2012/13 Chrysler 300 C Review By Carey Russ
2012/13 Chrysler 300C
The newest car to bear the Chrysler 300 name was bold, even revolutionary, when it debuted for 2005. Solid underpinnings from the Daimler side of the Daimler-Chrysler combine gave it an international accent to its All-American character, and distinctive lines and a wide variety of engine choices, from basic V6 through 340-horsepower HEMI┬« V8 to 425-hp SRT-8 Hemi power ensured sales success. And if anyone wanted something a little different, aftermarket styling kits were quick to appear.
But model year 2005 was a long time ago, and there have been more than a few changes at Chrysler in the ensuing years. Daimler-Chrysler is ancient history, subsequent ownership by Cerberus Capital meant minimal development money, and Chrysler is now aligned with Fiat.
The second-generation modern Chrysler 300 made an early debut for model year 2011 partway through 2010. Most obvious was a restyling that, with only seemingly minor revisions to the original shape, renewed visual interest and kept the car's elegant bad-boy character intact. But even more importantly, the unibody chassis structure was upgraded, the suspension was revised for improved ride and handling characteristics, additional soundproofing was added for a quieter experience, multiple upgrades were made to the interior, including all-new seats, and the two aging V6 engines were replaced by a new 3.6-liter "Pentatstar" engine that had more power - 292 horses worth - and better fuel economy. And of course the Hemi continued, with 363 hp and a surprisingly low appetite for fuel thanks to its "Fuel Saver Technology" cylinder deactivation under low-load driving conditions.
Since then, 2012 saw introduction of an eight-speed automatic, the first in its class, for V6 models, and an expansion of the model lineup. 2013 sees further model and equipment realignments and price decreases for many of the most popular versions. Base is the (plain in name only) 300, with the Pentastar and standard leather seating. Above that is the 300S, then the 300C, then the flagship's flagship is the 300C Luxury Series. All can be had in rear- or all-wheel drive form, and the 300S and above are offered with the Pentastar standard and Hemi optional.
The last time I drove a 300 was back when it was new, in mid-2004. It was impressive then, but given the financial uncertainties at Chrysler in the intervening years and so lack of development budget, I was a little dubious as to how a new one would feel. All too often tooling gets worn, assembly gets looser, and so fit and finish decrease and ugly creaks and groans increaseÔ€Ž
No worries! It's end-of-the-model-year time and so my test car for the past week was a 2012 Hemi-equipped 300C with 8500 journalist miles on the odometer. That's worth two or three time as many owner miles -- and the car was commendably tight and solid. With its own character, a high level of standard equipment and options for every taste and budget, it's no surprise to me that the 300 has been a success story, and one that continues. The Hemi V8 lives up to its reputation for power, but thanks to the cylinder deactivation system -- which is noticeable only by an "Eco" light illuminating on the dash -- and the distance necessary between fillups. Which, at a 21mpg average for the week, is further than would be expected with 363 horsepower worth of Hemi under the hood. Chrysler looks to be in good hands these days, and is making some fine cars.
APPEARANCE: The chunky, muscular shape is familiar, but all of the details are just a bit different. The Chrysler 300 second-generation restyling is evolutionary, and smoothed the corners of the original's boxy shape. The fenders are more prominently flared. A backwards tilt to the revised grille -- changed from the original egg-crate motif to today's horizontal chromed slats -- and a greater slope to the windshield, plus thinner A-pillars, visually lighten the car. Chrome trim, once a staple of American luxury cars, is abundant, exemplified by the grille, headlight trim, and bumper corner caps at the front, trim around the side windows, and a rear bumper appliqu├ę, plus side mirror caps on some models. As ever, overhangs are short, the wheels fill the wheel arches, and the low greenhouse gives the appearance of a custom "chopped" look, but with no detriment to visibility.
COMFORT: There is as much interior evolution as exterior. There is no hint of the original retro-modern theme; it's now contemporary international luxury, with high-quality materials and fine fit and finish. At 300C level -- which is mid-range -- almost everything expected in a contemporary luxury car is included, and whatever might not be is likely readily available as an option. Leather seating is standard in all versions, and the redesigned seats front have high levels of comfort and support. Despite the low roofline, headroom is not a problem. The textured soft-touch materials used for most of the interior trim are set against wood or woodgrain trim, with brushed aluminum and chrome accents. The main instruments are backlit in a restful blue color, and are easily visible in all lighting. My test car came with heated and cooled front seats and a heated steering wheel, perfect for Fall days when the temperature can range between 55┬║ and 90┬║F during the course of a day. A full-length panoramic moonroof made for a great view of the sky, with the front section both sliding or tilting for a semi-open air experience. Audio choices include AM,FM, and Sirius/XM satellite radio, CD of all common formats, external audio players via USB or minijack, or an SD card inserted beneath the CD slot. Rear passenger room is very good for the outboard positions; a high central tunnel means that the center is best left to the fold-down armrest. That's little different from other sedans, though. A 60/40 folding seatback increases the capacity of the trunk if necessary.
SAFETY: Named a "Top Safety Pick" by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the Chrysler 300 has high ratings for crashworthiness in front, side, rear, and rollover accidents. Electronic stability control, a full complement of airbags, Hill Start Assist, Rain Brake Support, and Ready Alert Braking are among its many standard safety features.
RIDE AND HANDLING: The perfect recipe for sports-luxury sedan ride and handling? Start with rear-wheel drive, mix with sturdy, rigid unibody chassis, add well-tuned fully-independent suspension, and enjoy. A number of structural and sound-proofing improvements to the 300's unibody make a good thing even better. The short-and-long arm/multilink suspension's geometry was revised for the 2011 update. The 20-inch wheel package, as on my test car, means a slightly firmer "touring" tuning. It's still quite comfortable, and in no way harsh or jarring, even on poor surfaces. If you opt for the Hemi, you also get upgraded brakes, with larger discs, vented in the rear as well as front, and twin-piston front calipers. All blend together to make a world class car. With the steering decoupled from the drive wheels, road feel is good and effort is appropriately moderate, not at all over-assisted. It's a lovely car to drive.
PERFORMANCE: Today's Hemi resembles those of yore in name only. Yes, it's still a pushrod OHV design, with a cast iron block and aluminum heads, and the namesake combustion chambers ensure good power production. But it's considerably lighter than any previous Hemi, and fuel injection and the Fuel Saver Technology system, which seamlessly deactivates four cylinders during light-load driving, like downhill or at a steady speed on level ground, ensure surprisingly good fuel economy, especially considering the 363 horsepower (at 5200 rpm) and 394 lb-ft of torque (at 4200 rpm). Which are then when desired, and if the sound then isn't quite like the secondaries opening up on an old 426, there's still a fine but civilized V8 rumble. 0-60 in around 6.3 seconds is probably faster than any old street Hemi could manage, especially on the tires of the day. And normal driving saw around 15 mpg around town and on backroads, and 21 overall with some highway driving. No way that would ever happen in the old daysÔ€Ž
I've driven the related Dodge Charger with the new V6 and eight-speed automatic. It worked very well there and should be just as good in a 300 for customers who don't need or want the V8. In no way is it a "base model" drivetrain.
CONCLUSIONS: Chrysler has kept its 300 current despite some rough times.
2012/3 Chrysler 300C
Base Price $ 38,470 (2012, Hemi) 35,995 (2013, V6) Price As Tested $ 46,300 (2012) $42,280 (2012, V8) Engine Type pushrod overhead valve 16-valve V8, cast iron block and aluminum heads, cylinder deactivation under light load Engine Size 5.7 liters / 345 cu. in. Horsepower 363 @ 5200 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 394 @ 4200 rpm Transmission 5- speed automatic with manual-shift mode Wheelbase / Length 120.2 in. / 198.6 in. Curb Weight 4326 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 11.9 Fuel Capacity 19.1 gal. Fuel Requirement 89 octane unleaded mid-grade recommended, 87 octane unleaded regular permissible with reduced power Tires P245/45R20 99V Firestone Firehawk Brakes, front/rear vented disc, dual-piston calipers / vented disc, single-piston calipers, ABS, ESC, RAB, RBS standard Suspension, front/rear independent short-and-long arm / independent five-link Drivetrain front engine, rear-wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 16 / 25 / 21 0 to 60 mph 6.3 sec OPTIONS AND CHARGES 2012: Customer Preferred Package 29T - includes: ParkSense front and rear park assist system, adaptive bi-xenon HID headlamps, automatic leveling headlamp system, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, blind spot and cross- path detection, rear fog lamps, exterior mirrors with supplemental turn signals and courtesy lamps $ 2,420 19 Premium Speaker Group - includes: 18 premium speakers and subwoofer, 900-watt amplifier, delete power backlight sunshade $ 1,995 Dual-Pane Panoramic Sunroof $ 1,495 20x8.0 inch aluminum wheels with 245/45VR20 all-season tires and Touring suspension $ 995 Destination charge $ 925 2013: 5.7-liter HEMI┬« V8 and 5-speed automatic $ 2000 Light Group - includes: Adaptive bi-xenon headlights, automatic high-beam control, automatic headlight leveling, rear foglamps $ 795 SafetyTec - includes: adaptive speed control, blind spot and cross-path detection, exterior mirrors with turn signals and courtesy lamps, forward collision warning, ParkSense parking assist $ 1,995 Harmon Kardon Audio Group - includes: 19 premium speakers including subwoofer, 900-watt amplifier, delete power rear sunshade $ 1,995 Destination Charge $ N/A? Note that prices and discounts are subject to change by area!