Can’t afford a $200,000-plus Bentley? Then you might want to check out the latest Chrysler 300.
The Chrysler 300 is aging, but the 2013 model is reminiscent of a $206,225 Bentley Flying Spur, if only because they have the same subdued elegant styling, an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.
As with the British Bentley, the 300 has a great heritage—the 1955 C-300 was America’s first mass-produced 300-horsepower car.
Of course, the latest 300 is far less costly than the exquisite Bentley. Prices range from $29,845 to $48,250. The 300 comes with standard rear-wheel drive (RWD) or, like the Bentley, with all-wheel drive (AWD). Both also have an eight-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift mode.
The 300 is filled with comfort, convenience and safety features. Standard are items including a power driver’s seat, heated front seats, leather seating, dual-zone automatic climate and cruise controls, keyless start, six-speaker audio system, tilt/telescoping steering column, steering wheel audio controls, electronic vehicle information center, two 12-volt power outlets and snazzy dual chromed exhaust tips.
A “Uconnect 8N” system with Garmin navigation now features enhanced 3-D map and route guidance graphics. Chrysler says it’s the segment’s largest hands-free communication system and features improved map graphics used to display road signs and lane guidance. It has the segment’s largest touchscreen display (8.4 inches).
The 300S adds such items as a remote engine start, power front passenger seat and back-up camera. An optional “Glacier” package includes cloth/leather low-back bucket front seats.
The 300C has an available 363-horsepower Hemi V-8, cooled front seats and heated rear seats. The SRT8 adds a 470-horsepower Hemi V-8, adjustable pedals, active suspension and rear-parking aid.
I tested the $35,345 AWD 300S “Glacier Edition” model, which is virtually the same as the AWD 300S.
Horsepower of the 300’s standard, smooth, 3.6-liter aluminum-6 can be raised from 292 to 300, with slightly more torque—thanks to a new sport-tuned exhaust and cold-air induction system.
I don’t know if you can tell much of a difference between 292 and 300 horsepower. However, considering the 300 weighs from 4,029 to 4,515 pounds, every little bit of horsepower and torque have got to help performance. You can feel the car’s weight during hard acceleration, fast cornering and quick stopping.
The 300-horsepower V-6 sprinted from 0 to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds and provided good 65-75 mph. passing. It’s really the best engine for this car for most folks.
The V-6 works with a eight-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift feature that sometimes shifts a big lazily if you’re not in a hurry. Paddle shifters allow for quicker manual shifting.
The eight-speed automatic console shifter needs some work, as it doesn’t perform as accurately as it should—it’s easy to accidentally skip a shift if you’re in a hurry.
For a big boy, the Chrysler 300 delivers decent fuel economy. Its V-6 provides an estimated 19 miles per gallon in the city and 31 on highways with RWD and 18 and 27 with AWD using regular-grade fuel.
The V-8s get a five-speed automatic. The 363-horsepower Hemi V-8 provides 16 city and 25 highway with RWD and 15 and 23 with AWD. The fire-breathing 470-horsepower Hemi V-8 calls for more stops at filling stations, but not as many as you might think if you don’t lead-foot it.
My test 300S AWD Glacier Edition had 19-inch polished aluminum wheels, optional sport bucket seats and special cosmetic touches. The Glacier’s AWD system has a segment-exclusive active transfer case and front-axle-disconnect system to improve fuel economy. When AWD isn’t needed, the system automatically disconnects the front axle to maximize fuel economy while providing performance and handling inherent in RWD vehicles.
You can get the new 300S V-6 with all-season performance tires, “touring-tuned” suspension and quicker steering with heavier on-center feel.
My test car steered quickly and precisely and had a comfortable ride with its firm-but-absorbent all-independent suspension. It securely swept through bends, helped by the AWD and electronic stability control and traction control systems. The brakes bite early with a firm pedal.
No matter what model, the 300 is impressively roomy, with a limo-style rear seat and plenty of cabin areas. A hefty rear-center armrest with twin cupholders can be folded down to occupy the backseat’s stiff center section.
Large door handles are easy to grab for quick entry to the quiet interior. My test car’s front bucket seats provided good thigh and lateral support. The backlit art deco main gauges can be quickly read, and a digital speedometer accompanies the regular speedometer to help keep tabs on speeds. An elegant-looking analog dashboard clock provides a touch of class.
Thick windshield posts partly obstruct visibility in turns, and rear driver vision is just adequate. Large power outside mirrors help out here. The sun visors, which have dual lighting, are long enough to swing to the side and block out unwanted sunlight.
Safety items include full-length side-curtain air bags, side air bags and a driver’s knee bag.
There’s a mix of large and small dashboard controls and an easily read dashboard screen for such things as audio and climate information. Activate the windshield washers and they squirt so much liquid that they’ll remind you of Niagara Falls. Those driving on filthy Northern winter roads will especially appreciate them.
The enormous trunk is wide but has an unusually high sill. The inner-lined lid is held open by enclosed hatches so they don’t damage cargo and has a handy pull-down handle. Rear seatbacks fold forward to enlarge the cargo area, but don’t fold entirely flat because they’re thick.
The inner-lined hood glides open on twin struts, revealing a neatly designed engine compartment with easily reached fluid-filler areas.
As with the first 300, the latest model is Chrysler’s flagship. For good reasons.
Pros: Euro styling. Upscale. Roomy. Quick. Supple ride. Good handling. Upscale interior. Available all-wheel driver.
Cons: Aging design. High trunk sill. Awkward shifter. Thick windshield posts. Heavy.
Bottom Line: Bargain luxury sedan.
Dan Jedlicka has been an automotive journalist for more than 40 years. To read more of his new and vintage car reviews, visit: www.danjedlicka.com.