In 2004, the Chrysler 300 landed like a body slam to the midsection of the full-size sedan segment, its brooding, broad-shouldered presence a poke in the eye of convention.
The 300’s dark beauty masked an array of shortcomings, though. On the verge of bankruptcy, Chrysler cut more than a few corners. Neither the interior nor the suspension fulfilled the exterior’s promise.
Six years, one recession and a change of ownership later, the second-generation 300 arrived. No less bold stylistically than the original, the new 300 was more than just a comely face.
Suspension upgrades tamed the 300’s wayward ways and mechanical updates boosted fuel efficiency. The cabin finally received the attention the first-gen 300 so richly deserved.
Now, in 2013, the 300 ($31,340, including destination) has matured into a comfortable, efficient and sumptuously outfitted adult conveyance. Its 122-inch wheelbase dwarfs the domestic competitions’. Its cabin is large enough and back seat roomy enough that it’s sold in other parts of the world as a limousine.
The 300 is built on a rear-drive platform, with available all-wheel-drive. This RWD architecture produces a driveline hump that reduces rear-seat foot-room but yields superior driving dynamics. Despite its bulk, the new 300 handles confidently, even through fast sweepers.
Ride quality is very good, although larger wheel sizes -- base trims come with 17s, AWD gets 19s and 20s are available -- reduce compliance on rough surfaces. With its large and supportive seats, compliant suspension and well-weighted steering, the 300 will doubtless prove to be an efficient and comfortable long-distance cruiser.
And, though it won’t be mistaken for a sport sedan the equal of BMW’s 7 Series or an engineering marvel like Mercedes-Benz’s S Class, the 300 takes a back seat to none in the value sweepstakes. It’s with comfort, convenience and safety features at surprisingly low price points.
The base 300 receives automatic headlights, heated mirrors, keyless entry and ignition, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, cruise control, an 8.4-inch central touchscreen interface, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, heated front seats, an eight-way power driver seat (with adjustable lumbar), tilt-and-telescoping steering, Bluetooth connectivity and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, auxiliary audio jack, iPod/USB connectivity and satellite radio.
A 292-horsepower V-6 is standard (it’s tweaked to 300 hp on the sport-tuned 300S). Paired with a new eight-speed automatic, it produces EPA estimates of 19 mpg city/31 mpg highway/23 mpg combined; AWD fetches 18/27/21.
A 363-hp eight is available on all but the base trim and the high-performance, 470-hp SRT8. Mated with a six-speed gearbox, the eight earns RWD ratings of 16/25/19 and 15/23/18 with AWD. The RWD-only SRT8 earns EPA numbers of 14/23/17.
The handful of downsides include limited rearward visibility and vague shift-lever detents. A balky storage-cubby door hinted at cabin cost-cutting.
Our admiration for Chrysler’s reborn flagship remains undimmed, though. A roughhewn beauty in its youth, the 300 wears its new maturity like a champion.
Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer. Contact him at email@example.com.
2013 Chrysler 300 AWD
Vehicle base price: $30,345
Trim level base price: $32,845
As tested: $35,840
Options included back-up camera; power passenger seats with four-way lumber adjust; fog lamps, security alarm; remote start; universal garage door opener; center high-mount stop lamp.
EPA ratings: 18 city/27 highway
Regular unleaded fuel specified