Chelsea, MI -- I get to drive lots of new cars any given year. It’s not unusual for me to spend time behind the wheel of 100 different new cars between the months of January and December. My memory’s still quite good, and I manage to lock away impressions and comments about each car I drive.
I’ve been reviewing Chrysler’s (FCA’s) full-size cars for 10 years now, and I always come away with the feeling that these nearly wholly Canadian American cars are the best in their segment, and for a number of reasons. Even though the Ford Taurus, Chevrolet Impala and Hyundai Genesis have taken honours at our annual Auto123.com Awards (2x for the Ford and 2x for the Charger), my personal best pick lies with the FCA LX cars. My last encounter with a 300 further solidified my beliefs that this car is fantastic.
The rebirth of the 300 series for the 2005 model year brought with it a design that set a standard for FCA’s large cars. In fact, these LX cars (minus the much-loved Magnum’s demise by 2009) have been so popular and well received that they’ve scarcely evolved in almost 12 years (first launched in the spring of 2004).
For 2016, Chrysler’s updated some physical aspects ever so slightly, but you’d be hard pressed to really put your finger on them. Over the last couple of years, the head- and taillights, bumpers, grilles, wheels, and various accents have changed; however, the basic product remained intact. The news for 2016 is the advent of a few new trims including a 90th Anniversary Edition. The subject of this review is the top-dog 300C Platinum which now features a 900-Watt 19-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, and high-end interior touches such as quilted Nappa leather and hand-sanded wood.
Big and tall
The 300’s cabin is sparse, clean and simple. Here, “less is more” applies and the final product is oh-so luxurious. Uconnect stands tall and proud in the centre of it all with its large 8.4” touchscreen -- a most excellent system, btw. The HVAC controls are neatly clustered just below, but the remainder of the dashboard is uncluttered. What a breath of fresh air.
Speaking of air, the interior is airy with large comfy seats, and I must say that I’m a huge fan of the indigo/linen colour theme. As always, the trunk is immensely capacious with room for just about everything. Design-wise, the car’s a stunner inside and out. Because it has changed so little, few ever really notice the 300, but when you look beyond the polished 20” wheels, it’s a semi work of art.
Sure, it’s a big sedan with a V6 engine (or better yet, a HEMI V8) and it likes fuel and rides on large tires, but the fact of the matter is that these cars are popular and consumers want and need them. FCA’s been on the receiving end of some criticism on their inability to make a small car, but at the moment I don’t care.
V6 or V8? Do you really have to ask?
Why? Because 363-horsepower 5.7L HEMI V8. Also because 394 lb-ft of torque. Combined with the 8-speed Torqueflite automatic transmission, the 300C RWD will shoot to 100 km/h in roughly 5.7 seconds. For fun, know that the ¼ mile disappears in 13.5 seconds. This thing is quick.
My time with the 2016 300C was all too brief. One part of the test-run was completed on a large oval track. It took mere moments for me to reach 110 mph (176 km/h), but I had to back down not because the car was getting out of hand. No, I lifted off the throttle because I was catching up to “boys” thinking that they were pushing SRTs... Mind you, the SRTs are faster than the 300C; but in the right hands the 300 can cover some serious ground at quite a clip.
Max torque arrives at 4,200 rpm and thanks to the slick 8-speed box; subsequent shifts almost inevitably land engine speeds in the meaty part of the powerband. Acceleration is strong and uninterrupted -- a very rewarding feeling for such a large and heavy automobile.
You know when people talk about land yachts and how comfy and smooth they are? That’s the 300C right there. But there’s a huge difference between what they’re referring to and what this Chrysler is. The 300C felt at ease at 160 km/h (100 mph). Its stability gave me confidence to push on. Had I had more room ahead of me, I would have loved to see the north side of 140 mph (224 km/h).
Through a more “scenic” section of the proving grounds, the 300C handled the switchbacks fairly well. Despite being RWD (AWD is optional), the car tended more towards understeer than oversteer. Bodyroll is limited, and the overall impression is that this is a solid, safe car. The hydraulic steering provides precision, but little to no feel, an expected trait. The brakes had little trouble with scrubbing off speed, but then they were not that solicited, nor would they ever really be on a daily basis.
Bang for the buck
A very well appointed Chrysler 300 Touring, with the 292-hp 3.6L V6 starts just below the $40k mark. It’s a small-ish jump to my 300C Platinum at just under $45k. At this price, you get lots of car, in every sense of the word. AWD adds a further $2,200, a worthwhile investment. Regardless of the selected trim, you’ll fall in love with the car. And if you opt for the HEMI (do it!), and if you’re mostly easy on the throttle, you won’t hate the fuel consumption.