Test Drive: 2011 Chrysler 300

Recreating the Iconic 300 Sedan

Messing with the design of the car that has been the brand icon for the last six years could be very dangerous to the company?s future.? So when it was past time for the company to update the Chrysler 300 by putting on a new face after the disastrous bankruptcy, changes were made very, very carefully.? The result is an all new Chrysler 300 that looks like the world?s best cosmetic surgeon had his or her way with it.? The car is gorgeous with a new more sophisticated look while maintaining the character of the original.

Since the beginning, the 300 grille has been a focal point of the model, with many of owners putting their own stamp on the car with the installation of a variety of custom grilles.? To take advantage of the trend, Chrysler?s Mopar aftermarket parts division is offering the unique ?Bentley? style mesh design replacement grill that was so popular in previous years.

The grill of the 2011 model has seven liquid chrome bars with a heavier surround and flanked by slimmer, more horizontal lighting units.? The headlight units are outfitted with a grouping of LED daytime running lights in a ?C? shape (reversed on the driver side) which I assume represents the company initial.? The overall look is broader and lower, too.

The stylized sides show more dimension with exaggerated wheel arches.? The rear end is clean with tall vertical taillights, tasteful chrome trim and large dual chrome exhaust tips.?? ? The inside is even better with a new aura of traditional elegance.? A simple design, well organized and beautifully executed, the interior reminds me of something that might have come from a Jaguar or one of the other upscale British manufacturers taking it to a new level of elegance.? The interior surfaces are covered with high quality, soft touch surfaces, the Nappa leathers are soft, the wood trim is real and the cabin shows a high level of craftsmanship in the details.

Chrysler?s rear-wheel drive architecture, which was originally derived from the Mercedes E-Class, has been further refined enhancing the ride and handling. ?A few minutes in the plush cabin of the 300 demonstrated that improvements were more than skin deep.? The car is solid, quiet and very comfortable without compromising the drivability and handling characteristics.

The new Chrysler 300 starts life with an all-new 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine for the base model and the 300 Limited.? Rated at 292-horsepower, the engine has 63 percent more horsepower than the previous base six-cylinder engine while achieving eight percent better fuel economy up to an EPA rating of 19 mpg city and 27 mpg highway.

The 300C gets the Hemi.? This year the legendary 5.7-liter V-8 is rated at 363 horsepower and gets and EPA rating of 16 mpg city and 25 mpg highway.? The engine pushes the 300C from 0 to 60 mph in an impressive 5.5 seconds. ?The Hemi is also equipped with Chrysler?s Fuel Saver Technology which deactivates four cylinders when less power is needed.

Both engines are attached to Chrysler?s five-speed automatic transmission which works well, but has fallen behind the times.? That will be remedied later this year when Chrysler is scheduled to introduce a new eight speed automatic, which should not only improve fuel economy significantly, but also performance.

The 300C is offered in the standard rear-wheel drive configuration or with all-wheel drive, which should help sales in colder climates.? The new version of the AWD system is designed to improve fuel economy by up to five percent over competitive manufacturer systems because it seamlessly transitions between rear-wheel drive and AWD with no driver intervention.? When the AWD is not needed, it automatically disconnects the front axle to maximize fuel economy.

The Chrysler flagship sedan comes in three trim levels ? 300, 300 Limited and 300C. ?All the models are very well equipped, but the 300C adds an especially long list of standard features.? Pricing starts at $27,995 for the base 300 model, including the destination charge.? The well-appointed Limited is $4,000 more, and the RWD 300C is $38,995.? The AWD adds $2,150 to the 300C.? With all the available options the 300C price tops out at $46,880.

I?ve always thought of the Chrysler 300 as impressive and enjoyable to drive, but this new model has gone far beyond the original.? It shows that the new management and spirit at Chrysler is working and they are concentrating on producing excellent products.? I?m looking forward to spending more time in this car.

Barbara Schaffer