2015 Chrysler 300C Review by Carey Russ +VIDEO
Continuous refinement and important change for 2015 make the newest Chrysler 300 the best ever
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS
• SEE ALSO: Chrysler Buyers Guide
The Chrysler 300 was a bold attempt to leverage past history with present engineering when it was an early model-year 2005 release, and to say that it's been successful is understatement. Anticipating extreme temperature later in the day, I did a quick trip up the hill to the supermarket for provisions before starting this review. And noticed 300s… 10, 12, more? Two side by side at one point. And that was in about two and a half miles of driving. Most were first-generation examples.
Chrysler has been through some interesting times since 2005, often under financial duress. Development money was limited. Despite that, 2011 saw revised bodywork, although still close to the original lines. Don't mess with a good thing… Still, with years of production, one might expect wear and tear on the dies to result in looser tolerances and consequent flex and rattles in the cars. One would be mistaken.
The changes for 2015 are not as great as those for 2011, most notably revised front styling, new wheel designs, and a modest interior redesign. There is a premium Platinum model over the regular 300C, and all models now get an eight-speed automatic transmission, for greater efficiency and performance. Steering is now electrically-assisted, and chassis detail developments decrease weight a bit.
The new 300 Limited is the "base" model, but with leather seating (heated!) and a new instrument panel featuring an 8.4-inch touchscreen, driver information display, and more, base model is somewhat misleading. The 300S continues as the sporty model, with sportier trim details and a tuned version of the 3.6-liter "Pentastar" V6 with 300 horsepower, up from the 292 of other models. The 300C continues as the standard luxury offering. All V6 300s can be had in rear- or all-wheel drive form.
With rear-wheel drive in the S, C, and Platinum comes availability of the latest HEMIŽ V8. It shares only the name with the legendary Chrysler powerplants of the 1950s and `60s, and is considerably lighter in weight and far less thirsty, especially with cylinder deactivation while cruising. This version makes 363 horsepower from its 5.6 liters/345 cubic inches -- not exactly weak, and in a 300 chassis with a well-designed and tuned fully-independent suspension a much quicker way to cover miles, on less fuel and with better brakes.
The test car is a 300C with the Hemi, 20-inch wheels and appropriate tires, auto-leveling xenon HID headlights, and all of Chrysler's currently-available safety systems. With nearly $10,000 worth of options, that comes out to $47,170. Not a bargain-basement deal, but appropriate for a car that can hold its own against imported and domestic luxury brands. With fuel consumption at around 18 mpg, with admittedly little highway driving to activate the cylinder-deactivation system, the phrase "passes anything but a gas station" comes to mind. I saw 22 mpg with a V6 2014 300S tested about six months ago, with similar driving. And had no complaint about lack of power from that engine. But there is something about a big honkin' American V8 with gobs of torque (394 lb-ft here) and the current Hemi is an eminently satisfying engine. The 300C around it is a lovely piece as well, the very definition of "aging gracefully".
APPEARANCE: The shape is familiar, iconic even, for instant recognition. It's chunky in a muscular way, solidly-planted and ready for business. At the front, the grille is a bit larger and more rounded, with the winged Chrysler logo repositioned into the grille itself from the surrounding trim. The grille material has an interesting semi-hexagonal motif. The bumper shape and lower openings have been changed a bit. Bright chrome trim surrounds the grille and enhances the headlights and lower fascia. The 300C gets chrome-capped outside mirrors and chrome side window trim. At the rear, the vertical taillights and rear bumper shapes have been changed ever so slightly.
COMFORT: As outside, physical revisions to the interior are fairly subtle. The 300C's has the appearance and feel of a contemporary international luxury car, entry- or even mid-level. Quality materials of varying textures and appearance are assembled to tight tolerances. While there are detail differences between last year and now in some shapes and appointments, the most apparent change is on the console, where the old traditional shift lever has been replaced by a rotary knob. Credit or blame electronics for that, the shift between D and reverse is simple and any desired manual shifting is done by the paddles behind the steering wheel. Slightly confusing there are the typical Chrysler audio controls nearby on the reverse side of the steering wheel spokes, tuning on the left and volume on the right.
In the 300C, the dark, soft-touch upper material is contrasted by dark burled wood trim with satin-finished aluminum trim (or a reasonable facsimile thereof). Front seats offer very good comfort and support, and are both power-adjustable, with heated and cooled cushions. The main instruments are shielded from glare and brightly backlit, with an information display between the tach and speedometer. The center stack features a touchscreen flanked by vents. The touchscreen controls audio (AM/FM/SiriusXM radio and external players via USB or jack), interior systems including climate, seats, and mirrors, navigation, phone, and UConnect apps -- streaming media via phone, Yelp and similar, and a wifi hotspot. Simple analog controls for the climate system are underneath that and more easily used for quick adjustments. There is plenty of useful storage, including a locking glove box, a deep, covered console box with a removable coin tray and the USB and jack connections, and water bottle holders and small storage in all four doors. The trunk is a bit small for the car's size but should be more than adequate, helped by the 60/40 folding rear seat. Outboard rear positions are spacious; a high central tunnel impedes on the center.
SAFETY: The Chrysler 300C has high ratings for crashworthiness in front, side, rear, and rollover accidents. Electronic stability control, a full complement of airbags, a backup camera, and four-wheel disc brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and electronic stability control are among its many standard safety features. The SafetyTec 1 option package adds blind-spot and cross-path backing alert, ParkSenseŽ front and rear sonar parking assistance, and both auxiliary turn signals and courtesy lamps in the outside mirrors. Safety Tec 2 adds Full Speed Forward Collision Warning Plus, rain-sensitive wipers, Adaptive Cruise Control With Stop, Advanced Brake Assist, Lane Departure Warning Plus, and more.
RIDE AND HANDLING: How to build a sport-luxury sedan with world-class ride and handling characteristics: Start with a sturdy, rigid unibody structure, continuously tweaked for the better, add a properly-tuned fully-independent suspension, then add precise and not overly-assisted steering that transmits important information from the road unobtrusively. See Chrysler for details. The short-and-long arm / multilink suspension is tuned bit more softly in the C than the S, appropriate to its emphasis of the luxury side. Electric assist for the steering is new this year, for a bit more efficiency. Unlike some such systems, the driver knows that there is a road at the other end, not a video game controller. Add good soundproofing and a commendably lack of flex-caused squeaks and rattles and the result is a smooth, quiet, comfortable luxury car.
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 combustion chambers are not really quite hemispherical but close, and do ensure good power production. 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 18 overall with very little highway driving. When I tested a 2012 version with the same engine and old five-speed automatic I did more highway driving and got 21. No way either would ever happen in the old days…
Historical tidbit -- many engines used in NHRA drag racing Top Fuel and Funny Car classes are developed from the 1960s Chrysler Hemi. They are considerably modified, not made by FiatChrysler Automobiles, but do use pushrod overhead valve architecture. With 8 liters (488 cubic inches) capacity and running on a mixture of methanol and nitromethane massively compressed by supercharging, they can put out upwards of 8000 horsepower. Not for very long, and each engine gets its internals changed very regularly… but the old Hemi lives on.
CONCLUSIONS: Continuous refinement and important change for 2015 make the newest Chrysler 300 the best ever.
2015 Chrysler 300C
Base Price $ 37,895
Price As Tested $ 47,170
Engine Type 16-valve pushrod OHV V8, cast-iron block and aluminum alloy heads with variable cam timing and 4-cylinder deactivation (opt)
Engine Size 5.7 liters / 345 cu. in.
Horsepower 363 @ 5200 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) 394 @ 4200 rpm
Transmission 8-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 18.5 gal.
Fuel Requirement 89 octane unleaded mid-grade gasoline recommended, 87 octane unleaded regular permissible
Tires 245/45R20 99V m+s Firestone Firehawk (opt)
Brakes, front/rear vented disc all around (with HEMI), ABS, BA, EBD, ESC standard
Suspension, front/rear independent short-and-long arm / independent multi-link
Drivetrain front engine, rear-wheel drive
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 16 / 25 / 18
0 to 60 mph 6.3 sec
Towing Capacity 1,000 lbs.
OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Light Group -- includes: automatic headlight leveling system, adaptive bi-xenon HID headlamps $ 895
Safety Tec 1 -- includes: power multi-function mirrors with manual fold-away, ParkSenseŽ front and rear park assist system, blind spot and cross-traffic detection system, exterior mirrors with turn signals and courtesy lights $ 1,695
SafetyTec 2 -- includes: Full-Speed Forward Collision Warning Plus, Adaptive Cruise Control With Stop, Lane Departure Warning Plus, Advanced Brake Assist, rain-sensitive windshield wipers, automatic high-beam control $ 1,695
5.7-liter V8 HEMIŽ MDS VVT engine $ 3,000
20-inch x 8-inch polished alloy wheels with all-season touring tires and Touring suspension calibration $ 995
Destination Charge $ 995
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