When I first saw the Chrysler 300 a number of years ago I loved the look of it right away. In a sea of jelly-bean shaped Camry’s and Accords the 300 stood out like a sore thumb. It was a manly-looking sedan that the ladies could also appreciate. Instead of ho-hum, Chrysler gave everyone something to get excited about.
The 300 was refreshed for 2008, with a new front and rear that only the keen eye could see. Regardless, it’s a subtle improvement to a new icon. It also got an all-new interior that includes better quality soft-touch plastics throughout. The Powertrain remains unchanged, with the choice of a 3.5 liter 250 horsepower V-6 or a 340 horsepower 5.7 liter V-8 -both available with AWD. For those that require more power there’s the all-dancing all-singing 6.2 liter 425 horsepower 300C SRT8 – complete with AWD.In the past I’ve sampled the 5.7 liter, as well as the 6.1 liter SRT8 in the 300’s sister car -the Dodge Charger. This time I wanted to try the base model engine – the V-6. Obviously, the bulk of the attention is focused on the fun cars with big horsepower and big dollars to match – but what about the more affordable and civilized version of this beautiful car? How will it stack up in day-to-day driving? Let’s find out.
My timing couldn’t have been worse for taking the 300 AWD for a road test. During a winter that provided us with dumping after dumping of the white stuff, I got the 300 AWD on a warmish, very calm winter week. The worst we got were some ice pellets -during the night. (The day I returned it we had a big storm with freezing rain and snow -after I dropped it off – go figure!) Oh well, at least there were winter tires on the 300 so the freezing temperatures weren’t an issue.
Getting into the 300 for the first time, I was impressed with the driver’s seat. I was expecting a softly-sprung old-man’s type seat, but what I got was a nice firm seat with 8-way power adjustments and a manual lumbar adjustment as well. Although the interior is mainly black, the headliner is a very light almost white material that goes a long way to removing any thoughts of claustrophobia you might have.
The steering wheel is typical of the retro-theme. Compared to most cars it’s quite large, but easy to get used to. It tilts and telescopes making it very easy to get into a comfortable driving position. The turn signal stalk is located at the 8 o’clock position -a bit odd at first -but surprisingly easy to get used to. As is now customary on new vehicles -the wiper controls are also located there. I was a little surprised to note that there are no audio controls located on the steering wheel, not even behind the spokes where Chrysler are putting them in just about every car nowadays.
Giving the go pedal a good prod, the 300 scurried away briskly, I had expected the V-6 -especially with the added weight of the All-Wheel Drive system to make the 300 feel a little sluggish and heavy, but not so. The car was surprisingly responsive without having to bury the throttle. Entering the freeway, I was again expecting it to be a bit slow getting up to highway speeds, but it was a steady – though not neck-snapping – rush to 70 mph. Cruising at over 80 mph the interior was quiet and even with the radio off there was barely a whisper coming into the cabin. Road manners were equally outstanding with nary an indication that strong cross-winds were even present.
During the course of the week we had the 300 I don’t recall ever thinking that more power would be nice. The 300 has a perfect balance of power and weight along with a very good steering response that is heavier than average, but certainly not something that could be an issue.
There’s no doubt that the 300 is a largish car, but it never felt too big – in fact quite the opposite when screaming down back roads, it actually felt quite nimble. The AWD version of the 300 comes with a 5-speed AutoStick transmission and I’d highly recommend that combination. The transmission shifts are perfectly smooth – unperceivable – but when using the auto-stick it adds a lot of fun to the drive. If you leave it in full automatic mode the shift points are around 6,200 rpm (I’m guessing that’s close to the red line as there are no red line-markings on the tachometer). I really like the Chrysler interpretation of an auto-shift/sport-shift transmission because you don’t have to shift the gear lever into a different slot in the transmission gate – you just tap the lever to the left for downshifts and to the right to up shift. I found I used this AutoStick more than I usually do – it certainly increases the fun factor!!
The audio system is a single-disc AM/FM/Sirius satellite radio/MP3 unit with 4 speakers. When I picked up the 300 I didn’t have my “Audio Engineer” wife with me to play with the buttons and fine-tune the sound system. I thought it was not bad, but could be better. Once she got her magic fingers on the buttons the sound quality improved dramatically. It’s no “killer” system, but it’s adequate for the car.
Entering and exiting the 300 is easier in the front than the rear due to the smaller rear doors – especially the taper to the bottom. Once seated the rear passengers are very well accommodated with plenty of hip, leg and shoulder room. Foot space is very good under the front seats but headroom may be a little problematic for very tall people. For two rear passengers the back seat is quite luxurious, but a third person will be less comfortable – due mainly to the very wide tunnel that runs the length of the car and the middle section of the seat being quite a bit higher. For a child it wouldn’t be an issue. The seat back angle is very good – just about perfect for long drives, and has a fold-down centre arm rest that incorporates two drinks holders. It also splits 60/40 for added versatility in combination with the large trunk. The seat cushions are nice and firm, offering plenty of support under the knees. The trunk is large (15.6 cu-ft) – as you’d expect of a car of this size and is very square, making the best use of space.
For more information visit: Chrysler.com or Chrysler.ca
Bumper To Bumper and powertrain warranty for 3 years/36,000-miles. In Canada, it’s 3 years/60,000 kms Bumper To Bumper, plus a 5-year/100,000 kms powertrain. Roadside assistance is also included for 3 years 60,000 miles [100,000 kms].
Towing capacity is a maximum of 2,000 lbs. when properly equipped.
When was the last time you heard that a large car was: great-looking, nimble, sufficiently powerful, extremely safe, fun to drive and – very reasonably priced? Well, this Chrysler 300 Touring AWD ticks all the boxes. I’ve driven plenty of mid-sized cars costing many thousands of dollars more than the 300 and they left me empty and disappointed. Here is a car that is better than expected, but still well within most people’s budgets. To be perfectly honest, as much as I liked the Chrysler Sebring -the 300 is far superior and about the same price! If you are in the market for a four-door car around $25,000 you owe it to yourself to take the 300 out for a spin before committing to a Camry, Accord or Malibu.
My only disappointment is the fuel economy – it yielded the same as the SRT8 that I drove which offered much more gusto! (As an example: with the 6.1L SRT8 I averaged 16.8 mpg [14 L/100 kms] mixed city/highway driving, and 19 mpg [12.4 L/100 kms] in almost 100% highway driving. With the 5.7L Hemi I averaged 15.3 mpg [15.4 L/100 kms]). According to government figures, the AWD uses 2 mpg more than the RWD version.
Pricing for the 2009 Chrysler 300 Touring AWD
Base / As tested price: $33,390 [$36,945 Cdn]
Destination & Delivery: U.S. – $750 / Canada – $1,400
Fuel Consumption: [Regular – 87 Octane]
The 3.5 L, 250 HP V-6 is rated at 17 mpg City [13.9 L/100 kms] and 26 mpg Highway [9 L/100 kms]
I averaged 16.8 mpg [14 L/100 kms] mostly highway driving, and 18 mpg [13 L/100 kms] during 100% highway driving
Surprisingly sporty and nimble
Very well equipped for the price
Deplorable fuel consumption for a V-6 – on-par with the SRT8
Back Seat Driver Test: 10 out of 10
“Very comfortable, with plenty of space too.” / “Very comfortable seats – I’m VERY impressed!”
Dodge Charger, Ford Taurus
By The Numbers:
Powertrain: 3.5 Litre V-6 engine, 5-Speed automatic transmission with AutoStick, AWD
Horsepower: 250 @ 6,400 rpm
Torque: 250 @ 3,800 rpm
0 – 60 mph: 7.5 seconds
Copyright © 2008 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text: Iain Shankland / Images: Iain Shankland
Also Published at: PaddockTalk