Chrysler 300 — Big sedan refreshed

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

The large rear-drive Chrysler 300 that took the full-sized sedan market by storm in 2005 with its blocky-but-masculine, gun-slit window appearance, has lived on through the years without a full-blown total makeover. But if its in-your-face styling still strikes a chord with you, be advised that the 300 has undergone a fairly extensive refreshening for 2015, the first since the 2011 model year.

Exterior updates include a new larger grille, a new LED lighting package, and a reworked rear end as well as other tweaks here and there. The Chrysler stylists have turned the aging design into somewhat of a modern-day head turner. But what the Fiat Chrysler Automotive Company really does well is create first-class interiors, and they have paid special attention to their flagship. The 300 is as plush inside as many luxury sedans with rich-looking finishes, extensive use of soft-touch materials, and liberal use of upgraded leather — even the base Limited gets "leather trimmed" heated seats.

The dashboard is a thing of beauty, well laid out with a large 8.4-inch touchscreen, large buttons, clear gauges that glow ice blue, outstanding graphics, and large and supportive seats both front and rear. For those who relish the latest in technology and safety features, the 300 won't disappoint if you open your pocketbook. But it's the powertrains that make the 300 stand tall against its competition in the big-sedan segment.

The top engine is Chrysler's 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 making 363 horsepower and 394 pound-feet of torque mated to an eight-speed automatic. It's a $3,000 option on all but the base trim level and brings true big-car performance measured at around 5 seconds from 0-to-60 and 13.5 seconds in a quarter mile. Other than its cousin, the Dodge Charger, it's the last big American sedan to offer the combination of rear-wheel drive and a V-8 engine.

The star of the 300 lineup, however, is the standard 3.6-liter V-6 making 292 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque also mated to the eight-speed shifter. It can reach 60 mph from a standing start in mid-six-second territory, and it brings with it excellent gas mileage EPA-rated at 19 city, 31 highway and 23 combined. All-wheel drive is available with the V-6 for a very reasonable $1,500.

We found the V-6 in no way compromises the overall persona of the big sedan. The engine eagerly responds to commands and power is seamlessly doled out by the smooth-shifting gear-box. The suspension is tuned toward comfort, as it should be in a big near-luxury sedan so don't expect to carve up back-road twists and turns like a sports sedan. Drive responsibly and the 300 will reward you with a quiet, comfortable experience.

The 300 comes in four trim levels — 300 Limited, 300S, 300C and 300C Platinum. Chrysler includes considerable standard equipment in the base model including 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, keyless entry, eight-way power front seats, dual-zone climate control, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, Wi-Fi hotspot access, and satellite radio.

Chrysler says that the base 300 Limited provides customers the most standard appointments in the nameplate's 60-year history. But what the company fails to mention is that the Limited with a starting price of $32,290 including destination charge does not come with a backup camera or blindspot monitoring, features that come as standard equipment or in the case of blindspot as a low-cost option in dozens of vehicles costing much less. To get a backup camera on the Limited you will have to buy the $1,695 Driver Convenience Group and you will have to pay another $1,695 for the Safety Tec 1 option to get blindspot monitoring, which comes with cross traffic alert.

That brings the attractive base price up to a not-so-attractive $36,080. Note that a backup camera is mandated by the federal government and will be phased in from the 2016 through 2018 model years on all vehicles sold in the U.S.

Additionally the 300 can be outfitted with a wide array of the latest safety technology — for a price — including a frontal collision warning system, automatic braking for frontal collision mitigation, lane departure warning and lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high-beam control.

We figure the most popular trim will be the 300C, which comes with such additional equipment as 18-inch wheels, power tilt-and-telescoping heated steering wheel, power rear sunshade, navigation, upgraded Alpine audio system, remote start and chrome exterior accents. And, yes, the backup camera is standard — all for a base price of $39,065. Our base Limited with Uconnect, 8.4-inch touchscreen and GPS navigation carried a bottom line of $33,385.

Base price: $32,390; as driven, $33,385
Engine: 3.6-liter V-6
Horsepower: 292 @ 6,350 rpm
Torque: 260 foot-pounds @ 4,800 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive: rear wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 120.2 inches
Length: 198.6 inches
Curb weight; 4,029 pounds
Turning circle: 37.7 feet
Luggage capacity: 16.3 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 19.1 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 31 highway, 19 city, 23 combined
0-60: 6.5 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Chevrolet Impala, Toyota Avalon, Ford Taurus

The Good
• Powerful, fuel-efficient V-6
• Roomy passenger compartment
• First-class interior appointments

The Bad
• Pricey with popular options

The Ugly
• Some basic safety features optional equipment