2014 Chrysler 300 Review By Carey Russ
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS
2014 Chrysler 300S
It's been around over a decade, with a "second generation" refresh for 2011. Manufacturer Chrysler has seen multiple changes of ownership since the 300's inception, first as DaimlerChrysler, then by Cerberus Group, and now as part of Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles (FCA). More than a little of that time was spent under financial duress. Given that information, one would expect the 2014 Chrysler 300 to be a creaky old lame duck!
And one would be very wrong. Yes, model year 2015 will see revised exterior styling and a new interior, among other things, likely the greatest changes to Chrysler's flagship yet. But until that is released, 2014s are what is available, and I've spent the past week driving a 2014 300S. It feels solid, with no creaks or rattles, has a suspension calibration that is near-perfect for spirited driving in comfort, and an athletic 300-horsepower engine matched to an eight-speed multi-mode automatic transmission that means excellent performance with very reasonable fuel economy.
I should age so well.
The 300S is the sport-oriented model, with the plain 300 aimed toward value and the 300C luxury. Yes, the 300S is more sport-touring that narrowly-focused sports, and nothing wrong there. Roads in this country are rarely smoothly-paved like race tracks. Around here they more closely resemble rally special stages, with broken pavement and low-grade patches upon patches. The 300S dealt with that in style and comfort. And being a rear-wheel drive machine, its steering feel and action are noticeably better than even a good front-wheel drive sedan's. The standard 300-horsepower V6 is far more than merely adequate, especially as it drives through an eight-speed automatic transmission licensed from German specialist manufacturer ZF. On tight backroads, the 300S seems far smaller and lighter than it actually is. It's still one of the best American-brand sedans ever in its combination of satisfying performance with reasonable thirst and distinctive style.
On Sale Today
APPEARANCE: "Iconic" is mostly an over-used cliche, but is appropriate here. The Chrysler 300's shape is instantly recognizable, and unlike any other car on the road today. It's chunky but muscular, with a low greenhouse that give it a "chopped" look, in custom car terminology. Pronounced fender flares and tires that fill the wheel arches further add stylistic muscle. The S variant's sportier nature is expressed by "black chrome" exterior trim and dark-finished 20-inch alloy wheels.
COMFORT: Changes to the 300's interior at the 2011 revision were major, with evolution since then. At S level, proximity un/lock and pushbutton start/stop add convenience and stitched leather seating adds comfort and style. The "S" embossed into each front seat back is a nice touch, as are power adjustability and two-level cushion heat. Despite the seemingly low roofline, headroom is not a problem. Upper instrument panel and door trim is textured soft-touch material, with good anti-glare ability. Matching the exterior, interior trim is mostly of the dark "piano black" variety, with some bright chrome for contrast. The design is contemporary and original. Instruments are backlit in a restful blue, with useful trip information displayed between the tachometer and speedometer. That is controlled via buttons on the left spoke of the leather-wrapped, manually tilt- and reach-adjustable steering wheel, along with phone and audio controls. The adaptive cruise control system controls are on the right. As is Chrysler custom, rocker switches on the rear of the spokes control audio tuning (left) and volume (right). Shift paddles are above those. Audio choices here, with the Uconnect 8.4 audio and navigation system, are AM, FM, and Sirius/XM radio, CD, and USB and jack connections in the console box. Control is through a central touchscreen, and is simple and intuitive. The featured Dr. Dre Beats audio system sounds good, although the subwoofer does take up a bit of trunk space. The 300's "full size" status is most noticeable in the rear seat. Outboard passengers have plenty of space in all dimensions, with the usual contoured cushion and a good back angle. The center position is compromised by the high central tunnel -- rear-wheel drive will do that. The trunk should be large enough for most people, and the rear seatback folds 60/40 for extra cargo ability. A space-saver spare tire and the battery are under the trunk floor.
SAFETY: 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. The SafetyTec option package adds blind-spot and cross-path backing alert, ParkSenseÂ® front and rear sonar parking assistance, forward collision warning, rain-sensitive wipers, and courtesy lamps in the bottoms of the external mirrors.
RIDE AND HANDLING: How to make the best sports-luxury sedan, from a ride and handling aspect: Start with rear-wheel drive, mix with sturdy, rigid unibody chassis, add well-tuned fully-independent suspension, and enjoy. The structural and sound-proofing improvements to the 300's unibody and revisions to its short-and-long arm/multilink suspension's geometry for the 2011 update mad a good vehicle even better. Twenty-inch wheels and low-profile tires are standard fare with the S, as is the "touring" suspension calibration, with stiffer front shocks and thicker stabilizer bars at both ends. It's still quite comfortable, and in no way harsh or jarring, even on poor surfaces. 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 world-class car and lovely one to drive.
PERFORMANCE: Previous 300s that I've driven (2005 and 2012) had the Hemi V8. This one had the Pentastar V6, and I missed the V8 not at all. Yes, there is less raw power -- "only" 300 horsepower (at 6350 rpm) and 264 lb-ft of torque (at 4800 rpm) here, versus 363 hp and a massive 394 lb-ft -- but the aluminum alloy 3.6-liter V6 means about 300 pounds less weight in the front end of the car than the cast-iron 5.7-liter V8. That helps in the corners, and if acceleration isn't quite as quick as with the V8, it's hardly slow. The V6 is a contemporary design, with dual overhead cams and four-valves per cylinder. The eight-speed automatic adds further refinement, with lower low gears for improved acceleration and higher highs for economical highway cruising. Regular mode D is fine for everyday driving, with sport mode helping when the road gets more entertaining. Yes, you can shift with paddles behind the steering wheel arms, but even on a tight, steep road it's not really necessary. A V6 will never sound like a V8, but this one does have a lovely classic six-cylinder growl.
CONCLUSIONS: Chrysler has done an admirable job of keeping its 300 sedan current.
2014 Chrysler 300S
Base Price $ 34,395 Price As Tested $ 40,870 Engine Type aluminum alloy DOHC 24-valve V6 Engine Size 3.6 liters / 220 cu. in. Horsepower 300 @ 6350 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 264 @ 4800 rpm Transmission 8-speed multi-mode automatic with manual-shift mode Wheelbase / Length 120.2 in. / 198.6 in. Curb Weight 4029 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 13.4 Fuel Capacity 19.1 gal. Fuel Requirement 87 octane unleaded regular gasoline Tires P245/45R20 99V m+s Firestone Firehawk GTV Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc Suspension, front/rear independent unequal-length arm / independent multilink Drivetrain front engine, rear-wheel drive
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 19 / 31 / 22 0 to 60 mph est 7.0 sec
OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Safety Tec -- includes: blind spot and cross-path detection, ParkSenseÂ® front and rear park assist system, adaptive speed control. forward collision warning, exterior mirrors with turn signals, rain-sensitive windshield wipers, driver's-side auto-dimming exterior mirror, exterior mirrors with courtesy lamps $ 1,995 Light Group -- includes: adaptive bi-xenon HID headlamps, automatic high-beam headlamp control, automatic headlamp leveling system, rear foglamps $ 895 Dual-Pane Panoramic Sunroof $ 1,595 Uconnect 8.4N CD/DVD/MP3/NAV -- includes: GarminÂ® navigation system, Sirius/XM Trafficâ„¢ and Travel Linkâ„¢ w/1-year subscription $ 995 Destination Charge $ 995