Hear this, sedan fans: the reinvented 2011 Chrysler 300 is nothing short of a revelation. It’s a full-size, rear-drive, stylish, luxurious, high-tech, urbane four-door that starts well equipped at about $28,000, or roughly the same as a Honda Accord V6 . We’re flummoxed, and we imagine rival automakers are as well.
Is the 300 beyond reproach? Glad you asked – and no, it’s not. Whether you get the volume-selling 3.6-liter V-6 or the 300C model’s 5.7-liter V-8, you’re stuck with an outdated five-speed automatic transmission that generates noticeable shift shock, especially with the V-8. An eight-speed unit is in the pipeline, and it can’t arrive soon enough.
The bottom line, though, is that Chrysler has worked a minor miracle here. Not that the old 300 was a bad car; in fact, it was pretty satisfying in its day. But that 300 had some typically American foibles: uninspired interior design, tacky materials, sloppy steering. Satisfying, yes – for a big American car. The new 300, however, is satisfying, period. Hear this: Chrysler’s on the comeback trail, and the 2011 Chrysler 300 is leading the charge.
What's to Like
The 300 works because it’s a happy marriage of the best from America and Germany. Big, brawny (in 300C trim), in-your-face stylish – that’s the American part. Refined, composed, tech-savvy – there’s the German influence. Chrysler was controlled by Daimler Benz for a spell, remember, and the 300’s underpinnings continue to carry traces of E-Class DNA. Add Chrysler’s American sensibility to the mix, as well as real financial support (finally) courtesy of new owner Fiat, and you’ve got yourself a winner.
What's Not to Like
The V-6’s softness at low rpm needs work, and the Garmin nav software is a bummer; perhaps some proprietary software is in the works as a replacement, just as the inferior five-speed automatic is slated to be replaced by an eight-speed. The all-wheel drive model (V-8-only) is hampered by a relatively stiff ride and elevated road noise from its special tires. There are nits to pick with this car if you look close enough, though it’s impressive that a close inspection is now required.
The rear-wheel drive 300 basically rides like a big German luxury car. You don’t float over bumps, but you don’t feel them as harsh impacts, either. There’s a controlled, athletic character here that persists in spirited cornering, where the 300 feels surprisingly well-sorted given that its primary purpose is to devour highway miles. The 300C AWD is a somewhat different story: thanks to its stiffer and slightly less sophisticat...