Chrysler’s Bentley-tastic 300 sedan has been around a decade, kept current with just one re-style and several enhancements for 2015. While the car’s basic shape remains the same, style and powertrain updates transform it into a seemingly new car—especially in sporty “S” trim. There’s much to like by both long-time fans and those who never considered a 300 before.
If you think the idea of a sporty full-size Chrysler is crazy thought, check the car’s large black mesh grille, 20-inch Hyper Black wheels, blacked-out accents, and Redline Tri-Coat Pearl paint. Designers also gave the sedan more aggressive side sills, facia, and rear spoiler. LED taillamps shine tail to the wind. The 300’s design has aged well, so only a little finessing was needed.
Interiors need more work. It all looks good—especially the thick black leather seats with silver stitching, sporty three-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel, and piano black trim on the center console. Faux carbon fiber detailing on the dash/doors, stitched covering over the instrument binnacle, and white analog clock add elegance.
However, there’s a lot of hard plastic and cheap-feeling foamed vinyl too. The smaller and cheaper Chrysler 200’s interior feels much more upscale.
But, the cabin is functional, roomy, and loaded with high-tech equipment. It’s easy to drive and use the car from the gear selector knob to the 8.4-inch touchscreen that so intuitively accesses navigation, audio, and climate control, my 15-month-old daughter could probably have her way with it. The Beats audio system with USB and Bluetooth inputs will thump your brains out (or, deliver concert quality sound for your favorite Sinatra performance).
Sure, but the performance you really want to experience comes from under the hood. These cars are known for their HEMI V8 engines, but that’s not what we have here. The 300S is standard-equipped with a 3.6 L “Pentastar” V6 delivering 300 hp and up to 19/31-MPG city/hwy (18/27-MPG city/hwy with AWD).
Those are impressive numbers for a full-size rear-drive luxury sedan. A paddle-shifted 8-speed automatic transmission seamlessly routes power to the ground through an all-wheel-drive system with rear bias for crisp handling.
From behind the wheel, the 2015 300S feels considerably different. In the past, the car betrayed its ’90s Mercedes-Benz E-Class origins with a heavier-than-earth feel. It was fast and stable, but not nimble.
The latest version employs electric power steering and aluminum axles, along with a “Sport” mode that enables responsive steering, throttle, and transmission calibrations, for a car that feels much smaller and lighter.
I enjoy driving the 300’s front-drive competitors, but there’s no replacing rear-drive architecture for balanced handling. The car demands to be tossed into a corner or thrusted down the Interstate. Where you once had to strong-arm the steering, you can now drive with palms and fingertips.
My family and I drove the 300S five hours on the Interstate to a resort and back. Unless you’re Juan Pablo Montoya, the V6 is all the power you’ll need. It easily hurries up to speed and returned 27-MPG running a steady 80 mph.
Despite the basic car’s longevity, engineers have kept up with the latest in safety technology. The test 300S came with forward collision alert (saved my bacon when a car stopped suddenly), blind spot warning, rearview camera, and adaptive cruise control systems. It also claims a full array of airbags and stiff body structure.
So, if you could re-design the 300, how would you do it? First, do very little to the chassis or powertrain. They’re top-of-class. But, you could imagine a more flowing body with fastback styling and long hood hunkered wide over 19-inch wheels.
Think about a 200 on steroids. Inside, keep the upright feel, but integrate more high style from the 200s’ flowing lines, leather, and woodgrain. The 300 would still look distinctively Chrysler, but wouldn’t look like a brick bunkhouse next to more contemporary rides.
Sure, the car has a few years behind it, but there’s still nothing like it available. I enjoy looking at a Chevy Impala, Toyota Avalon, or Kia Cadenza, but I enjoy driving the 300S. It’s time for a few upgrades to the interior and a new body, but I’d change little else. Own the road, Chrysler. Own the road.