Friday, October 5, 2012

Chrysler 300 ... a sedan that still matters

This review originally appeared in the September 2012 edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin’ News published out of Folsom, California – mg

Sacramento, California   When Chrysler came out with its Chrysler 300 sedan for the 2004 model year, I remember thinking: FINALLY, a contemporary Mopar family hauler with some daring and dash!

Remember that first 300 grille, looking about the approximate size of North Dakota.  In a rearview mirror, an approaching Chrysler 300 looked like a giant land shark ready to devour compact and midsize cars alike.

Well, the grille on the current 300 is a little more understated, and dare I say stylish.  And overall, the 300 retains its swagger, a big-shouldered freeway cruiser that can haul kids and cargo … and the driver can still fantasize the he/she is piloting a horsepower-laden bomb on some NASCAR track of dreams.

My tester was the 2012 300S with all-wheel drive, which translates to a 3.6-liter V-6 power plant putting out 292 horses at a gas-gulp rate of 18 miles per gallon in the city and 27 mpg on the highway.  Let me state straight up: That was plenty of horsepower for me.

The 300S was a more-than-willing performer in all conditions, and no, it was not the SRT8 with a V-8 dishing up a rip-roaring 470 horses.  That SRT8 starts near $50,000, compared with a starting price of $35,820 on my tester.  I have no problem with folks spending 50-K on a speed merchant, but alas, I haven’t been on super friendly terms with the Highway Patrol for years, so I’d be happy with the cost savings.

No matter what version of the 300 purchased, you get a lot of gears: 8 of them to be exact.  Frankly, eight speeds through the automatic gearbox meant little to performance, but hey, it’s an impressive line on the stat chart.

Even in basic trim, the 300 is fairly loaded.  Interior comfort and quiet is admirable.  There’s plenty of room for three normal- to large-size adults in the back seats.  The trunk yawns open wide for a double-stack of luggage.  Good vehicle for a long vacation road trip?  Absolutely.

I again struggled with some of the controls, somehow managing to turn the blind-spot warning system on and off in a display of unrelenting technical ignorance.  You know you’re getting old when the interior controls are besting you on a regular basis.

One thing I could have done without was the in-cabin audio warning system.  Several times, after being in totally gridlocked traffic for five minutes, I’d get a jarring audio bite of “traffic ahead” through the cabin.

Well, thank you Captain Obvious!  If the system is that slow on the draw, I’d rather handle things myself.

Truthfully, though, that was a small irritation.  I’ve liked this particular version of the Chrysler 300 since it was introduced, and getting another week in it was as comfortable as slipping into a favorite set of clothes.

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