient for this day and age. The fact that it’s still so very good is testament to how advanced it was when it came out in 2011, not to mention how phenomenal the original 2005 model was when it arrived in 2004. Why does that 13-year old 300 matter? Because the LX platform architecture the current model rides upon is mostly the same. To the 300’s credit, many of the original
|These beautiful blue gauges are infused with a large and highly useful 7.0-inch multi-info display. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Of course, the new model was massaged significantly for its 2011 update, so much so that it looked, drove and felt like a completely new car. Its refinement was over-the-top back then, and while still quite good compared to cars of that era, it’s no longer best in class.
To be fair I wasn’t driving the top-line trim level this time around, my 2017 300 AWD Limited just second in a six trim lineup. The $40,795 Touring is entry-level, with
|Horology lovers will appreciate this especially attractive dash clock. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
In other words, value is a key ingredient to the 300’s continued success, but by value I don’t mean cheap. The money asked is beyond fair for what you get, but as
|Chrysler’s 8.4-inch infotainment interface is improved with available Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus tablet-style tap, swipe and pinch touchscreen controls, upgraded graphics and quicker responsiveness.(Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Let’s not forget that some radical performance cars are based on this chassis architecture, such as the 707 horsepower Dodge Charger and Challenger SRT Hellcats, and the upcoming 840 horsepower Challenger SRT Demon (0–60 mph/97 km/h in 2.3 seconds!). None of the 300’s competitors’ front-wheel or all-wheel drive suspension designs could possibly manage that much power, but this modified
|300 switchgear is all well fitted, nicely damped and high quality. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
The 300 Limited utilizes FCA’s very impressive 3.6-litre “Pentastar” V6 that’s every bit as good as anything else on the market, premium or otherwise, and better than many. It’s a potent engine with 292 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque, and makes efficient use of all that output via an eight-speed ZF automatic with manual mode and optional paddles. Takeoff from standstill is spirited, with shifts coming on quickly and positively, unlike some in this class that try to pull of a premium experience despite using continuously variable transmissions (CVT).
|Chrysler joins Jaguar and Land Rover with a knurled metal rotating gear selector of its own. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
I don’t know about you, but even after all these years I find the 300’s design to be handsome in an almost aristocratic way. This car has presence that punches way above
|Nappa leather upholstery is standard in Limited trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Inside, there are some things the 300 does brilliantly and other areas where it falls a bit short. Let’s start with the good stuff, shall we? You won’t find a more dazzling gauge cluster in the mid- to full-size mainstream volume-branded class. It sparkles with an effervescent silver-blue that really pulls eyeballs yet is easy to read and filled with info via a full-colour TFT display that takes up all the space in between. It’s accessed by switchgear on the left steering wheel spoke, these buttons very high in quality, ideally fitted, and nicely damped for a truly premium look and feel.
|This available dual-pane powered panoramic sunroof also has a powered sunshade. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
I must admit, however, my love of horology found the beautifully detailed analogue clock situated just above even more enticing. It features a unique isosceles trapezoidal shape with curved edges, a multi-textured white face, long chromed
|The rear seating area is plenty roomy plus the sales are comfortable and supportive. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
The latter surface features yet another Chrysler differentiator at centre stage; the large “E-shift” rotating gear selector dial boasting beautifully detailed knurled metal side grips. In my opinion, this is the smartest design for choosing the usual “PRNDL” transmission selections, as it couldn’t be easier to use and takes up very little space, but alas there are no paddle shifters with base Touring or Limited trims-I recommend those with a leaning toward performance move up to the 300 S or higher.
|The large trunk provides lots of secure storage. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
I shouldn’t leave all this goodness without mentioning the fabric-wrapped A-, B-, and C-pillars, a nice premium touch for a car that could easily compete against much pricier luxury-branded four-door sedans if its above-waste-line soft-touch synthetics and below-the-belt hard shell plastics were a bit more upscale, this being the only obvious shortcoming in an otherwise very well executed cabin.
The 300 has always being a large and accommodating car, although I wouldn’t say its
|The cargo net comes standard. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
As it is, you might actually be surprised by how well equipped this Limited model is despite only being second on the 300 trim hierarchy. Along with features already
|Standard 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks allow this 300 AWD model to do double duty as a ski shuttle. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Of course, Limited trim includes everything from the base Touring model too, such as the 7.0-inch full-colour customizable in-cluster multi-info display, filtered dual-zone auto HVAC, and Chrysler’s Uconnect 8.4 multimedia centre with an 8.4-inch touchscreen plus new tablet-style tap, swipe and pinch touchscreen controls, upgraded graphics and quicker responsiveness for 2017, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, six-speaker audio, satellite radio (with a complimentary one-year subscription) already mentioned, plus auto on/off bifunctional halogen projector headlamps, chrome-accented LED taillights, dual
|This powerful sub comes with the 13-speaker 552-watt Beats audio upgrade. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
I’ve you’ve been browsing through the photos you may have noticed the panoramic
|The award-winning 3.6-litre "Pentastar" V6 is as good as anything from the premium players. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Additional options included the $795 SafetyTec Group 1 package featuring an auto-dimming driver’s side mirror, integrated turn signals and courtesy puddle lamps for both exterior mirrors, front parking sensors, and blindspot monitoring with rear cross-path detection; a $700 navigation package that also adds Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; a sensational sounding $1,295 10-speaker 552-watt Beats Audio upgrade; $2,080 AWD; and $300 Redline tri-coat pearl paint, the total bill (including wheels) coming to $49,555 plus freight and fees. Again, not too shabby for such a sweet luxury ride.
As you can probably tell I’ve got a soft spot for this Canadian-made luxury sedan. It really deserves all the praise I’ve doted on it, and when more fully equipped becomes one of my favourite four door family haulers (or executive conveyances, depending on how you fit it into your lifestyle). It’s even pretty decent on fuel with a five-cycle rating of 12.4 L/100 city and 7.8 highway. I only wish FCA would put more resources into the storied Chrysler brand in order to boost up its overall image, as it could become a true luxury contender. As it is, the 300 remains one of the best large sedans available to budget-oriented car buyers today. I recommend it highly.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)