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Smooth, quiet operation, tight handling, space, luxury: The Chrysler 300 sedan has it all, at attractive prices. Yet what the 300 has more than anything is bold styling that appeals to a lot of people.
The Chrysler 300 line offers a wide range of engines and amenities. The base model comes well-equipped for less than $25,000, with a frugal V6. The Touring model adds leather, amenities and a more powerful V6 for about $28,000. The 300C offers a truly powerful Hemi V8, with Chrysler's fuel-saving Multi Displacement System, and it can be equipped with most of the gizmos and luxury features available today.
The 2007 lineup includes new long-wheelbase models. Aimed primarily at the chauffeur-driven executive class, they may also appeal to families. The longer wheelbase turns the 300's roomy back seat into something past cavernous, with more leg room than just about anything on the road. Great for tall folks or anyone who likes space and convenience. These long-wheelbase models can be equipped with custom features such writing tables and foot rests.
The Chrysler 300 marked a return to rear-wheel drive for large American sedans, and we consider that a benefit. Rear-wheel drive adds to the driving pleasure, which is partly why luxury sedans and sports car have traditionally used it. The traction and stability electronics are well sorted and effective on this car, delivering good all-season performance. All-wheel drive is an option for those who live in the snow belt. With the big-torque V8, it also allows something buyers have been seeking through sport-utility vehicles: enough towing capacity to pull a lightweight trailer.
The Chrysler 300 models are comfortable. They're also responsive for large cars. The 300C delivers thrilling acceleration and the SRT-8 true high performance in civilized fashion. Think of it as Detroit's answer to the BMW M5 or the Mercedes E63 AMG, for about $30,000 less.
Then there's the styling, inside and out, where this car makes no apologies. It won't be mistaken for any other sedan the road. It can be trimmed with chrome, mono-chrome and various wheels to look stately and elegant or downright mean.
The Chrysler 300 delivers impressive value, but emphasizing the cost/benefit ratio may minimize its other strengths. The 300s are good, appealing cars, and they've set the benchmark for Detroit's car builders.
The 2007 Chrysler 300 lineup includes seven models: two V6 engines, two V8s, all-wheel drive, and two long-wheelbase models.
The base Chrysler 300 ($24,320) has a 2.7-liter dual-overhead-cam V6 generating 190 horsepower and 190 lb-ft of torque, matched to a four-speed automatic transmission. It's reasonably well equipped, with cloth upholstery, power driver's seat, cruise control, solar-control glass and 17-inch steel wheels with hub caps.
The 300 Touring ($28,320) upgrades to a 3.5-liter single-overhead-cam V6 making 250 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque, with a five-speed automatic and Chrysler's AutoStick manual-shift feature. The Touring also adds leather seating, 17-inch aluminum wheels and fog lamps.
The 300 Limited ($31,005) adds 18-inch chrome wheels, heated front seats, a power passenger seat, automatic headlamps, automatic temperature control and an electronic vehicle information center.
The 300C Hemi ($34,975) features a 5.7-liter overhead-valve V8, delivering 340 horsepower and a substantial 390 lb-ft of torque.
New for 2007 is the W.P. Chrysler Executive Series, or long-wheelbase option ($10,600). The long-wheelbase is offered on the 300 Touring and 300C with rear-wheel drive, and must be ordered from a dealership through the Acubuilt coachworks, which finishes the cars in partnership with Chrysler. The package extends the wheelbase six inches, and gives the 300 more rear-seat leg room than executive-class stalwarts such as the Audi A8L, BMW 750Li and Jaguar XJ-8L, at a substantially lower price.
The SRT-8 ($40,420) tops the 300 pecking order. This is a true high-performance sedan, in the mode of BMW's M models or Mercedes' AMG brand, and it features loads of performance tweaks, unique design features and most of the luxury gear. The SRT-8's centerpiece is a 425-hp, 6.1-liter Hemi V8.
Performance enthusiasts will appreciate the SRT Design Group option ($1,495) for the 300C. It adds many of the SRT design cues, and more significantly, engine tweaks and special exhaust that raise the 5.7-liter Hemi's output to 350 horsepower, for a fraction of the full SRT-8 package price.
Options are plentiful and potentially confusing, with 15 separate packages. One of the most popular is Protection Group II ($890), which adds curtain-style head-protection airbags, rear park assist, self-sealing tires and cabin air filtration. Stand alone options include a DVD-based GPS navigation system ($1,495), rear-seat DVD entertainment with a seven-inch LCD screen ($1,150), a power sunroof ($950), UConnect hands-free communication ($250), and a Boston Acoustics audio upgrade with six-CD changer, subwoofer and 368 watts of output.
The Chrysler 300 has earned a five-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for front-impact crash protection, but its standard safety features fall below the class benchmark. All 300s come with multi-stage front airbags and anti-lock brakes (ABS); all but the base model come with Electronic Stability Program (ESP), all-speed Traction Control System (TCS) and Brake Assist for the ABS. Curtain-style head protection airbags for outboard passengers are optional, but the 300 does not offer torso-protecting side-impact airbags, front or rear. Other safety-related options include the rear park-assist, HID headlamps, a tire-pressure monitor, and all-wheel drive.
The Chrysler 300 has collected a host of design awards around the world, and we'd call them well-earned. A handful of detractors claim the 300's styling, particularly its Bentley-esque front end, is derivative, but we think that's a superficial view. Certainly the 300 respects tradition and draws inspiration from the past, as many beautiful designs do. But it has also redefined what a Detroit sedan can be, more clearly and thoroughly than any automobile in recent years.
With its rear-wheel-drive architecture, the Chrysler 300 might be a case of back to the future. Yet there's little about it that's retro, except maybe the giant grille, which clearly draws on 300s from the past. The first Chrysler 300 was introduced in 1955 with an engine having hemispherical combustion chambers, called the Hemi. It had two four-barrel carburetors, and it achieved early fame as the most powerful engine built by Detroit, winning the NASCAR championship in its first year and setting top speed records on the beach at Daytona.
The current Chrysler 300 is just as bold, and cool, too. Its styling makes no apologies. Curiously, maybe magically, it appeals to young and old.
The Chrysler 300 looks dramatic in profile because its rear-wheel-drive layout allows a distinctive shape. The wheel-well cutouts, wrapping around rims up to 20 inches in diameter, are striking. The wheelbase is long but the overhangs are short, offering a visual sense of power. The roofline, a sort of '30s gangster tease, beautifully complements the long, low lines, which appear to be carved from a big horizontal block of metal. The roof rakes thickly down to a short deck, and the sides are like large slabs. The long hood glides forward and drops off a cliff whose face is the massive grille, framed by wing-like double-beam headlights.
New for 2007 are optional outside mirrors with supplemental turn signals and courtesy puddle lamps. These cast a useful halo of light on the ground beneath the doors when the 300 is unlocked with the remote key fob. This feature adds some security in dark garages and is very useful if you happen to drop something as you're getting into the car.
The high-performance SRT-8 may be the coolest-looking 300 of all. Its unique features include body-color front and rear bumper inserts, mirrors and door handles, and the modifications are more than aesthetic. The front and rear ends direct air flow through unique ducts that cool the brakes, while a specially designed rear spoiler increases rear downforce by 39 percent, helping keep the rear tires firmly planted at high speed without increasing drag. Yet the coolest thing about the SRT-8 might be its 20-inch, forged aluminum wheels and asymmetrical high-performance tires. These maximize that visual power, and they're staggered in the classic track-performance tradition, with the rear tires slightly wider than the fronts.
The Executive Series package, or long-wheelbase version, is new for 2007. It adds six inches to the standard wheelbase and provides more than 46 inches of rear legroom inside. Outside, it gives the 300 a stately, limo look.
The stylish theme set by the 2007 Chrysler 300 body carries through inside, although the style in the cabin is even more clearly defined by purpose. There's a definite form-follows-function approach, with little superfluous decoration. In this interior, you'll also find the roots of a trend among sedans.
The Chrysler 300 was among the first to adapt an increasingly popular high seating position, with seats that rise several inches above those in the typical sedan before it. This blueprint was no doubt a response to the booming popularity of sport-utility vehicles. It's probably the thing to do nowadays because buyers like to sit high, and because the high door sills add a feeling of security. The windshield rake is relatively modest, so visibility forward is enhanced over the 300's long hood. Visibility to the rear is excellent, without much intrusion from the roofline.
Still, those who prefer a lower, leaned-back seating position can find it inside the 300. The up-down travel of the driver's seat bottom is significant, and the driving position easily adjusts for all sizes and tastes. Our loaded 300C featured power-adjustable pedals, which move back and forth with a button on the dash. The adjustable pedals were welcome in this car, because the steering wheel also telescopes. The pedals add another tailoring tool to the mix, rather than simply replacing the telescoping wheel as they do in some vehicles so equipped. The seats themselves are on the firm side, but comfortable. They could use more side bolstering in the 300C, which has the engine and tires to corner harder than the seats might like.
The dash and instruments are both very clean. Our 300C had a satin silver center stack, elegantly functional with almost nothing decorative about it. It was a pleasant surprise not to have to play games with the controls and switchgear to get them to work. There are two horizontal rectangular climate vents on either side of an analog clock, above the sound system and a climate system controlled by four simple knobs. The four gauges are round, clear and pleasing to the eye, almost Italian-looking, in a balanced layout with black numbers and needles on a white background. From the driver's perspective, it's all good.
Overall finish and material quality don't quite live up to the standards set by the design, but they're not bad, either. There was nothing so cheap or crude inside the 300 that it would keep us from enjoying the car. The 300C steering wheel is a nice four-spoke design with tortoise shell wood trim making a gradual arc along the top, like a Mercedes wheel. California walnut trim is an option. Our leather interior was a subtle gray-beige two-tone, and again, Mercedes-like. Suede inserts on the SRT-8 seats raise the richness meter a notch, and more prominent bolsters keep the driver centered in fast turns.
In general, the 300 interior is marked by spacious silence. Chrysler engineers have made noticeable progress toward reducing interior and wind noise in all their recent vehicles, and the flagship sedan leads the way.
The space comes courtesy of the efficient exterior shape. The wheels are pushed to the corners, and the long wheelbase leaves 106.6 cubic feet inside. The door openings are extra large, making climbing in and out easy.
The Chrysler 300 models offer a relaxing 40 inches of rear legroom and outboard passengers will find plenty to like, including a folding center armrest with integrated cup holders. Of course, rear-wheel drive means a prominent driveshaft tunnel down the center of the car, so anyone sitting rear-center must straddle the tunnel or sit with knees pushed up toward the chest.
The rear seat in long-wheelbase 300 models is cavernous. These cars are aimed at the chauffeur-driven executive class long dominated by European makes. It remains to be seen if they succeed from the marketing perspective, but they certainly succeed in the practical sense.
From the driver's seat, the Chrysler 300 is one of the better big American sedans we've tested, and certainly the most interesting. To be sure, that view is colored by a preference for rear-wheel drive. Yet more than that, the 300 has created a new definition for Detroit Sedan. With its size, styling and design features, it retains characteristics that might be described as uniquely American. But it also has an international quality, measured by its responsiveness and efficiency.
A note for buyers who are wary of rear-wheel-drive sedans for everyday driving, and particularly those who live in the Snow Belt: We tested a 300C in typical Detroit winter slop, and found it well suited to the season. Chrysler has done an excellent job tuning the traction and stability electronics. With all-season tires, the 300C was no more of a challenge in snow and slush than the typical front-wheel-drive sedan. A decent set of snow tires would eliminate the smallest doubt.
The Chrysler 300 base model drives nice. The dual-overhead cam 2.7-liter V6 engine delivers 190 horsepower, enough to handle big-city rush-hour traffic. It's a frugal choice, both in terms of fuel costs and the purchase price. Some drivers may find themselves working this engine hard, however, and wishing for a little more power. Also, the four-speed automatic transmission lacks the responsiveness and flexibility of a five-speed automatic.
The 3.5-liter V6 in the 300 Touring and 300 Limited will work better for most buyers. We found the power better than adequate, even after driving the powerful 300C. We also liked the five-speed automatic, which is based on a Mercedes design, though it's built in Kokomo, Indiana, and shifts smoothly and quickly. At idle, we could feel the pulse of the engine.
On the road, the Chrysler 300 feels as solid as it looks, having inherited significant mechanicals from Chrysler's parent company, Mercedes-Benz. From a handling standpoint, the 300 is heavily and positively influenced by a design borrowed from the Mercedes E-Class: five-link rear suspension mounted to a subframe, and the short-arm/long-arm front suspension, modified for the 300's longer wheelbase, wider track and bigger wheels.
The ride is smooth, but solid enough to prevent wallowing. We wouldn't change much. This is a large car, to be sure. It has a longer wheelbase (120 inches) than the Chrysler 300s from the 1950s, yet its overall length is shorter, and it doesn't feel balky or cumbersome. In short, it doesn't drive big. It feels a bit heavy, but also very secure, confident and responsive. It rides well, even the sportier 300C.
It's reasonably easy to park despite its size. We wish all models came with rear Park Assist or, better yet, a rearview camera, because it is a big car. Only the upper models have Park Assist, which beeps an audible tone, increasing the frequency as you back toward an object.
The 300C handles quite well for a car this size. Tossing a 300C from side to side through switchback turns, it beautifully maintained an even keel. In other words, it offers good transient response. Body lean is minimal, especially considering this 300 is geared more toward family or luxury buyers than sports sedan buyers. The cornering is good enough that the all-season tires don't really do it justice. Depending on where we did most of our driving, we might choose some summer performance tires. Maybe even put some winter tires on a second set of wheels.
Chrysler has gotten the rack-and-pinion steering right. It's just the right amount of weight, and delivers a secure feeling. We like its accuracy.
The brakes are excellent. Driving the 300C hard over some twisty mountain roads, the big Bosch-built brakes really did the job, inspiring surprising confidence in a car that weighs over 4000 pounds. The front brakes on the 300C are bigger and better than those on the V6 models; antilock brakes with brake assist and elec
The Chrysler 300 delivers bold styling, but it's quiet and smooth, with a great ride and tight handling. Getting in and out is easy, and it's roomy inside. Models are available for all tastes and budgets. Its traction and stability electronics work well, but buyers who want to be prepared for bad weather can opt for all-wheel drive. The base 300 is a lot of car for the money, with a proven V6 that has adequate power for many drivers. We prefer the Touring and Limited models, with their more powerful V6 and higher level of features. The 300C comes with a Hemi V8 that can dust expensive luxury cars in performance and value. The SRT-8 delivers outstanding performance in civilized style at a price that's hard to beat.
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