They say change is good, and the evolution of the Chrysler 300 is a car that gets better every year without undergoing a radical redesign. Excluding the iconic original that was born in 1955, the 2015 is arguably the best version yet.
Its basic shape dates to 2005. A restyle in 2011 gave the car a sharper look, but the interior took a giant step forward. While there have been several tweaks in the intervening years, there is no mistaking this sedan for anything but a 300. Thankfully, Chrysler has avoided the temptation to turn it into another generic, bar-of-soap shape.
The rear-wheel drive 300 is available in four models: 300 Limited, $31,395; 300S, $34,895; 300C, $37,895; and 300C Platinum, $42,395. All-wheel drive is optional and would be almost a necessity for winter climates.
The biggest visual difference for 2015 is a revised front fascia that maintains the same shape grille, but it is now inset and trimmed with a slim piece of chrome. The 300S gets blacked-out accents around the grille and windows but I prefer the chrome trim on the other models. The 300S also has a unique rear spoiler, 20-inch wheels and a 300-horsepower V-6 with an eight-speed automatic transmission.
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The V-6 is a delightful engine and would actually be my personal choice, in large part because it is rated at 31 mpg highway for the rear-wheel-drive model. All-wheel drive drops that number to 27.
The 363-horsepower Hemi V-8 is optional, of course, and that is how the test car from Chrysler’s press fleet was equipped. It is rated at 16 miles per gallon in the city and 25 on the highway. It delivers abundant low-speed torque and glides smoothly under light throttle but can pack a power punch when needed. Four cylinders shut down under light loads to save fuel, and I averaged 21.2 mpg in mixed city and freeway driving, according to the car’s computer.
A Sport button retunes the car’s steering and engine calibration and adds rear-wheel bias in all-wheel drive for better handling.
Important options on all but the base model include full-speed forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control with full stop, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist and 911-call assist. I wouldn’t buy a new car today without those features even though they add to the cost.
Chrysler touts the 300S as having “world-class ride and handling,” and while that is a bit of an overstatement, it is responsive without sacrificing ride comfort. The 20-inch wheels not only give it a great stance but they also contribute to sharp reflexes and agility in turns. The ride is a good blend of control and suppleness.
The 300’s interior is on par with the best in class. Materials and textures are as nice as those of many more expensive vehicles, and the cabin is quiet. 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. A small digital screen between the tachometer and speedometer can be configured to deliver a variety of information. When the navigation’s route guidance is being used, turn arrows are displayed in this screen and that helps keep the driver’s attention on the road.
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.
The contoured leather seats are large yet have good lateral support. The test car’s black seats had contrasting white stitching. The back seat has generous legroom, and the trunk is spacious.
The low roof makes rear visibility a bit of a challenge.
The base price of the test car was $34,895. Options included the Hemi V-8, performance brakes and Uconnect with navigation and Sirius satellite radio. The sticker price was $39,885.
Three years or 36,000 miles, with a five-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
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2015 Chrysler 300S
Engine: 5.7-liter, 363-horsepower V-8
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Wheelbase: 120.2 inches
Curb weight: 4,326 pounds
Base price: $34,895
As driven: $39,885
MPG rating: 16 in the city, 25 on the highway