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2011 Chrysler 300

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2011 Chrysler 300

The all-new Chrysler 300 does a good job of upping the ante of that tone and the brand’s definition. Let’s start with the car’s looks. This is the car that’s won more awards than any other Chrysler. The new 300 evolves that look with taste. It is still a rear-wheel drive platform. That allows for the classic long hood and sort rear design, and the lines were smoothed and surfaces made more complex. The idea is to make the body less plain, more stylish. This is an important part of Chrysler’s plan to move the Chrysler 300 towards truly being an American luxury car.

In order to do this the car must look like a luxury product, but more importantly, be one. So with the Chrysler 300 they are focusing on quality and function. And this doesn’t just mean using soft touch materials in the cabin. But more focus on fit and finish and more consideration of what makes a car and its interior luxurious.

There will be three models, the Touring, Limited and the 300C. The car comes with LED running lights, the new stylized Chrysler emblem. The rear taillight housings are strikingly vertical and the rear shoulders are more defined and heavier.

Silence is the sign of quality and luxury, if a car isn’t quiet in the cabin it won’t be considered a luxury car. They’ve added foam to dampen the noise from wheel wells and under the hood. New underbody panels, which run the entire length of the vehicle also quiet things down as well as adding some aerodynamic benefits from controlling the air flow underneath.

Another requirement of a luxury car is plenty of power. The Chrysler 300 gets two powertrains, V6 and the V8 Hemi.

This 5.7-liter V-8 engine generates 363hpand 394 lbs.-ft. of torque. When you’re cruising, the engine can turn off half the cylinders and run as a four cylinder engine until demand almost instantly returns the engine to 8-cylinder power. Chrysler says that fuel-saving mode can improve economy up to 20 percent.

With that classic engine there’s plenty of power, especially if the eight-speed automatic transmission coming at some point in the future gets mated to this engine. Unfortunately, I’m betting this transmission is for the Pentastar V6 engine which is the car’s base powertrain. It’s no slouch, producing 292 hp. and 260 lbs.-ft. of torque.

Currently the all-wheel drive system is only offered with the V8 engine, but that what’s true for today, but evidently not the future. Based on this obfuscation from Chrysler, one can presume next year there will be all-wheel drive with the Pentastar V6 engine.

While driving there are noticeable changes in the ride and handling. This comes from changes to the suspension, with tightened response and camber changes. This results in a more European suspension setup, tauter but not stiff. The car now has electro/hydraulic power steering and monotube shocks for a more precise response to road conditions. While I’m not totally convinced about electric power steering, in this sedan it worked well. There was plenty of road feel, and the turning was precise and predicable.

Chrysler 300 outdoor shotThe car really is quiet on the road. It drives well, although in driving the base Touring model, with its 17-in wheels I was surprised how much less capable they were than the 18-in wheels on the Limited. Because these smaller wheels had a taller profile they also made a lot of noise and weren’t nearly as comfortable in the sweeping curves of the road we were driving

Other than that, I mostly liked the base model. The cloth interior didn’t make it look inexpensive, but I’m not an automatic leather-liker. The seats were a little less supportive, and naturally not as adjustable. But those are small complaints. All in all this was a nicely drivable car. And one that will find an audience with people who want transportation that’s larger rather than smaller, but still inexpensive and more importantly, not filled with “silly” features.

I also drove a Limited model, and in both the engine was pleasant and capable. I had more than enough power to pass people on two-laned roads. I could accelerate into interstate traffic without difficulty. The engine also had a nice sound to it. The six-speed automatic shifts smoothly and quietly up or down.

When the car comes to market later this spring, Chrysler expects the customers to be much like those who bought the previous model. They were more than 50 years old and definitely baby boomers. This segment is expected to grow as more boomers are expected to seek the attributes found in large cars. That’s why Chrysler wants to move this car slightly upmarket. Those segments may be crowded, but it’s worth fighting for a spot there.

For now the three models span a large scale in price. The Touring begins at $27,995 with 17-in. wheels and a cloth interior. There’s still plenty of stuff to play with in this car, which is powered by the V6. UConnect voice control, the big touch screen in the dash, and USB connectivity to name a few of the features.

But move up to the Limited, starting at $31,995 and you get more features, such as a leather interior, backup camera, an Alpine audio system and you can now opt for the panorama sunroof, the $2795 SafetyTec Group, and even the Luxury Group with brings the luxury items out of the top-of-the-line 300C.

That 300C is the flagship, and comes powered by the V8 Hemi engine and offers all-wheel drive. 300C prices begin at $38,995, but you still have to pay for the Safety Tech package. This includes many of the special features that really can bring increased safety, as long as you still pay attention to what they’re doing for you.

The package contains, according to Chrysler, the following: adaptive-forward lighting, high-intensity discharge projector high and low-beams with automatic headlamp leveling, Forward Collision Warning with adaptive-cruise control, Blind-spot monitoring with Rear Cross Path detection, ParkSense front and rear park assist system, LED-illuminated rear fog lamps, exterior mirrors with supplemental turn signals and approach lamp. When you order it for the 300 Limited you also get HomeLink universal transceiver, rain-sensing wipers and SmartBeam headlamps, which already come on the 300C.

Francois announced that there will be another level of Chrysler product beginning later this year, the Chrysler “S” models. They will be more stylish and edgier, for the buyer who wants a car with more emotional appeal. It won’t be a separate brand but somewhat of a sub-brand probably without performance changes.

It will be almost a way to customize your car without having to do the work yourself. Chrysler sees a sizeable body of customers who’d like to customize their cars, but don’t have the time or money to do so.

Whether you customize your Chrysler 300 or not, the new model will sit attractively in your driveway. And Chrysler dealers are really looking forward to helping you do that.


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