The Chrysler 300 looks a bit like an American Bentley, with its prominent grille, low roof and nicely chiseled body. The 300S takes that a step further with a blacked-out grille, 20-inch wheels, bigger brakes and an understated interior.
By TOM STRONGMAN
The 300 has been a success story for Chrysler since 2005 when the front-engine, rear-wheel-drive model made its debut. A restyle in 2011 gave the car a sharper, smoother look while retaining the basic profile, and the interior took a giant step forward in terms of material and comfort. The low roof makes rear visibility a bit of a challenge, but the blind-spot monitor is a major advantage.
The 300S is available in rear-wheel or all-wheel drive, with a 300-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 and an eight-speed automatic transmission, or a 5.7-liter, 370 horsepower V-8 with a five-speed automatic. Base prices start at $33,645 for the V-6. The V-8 adds $2,200.
The test car, from Chrysler’s press fleet, was equipped with the V-8. The Hemi has more than enough power, and it shuts down four cylinders under light loads to save fuel. There were times when I could feel hints of roughness while operating in this fuel-saving mode.
Fuel economy is rated at 18 miles per gallon in the city and 25 on the highway. Based on my experience with a V-6-powered model in 2012, I would choose the V-6 over the V-8. The V-6 is smooth, and the eight-speed automatic helps it achieve a highway mileage rating of 31 miles per gallon. That’s exceptional for a car this size.
Chrysler touts the 300S as having “world-class ride and handling,” and for the most part, I agree. The 20-inch wheels not only give it a great stance, but they also contribute to sharp reflexes and agility in turns. The ride quality is a nice blend of control and suppleness. The low-profile tires deliver a bit of harshness on sharp bumps.
Chrysler interiors are now world-class, in part because noise levels are not intrusive and the materials and textures are easily as nice as those of many more expensive vehicles. The instrument panel is covered with a cast skin whose pebbled, low-gloss surface looks extremely rich. The instruments have brushed silver accents and blue lighting.
The 8.4-inch touch screen in the center of the dash has one of the best infotainment systems around. The menus are simple, displays are handsome and there is never confusion about changing radio stations, finding the map or turning on the seat heaters.
Electronic aids include a blind-spot monitor, rear parking sensors, a collision warning system, adaptive cruise control, cross-path detection and adaptive forward lighting.
The contoured leather seats are large yet have good lateral support. The test car’s black seats had white stitching. The back seat has generous legroom, and the trunk is quite spacious.
The base price of the test car was $33,645. Options included the blind spot monitor, park assist, forward collision warning, high-intensity headlights, heated steering wheel, heated front and rear seats, heated and cooled front cupholders, panoramic sunroof and the Hemi V-8 with a five-speed automatic transmission. The sticker price was $45,170.
Three years or 36,000 miles, with a five-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
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