You'll Like The 2011 Chrysler 300 If...
If you're a big fan of peace and quiet you'll love the 2011 Chrysler 300. Not just quieter than key competitors like the Ford Taurus, Toyota Avalon and Buick LaCrosse, the new 300 is among the quietest cars you can buy at any price. It's also the only rear-wheel drive car in the group, and has more attitude than all three put together. The competition has never been better, but neither has the Chrysler 300.
You May Not Like The 2011 Chrysler 300 If...
Buyers who have to negotiate slick roads might prefer the front-wheel drive setup more common in the category (the 2011 Chrysler 300 does offer all-wheel drive, but only in conjunction with the V8). The Toyota Avalon is a particularly easy car to wheel around, and likely to maintain better resale value.
The next-generation 2011 Chrysler 300 is defined by new-but-familiar sheet metal, a totally reinvented interior and a long list of new tech-based features.
Although the distinctive sheetmetal was definitely long in the tooth, the Chrysler 300's greatest area of need was its interior. Aside from an attractive gauge cluster and a big touchscreen with a much-needed graphics upgrade, the interior didn't strike us as anything special at first. But the more time we spent in the car, the more we appreciated the materials, design touches and build quality. An exceptionally roomy back seat is a Chrysler 300 plus, while the trunk is on the small side for a large sedan. If you like thick-rimmed steering wheels, you'll be happy to find in the new Chrysler 300 one of the world's thickest.
Some of our editors aren't fond of the Chrysler 300's new "noseless" face - the badge disappears into the top of the grille – but most are on board with the look overall. We think the rear end benefited most from the redesign, with more detail and skinnier taillights imparting a more sophisticated personality. Chrysler says owners of the outgoing 300 wanted better outward visibility - a common complaint, in other words – so there's more glass in the new one. Kudos to Chrysler for not visually handicapping the base-price 300, which offers decent-looking 17-inch wheels and few design downgrades.
With rear-wheel drive and powerful V6 and V8 engines, the 2011 Chrysler 300 is the category's most inherently sporty sedan (its 2011 Dodge Charger sibling notwithstanding). And while it does indeed have the composure and road-holding abilities to hustle down a canyon road, it doesn't offer the feel and feedback that help define a sport sedan. And that's just fine, because Chrysler's otherwise athletic flagship is really a cruiser at heart. Highlights include responsive steering and throttle action around town, balanced with a smooth and amazingly quiet highway ride. Chrysler says the 300 is as quiet as a Lexus LS 460, and we wouldn't be surprised if it's quieter. The strong Hemi V8 feels native to the big sedan, but we'd recommend the more affordable, more fuel efficient and still abundantly powerful V6 for most buyers. However equipped, the 2011 Chrysler 300 is a pleasure to drive and a clear example of why the large sedan endures.
The 2011 Chrysler 300 starts very well equipped at $28,000. Start checking options boxes and you can eventually make your way up to about $47,000 for a fully loaded 300C AWD. As a first-year entry with a lot of buzz and marketing dollars behind it, we don't expect our Fair Purchase Price to reflect significant discounting at dealerships. The sedan's value proposition is strong on price and product, but takes a bit of a hit when resale values are factored in. Three years down the road, a Chrysler 300 bought new for $35,000 might be worth a couple thousand dollars less than a Toyota Avalon purchased for the same price.
The entry-priced 2011 Chrysler 300 is a lot of car for the money, featuring keyless entry and start, a big 8.4-inch touchscreen with climate and music controls, USB/iPod connectivity, dual-zone auto climate control, power driver's seat, one-touch up/down windows all around and a full complement of active and passive safety features. Bluetooth phone connectivity is among the few glaring omissions from the standard equipment list.
In addition to the 363-horsepower V8 engine, all-wheel drive and usual suspects like a navigation system and leather seats, a loaded Chrysler 300C AWD includes an impressive list of high-tech luxuries: radar-based adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning systems up front, rear cross path sensors out back, and blind-spot monitoring to help out on the side. In-cabin highlights include heated/cooled cup holders and a 506-Watt Alpine sound system.
The Big Screen
Did you ever use a computer running DOS? Or the Kelley Blue Book website, circa 1995? Chrysler's now-outgoing touchscreen graphics aren't quite that archaic, but they can visually worsen any interior. We haven't spent all the time it takes to really get to know the new system debuting in the 2011 Chrysler 300, but we give it the nod here based on the huge improvement in presentation alone.
Quiet Highway Ride
The 2011 Chrysler 300 offers a bunch of cool tech-based features worth highlighting, but the most memorable first impression was the remarkably quiet cabin.
Under the Hood
The 2011 Chrysler 300's 3.6-liter V6 is the most powerful base engine in the category. The Hemi V8 option falls five ponies short of the Taurus' twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6, but it does boast 44 additional pound feet of torque. Both the V6 and V8 are matched with a five-speed automatic transmission, the only such unit remaining in a category full of six-speed boxes. Both engines are strong enough that performance probably suffers little, but a six-speed unit would likely deliver slightly better fuel economy.
292 horsepower @ 6350 rpm
260 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/27 (gas), 13/19 (E85)
363 horsepower @ 5800 rpm
394 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/25 (RWD), 15/23 (AWD)
When it burst onto the scene in 2004, the previous-generation Chrysler 300 was both a head-turner and an eye-opener. The gangster-evoking sheet metal was an instant sensation on the road, and it drove unlike any domestic large sedan before it – thanks in no small part to foundational elements contributed by then-partner Mercedes-Benz. Another big domestic sedan sure to be saddled by undulating highway manners, over-boosted steering and hair-trigger tire squeal, the Chrysler 300 instead backed up its progressive design with perception-shattering driving dynamics (we still vividly remember our very first turn in the car). The follow-up isn't as revolutionary, but the Chrysler 300 is once again reason alone for other segment shoppers to consider the large sedan.