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2016 Chrysler 300C Platinum AWD Review By Steve Purdy

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2016 Chrysler 300C Platinum AWD

...this Chrysler 300C Platinum AWD is one of those cars I would love to have in my garage

By Steve Purdy
The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – but just update it a bit now and then.

That seems to be Chrysler’s philosophy around the revered Chrysler 300 rear-wheel drive, full-size sedan originally co-designed with Mercedes-Benz. Those were the days when classically American car company Chrysler partnered up with classically German Daimler. That partnership was billed as a merger of equals (see The Auto Channel May 7, 1998 story which includes a video of the complete Chrysler Daimler "Merger" press conference from Stuttgart). It turned out some were more equal than others as the two corporate cultures never meshed well. One positive outcome of that era, though, was the Chrysler 300 that won Motor Trend’s Car of the Year.

When it first hit the market in April of 2004 the 300 was a big hit ( Chrysler 300 Specs, Prices, Comparisons 2004-2016). It was the company’s first rear-wheel drive sedan since the big Newport went away in 1981. Ralph Gilles, now FCA’s rock-star VP of design, gets credit for penning this innovative design first seen at the New York Auto Show as a concept in 2003. The dramatic boxy sedan was further made famous and popular by those impressive “Imported from Detroit” TV commercials featuring rap artist Eminem and some other inspired ads. With some retro design queues the 300 struck a cord with a broad cross section of buyers and won lots of other awards as well.

When this new design was introduced to the public it was often characterized as “having attitude.” The shallow greenhouse, high beltline, gaping grille and meaty profile provided sort of a tough, urban look. Exaggerated wheel arches, big wheels and tires added to that aggressive, but not garish, character. A friend of ours had one of the first on the road and she likes to tell the story of people thinking she was driving a Bentley.

Inside, we find an unpretentious environment of modest luxury and simplicity. The elegant little analog clock in the center of the dash immediately identifies it as a luxury car, or near luxury perhaps, but it eschews the complexity that characterizes most interior styling today. The large touch screen high on the center stack offers controls for most of the car’s functions. With large, easily understood icons and symbols the controls managed there are as intuitive as any we encountered. The latest version of Chrysler’s Uconnect can manage just about all the infotainment and connectivity functions demanded by today’s high-tech car buyer.

While the interior trim, materials and features are not up to Lexus, Mercedes or other luxury car standards they are still very nice and nothing at which to scoff. The 300, too, is well below those others in cost, and is more aptly compared to LaCrosse, Avalon, Impala, Azera and Cadenza. While billed as a luxury sedan it takes a more simple and humble approach to that term. Seats are generous and mostly comfortable, though the driver’s seat has caused me a bit of a pain in the butt on two long drives now, both in excess of six hours at a stretch. That may be the result of the unconscionable breadth of said butt. Rear seat room is good, but certainly not best-in-class.

The Chrysler 300 line experienced a substantial redesign in 2011 with all new body that did not depart much from the original shape or style retaining that in-your-face sort of look. It included many mechanical and electronic upgrades to keep pace with modern needs. The big news at the time of that redesign was the replacement of the two smaller V6 engines with this new, slick Pentastar V6 and the smooth 8-speed automatic that goes with it.

And, that’s what is under the hood of our 300C test car – the 292-horsepower, 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 making 260 pound-feet of torque mated to an ultra-efficient 8-speed automatic transmission. The EPA estimates we’ll get about 18-mpg in the city, 27 on the highway and 21-mpg combined using regular fuel. We did better than that on our long highway jaunts this week. Our first took us 3 hours north with light traffic, keeping to barely extra-legal speeds on the freeway, followed by about 60 miles of quiet country two-lane roads. We managed 29.5 mpg on that one. Then coming back from Lake Geneva around Chicago, six hours of 95% freeway conditions, changing speed often driving spiritedly dicing with often-fast traffic, we still managed 27.5 mpg. With an 18.5-gallon fuel tank we had a range of well over 500 miles.

The 8-speed automatic has a manual mode actuated by paddle shifters on the steering wheel. If we try to downshift with the accelerator pedal it balks a bit but using the paddle shifters we found the shifts quick and decisive. Acceleration is good with that nearly 300 horsepower and will certainly satisfy all but the most power-hungry of drivers. It even has a decent amount of sound when we push it a bit. The all-wheel drive system costs about 3 grand extra and engages automatically whenever needed. If you really need more noise and thrust you can choose either of two great Hemi V8s.

On the road we found the handling and overall performance good as well. If we compare it to the much more expensive German full-size sedans we’d find it less sporty and rigid but it still feels entirely under control – firm but comfortable. Steering feel is fine with a fat steering wheel to hold on to. Pushing it hard on the twisties can be exhilarating without approaching the limits.

Our Chrysler 300C Platinum with all-wheel drive starts at just over $45,000. (The basic 300 will start at just $32,160.) The Platinum model price includes lots of premium content like: remote start, keyless entry, acoustic windshield, electronic roll mitigation, dual-zone HVAC, navigation, Uconnect, heated steering wheel, heated front and rear seats, ventilated front seats, power front seats with the most intense lumbar support ever, rotary electric shifter, 19-inch polished aluminum wheels, dual panoramic sunroof, dual exhaust outlets with chrome tips, and lots more expected and unexpected content. The $2,995 Safety Tec Plus Package includes parking assist, blind spot and cross traffic sensing, collision warning, adaptive cruise control, lane departure intervention and a bunch of other stuff. The bottom line on our sticker shows $49,055. Chrysler’s new car warranty covers the whole car for 3 years or 36,000 miles and the powertrain for 5 years or 60,000 miles.

This is one of those cars I would love to have in my garage. Considering its timeless style, gratifyingly quick but efficient powertrain, simplicity of controls, good handling, quietness on the road and modest degree of luxury it is quite a bargain considering the costs and content of comparable German and Asian full-size sedans.

© Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved