Review: 2011 Chrysler 300 V6
By Kevin Miller
In January of this year, Chrysler Brand CEO Olivier Francois channeled Eminem on Chrysler’s stage at Cobo hall when he introduced the new 300; the rap didn’t roll off of his tongue and I found it painful to watch. When the new 300 rolled out onto the stage, I was not that excited; it looked to me like just another big fat 300. After a quick peek, I lost interest and explored other stands in Detroit. Eminem meme not withstanding, I think I should have been paying better attention to Francois that day in Detroit.
Up close and in person, the styling of the new 300 is very formal, more so even than its predecessor. Peaks on the front and rear fenders modernize the traditional look of a formal sedan. The headlamps are nicely detailed, with LED DRLs and a complex shape that matches the sophisticated contour of the front fender’s top edge. To my eyes, only the rounded inner edges of the headlamp assemblies detract from the 300’s very formal appearance.
Around back, what appear to be incredibly well-situated tailpipes are actually just decorative exhaust finishers which are attached to the bottom edge of the back bumper; the actual dual exhaust pipes end ahead of those finishers. The rear fender profile “recalls” (or copies) that of the Rolls Royce Phantom. Elegant tail lamps, connected by a nicely-proportioned chrome strip atop the bumper, frame the 300’s rear end.
Though the 300 has elegant proportions, the panel gaps are not as tight as you might expect; they are wide along the edges of the hood, and appeared uneven at the hood’s front corners, where the front clip didn’t appear to meet the hood and front fenders with any particular precision. Too, the seventeen-inch wheels with high-profile tires on the base-model car I tested looked hopelessly small in the car’s big wheel arches.
Even on my base-trim 300, high-end features such as a leather-wrapped steering wheel, keyless entry/go and a high-resolution touchscreen with Sirius satellite radio integration are standard. Unfortunately, Bluetooth phone integration is not, nor are heated seats, heated steering weheel, and electrically adjustable pedals and steering column; though all of these features are available options.
There is a stylish (but hard-to-read thanks to silver hands on a white face) analog clock above the touchscreen; a digital clock display is present immediately below it at the top of the touchscreen; unfortunately the analog clock is not synchronized with the digital one, and was a few minutes ahead for my entire week with the 300, Because the analog clock only can be adjusted forward, I didn’t’ take the time to run it forward 12 hours to synchronize the two clocks that are adjacent to one another.
Display of radio and climate controls as well as other menu settings were clear to see and straightforward to use. Even with all of the real estate available on the touchscreen, there are only twelve pre-sets available on each FM and Satellite bands. Why is that? I could use many more.
The dashboard and instrument panel have a more upscale appearance than in the previous-generation 300, with nicely-grained, soft-touch materials on the dash top and doors (though at seams where upper and lower dash/door molding come together the joint has a downmarket look). The outboard dash vents have silver bezels around them; the vent on the drivers’ side reflected distractingly in the driver window on sunny afternoons. The standard touchscreen with silver-plastic surround has an upscale look, as do the watch-like instruments. The jewel-like appearance of the speedometer can make it hard to read; fortunately the 300 has Chrysler’s Electronic Vehicle Information Center (EVIC) which can show a redundant digital speed display.
Seat upholstery in the base 300 is a low-pile velour-feeling fabric with embossed patterning on the four outboard seating posiitons. To my eyes it had a low-rent appearance, but it proved to be comfortable (and surprisingly grippy) during my week in the car. The black upholstery, black woven-fabric pillar trim and headliner (without sunroof) , and black dash with dark-stained faux-wood trim lent a very somber atmosphere to the 300’s interior, which consequently heated up quickly when parked on sunny afternoons.
Doors on the 300 open wide, allowing easy access to the interior. Each door has a puddle lamp on its bottom edge to prevent passengers from stepping out into something they can’t see in the dark. The front seats are wide and effectively un-bolstered; the driver’s seat has 8-way power adjustment plus power lumbar, and the passenger seat is manually adjusted fore/aft and backrest recline, both with adjustable head restraints. During my week in the 300 I found the seat to be comfortable for long or short trips. A covered storage bin under the driver’s right elbow is wide and adequately padded, and houses USB/AUX input connectors for the audio system. The steering wheel tilts and telescopes to help the driver get comfortable.
The back seat is wide enough to fit three car seats across (two boosters and one forward-facing Graco ComfortSport, though it is challenging to reach the seatbelt buckles when three kid seats are in place. A fold-down center armrest has two cup holders, and there are bottle holders plus an additional storage space molded into the rear doors. The 300’s high beltline means that the windows don’t offer a great view out for kids; as an adult the window’s sill is at shoulder height. Legroom is sufficient for adults and offers great toe space, though the seat cushion is a bit low, and the hard plastic frame around the perimeter of the back seat can be a shin-knocker for adults.
The 300’s trunk is large, with a button for opening its lid integrated to the CHMSL on the decklid. Inside, a standard cargo net runs across the back for securing small items, and very useful grocery bag hooks are integrated on either side just inside the opening. There is a handle integrated into the inside of the trunk lid so that you can close the trunk without getting hands dirty (and without leaving fingerprints on the outside of the car). The trunk is nicely finished, with gooseneck hinges covered by trim and closing into trimmed apertures. A spare tire and the battery live under the trunk floor, without any trays or other bins for storing stuff. The trunk can be expanded by folding the 60/40 split rear seats forward; the resulting space does not have a flat load floor but is useful for carrying larger items.
The base 300 has a comfort-tuned suspension. Coupled with the high-sidewall tires, the ride is decidedly plush, trading ample feedback for a smooth ride. The tall, squared profile of the 300 is affected by heavy winds, more than I would expect a large, heavy car to be. Too, the steering isn’t particularly precise, with a dead on-center feeling and sloppy on-center handling requiring more corrections than I like on the freeway.
Traction control can be switched off using a button on the dash, but even when it is switched off the system still remains active with higher slip thresholds, cutting in to my attempts at hooning the big, rear-wheel-drive 300 around entertaining corners. Handling was always predictable, if not particularly exciting.
The 292 HP, 3.6 liter Pentastar V6 is the standard engine in the 300, coupled to a 5-speed automatic transmission. The tranny is slow to downshift when prodded by my right foot, likely a programming choice to focus on fuel economy rather than performance. When the downshift finally comes, though, the big 300 has more-than-adequate power, though the powertrain soundtrack is not as inspiring as other aspects of the car. Although the Pentastar doesn’t have a particularly pleasant sound under heavy throttle, it has an impressive amount of power.
The 300 features a capless fuel filler, similar to the system that Ford has been selling for the past few years. Fortunately, a large fuel tank means that I didn’t’ need to use it during my week with the big Chrysler. The EPA rates the 300 18/27/21 MPG city/highway/combined, and the car’s trip computer showed that I achieved 21.0 MPG over 215 miles of mixed driving.
The 300 I tested was truly a base-model car, though it was relatively well-equipped. With a base price of $27,170, its only option was Blackberry Pearl Coat exterior paint for $295. Adding the $825 destination charge, the big Chrysler rings in with a $28,290 MSRP. At that price, the entry-level 300 features such standard equipment as Keyless-Enter-N-Go, cruise control, Uconnect Touch 8.4 touchscreen infotainment system, dual-zone automatic climate control, and LED daytime running lamps.
Though I initially dismissed the new car as just a continuation of the original, the latest generation 300 really does bring major improvements. With a much higher level of standard equipment, and plenty of stylish detailing on the exterior, the new 300 is much more sophisticated (in both style and technology) than the car it replaces. If the improved attention to detail that Chrysler has shown with the 300 is any indication of the company’s future direction, that plus the value of high levels of standard equipment could force buyers to again consider products from Eminem’s favorite car company.