Chrysler 300 Review

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
chrysler 300 review

Buzzwords like “breakthrough”, “paradigm” and “integration” are management Viagra. They give ignorant execs and clueless PR folk the power to appear talented. But no word sets the flack-talker’s soul afire like “synergy.” And no other word was deployed more often to justify the merger of Daimler-Benz with Chrysler. But what happens when you synergize top-dollar Mercedes underpinnings with Chrysler engineering and sell it for the price of a Camry? I’ll give you 300 guesses.

Judging by its looks, the Chrysler 300 is still a winner. The chopped roof, crisp overhangs, Audi TT-esque fender flares and jeweler’s grade front fascia are still the stuff of urban legend. The SUV-like stance (generated by a sky-high beltline) and K-car influenced rear deck further distinguish the big Chrysler from the Boyz in the bland. Personally, I find this flying brick (with a drag coefficient to match) a far cry from Bentley sedans and vintage 300’s. Put another way, who stole a Checker Marathon and ran it through a wind tunnel?

Too bad that chunky profile only looks solid. Rest your butt on the front end, lean back and give your best “mean mug” for the camera and the front clip flexes and twists in disapproval. Ditto the back bumper: rest a box before loading the trunk and the 300’s posterior sags like the rack of a middle-aged supermodel.

The Chrysler 300’s interior continues the cheap and not-so-cheerful theme. Aside from tight panel gaps and soft polymers above the dashboard equator, the cabin is awash in the kind of flash cast plastics “enjoyed” by owners of Hyundai’s Excel. The 300’s cabin serves-up a farrago of bargain basement materials: from hard, nasty armrests to a vinyl-wrapped steering wheel. The 300’s thrones were designed by the folks at Slip n’ Slide, complete with leather inserts that are virtually indistinguishable from their vinyl surroundings. The optional Boston Acoustics’ boombox is as clear as it is loud– provided you remain in front.

Hop in the back and the sound quality flies out the window, right after the delightful gong resonance made by closing the rear portals. The 300’s backseat is best reserved for short trips with short people; everyone else leaves the 300’s lean rear cushions tired and stressed after a lengthy interstate odyssey. The trunk’s shallow, oddly-shaped cargo hole and the overly aggressive assist-struts on a zero-leverage deck lid do nothing to help the family car basics. There’s but one shining [three pointed] star in the 300’s cabin: a cruise control stalk with all the precise, perfectly weighted feel of a Mercedes’ part– donated to an otherwise lost cause.

Throw the 300 into some switchbacks and you can tell where the car’s manufacturer spent their money. The 300’s independent (front) and five-link (rear) suspension is a distant cousin to the old E-class. Tweaked by the Dark Lords of DCX and bolted onto to a stiff chassis, the greasy bits provide plenty of poise for one so portly (3800 pounds). Boot the package in a corner and 250lb-ft of torque sends the 300’s rear tires dancing in delight– moments before the ESP flashes a warning that this isn’t an E63 AMG and you aren’t Michael Schumacher (or Jay Shoemaker).

Even with the handling Nanny in attendance, the 300 is a wonderful mix of raucous handling and reassuring ride. The 300’s Chris-Craftian tiller has way too much rim for spirited maneuvers, but the power-assisted rack and pinion steering provides reasonable feel for a passenger sedan aimed squarely at the over-40 set. With 55-series tires on hand (ironically enough), the Chrysler’s ride is 401K-compliant, splitting the distance between BMW’s teeth chattering firmness and the roll and pitch of a Toyota Camry.

Even without the hemispherical hot tamale under the bonnet, the 300's no slouch. The sedan’s 3.5-liter high-output SOHC V6 may not stand a chance against the latest hi-po six-pots, but 250hp hooked-up to a reasonably responsive five-speed autobox ensures that the 300 gets out of its own way without unnecessary delay, thirst (19/27) or embarrassment. (Which is more than you can say for the base by name base by nature 2.7-liter V6.)

Taken as a whole, the 300 is proto-synergy. When first mooted, the Daimler Chrysler combo was touted as a ”merger of equals,” blending German engineering with American style. Instead of blowing away the competition with anal retentive engineering and unassailable build quality, the Chrysler 300 is a half-baked half-breed: a car with excellent bones, a flash exterior, a dreadful interior and dubious build quality.

Props to the 300 for reinvigorating American car design, finding tremendous popularity and more than paying its way. But it’s time for DCX to update this bad boy or build something that fulfills the merger’s original premise. Otherwise, the 300 is destined to become a textbook case of a synergistic failure to turn hype into reality.

Join the conversation
2 of 100 comments
  • Toxicroach Toxicroach on Apr 28, 2009

    I saw one of the "Bently" (sic) 300's today. Whoever owned the car hadn't bothered taking off the 300/Hemi badge! I doubt looking like an ridiculous asshole to everyone you know is worth impressing the random person who notices that B, knows what the B means, AND doesn't figure out its a hoax.

  • Archon0670 Archon0670 on Sep 03, 2011

    I have worked in the after-market auto industry for about 20 years. I've been in a lot of cars. Thousands. Of all the cars I have driven, and worked on, and worked in, the 2006 Chrysler 300C is far and away, FAR and away... the best car of them all. The best car I've owned, out of about 35 cars since I turned 16. I purchased it used, 5 yrs old, 64k miles. I have not "pimped" it. I still roll with the crome clad aluminum 18's it came with. Tinted windows and tinted plate covers. Its the ONLY car in 26 years on the road that strangers approach me in parking lots and ask me about, or compliment me on. Riddle me that. :) I used to drive my work-mates insane, as every time we passed a used car lot or worked on a new car at the dealers ship I would constantly point out cars I would love to own next. I don't even shop cars anymore, I'm fully satisfied, and still impressed. I'm shaking with adrenaline often when I arrive at my destination, and genuinely laugh out loud whlie driving it. Visibility? Really? Im 6'2" and I dont have any issues with knowing what cars are around me. Style, or trunk space... hmmm Style! Its distressing to see someone call these cars "cheap" or "plasticky", I see no problems with my walnut and tortoise shell trim, its beutifull. Perhaps if I threw 50 or 60k at a car, I might possibly enjoy some other car. But to be fully honest, I'm not interested in owning another car, ever. It's simply the most amazing car, and I love driving it every day. Ya'll have a good one!

  • Max So GM will be making TESLAS in the future. YEA They really shouldn’t be taking cues from Elon musk. Tesla is just about to be over.
  • Malcolm It's not that commenters attack Tesla, musk has brought it on the company. The delivery of the first semi was half loaded in 70 degree weather hauling potato chips for frito lay. No company underutilizes their loads like this. Musk shouted at the world "look at us". Freightliners e-cascads has been delivering loads for 6-8 months before Tesla delivered one semi. What commenters are asking "What's the actual usable range when in say Leadville when its blowing snow and -20F outside with a full trailer?
  • Funky D I despise Google for a whole host of reasons. So why on earth would I willing spend a large amount of $ on a car that will force Google spyware on me.The only connectivity to the world I will put up with is through my phone, which at least gives me the option of turning it off or disconnecting it from the car should I choose to.No CarPlay, no sale.
  • William I think it's important to understand the factors that made GM as big as it once was and would like to be today. Let's roll back to 1965, or even before that. GM was the biggest of the Big Three. It's main competition was Ford and Chrysler, as well as it's own 5 brands competing with themselves. The import competition was all but non existent. Volkswagen was the most popular imported cars at the time. So GM had its successful 5 brands, and very little competition compared to today's market. GM was big, huge in fact. It was diversified into many other lines of business, from trains to information data processing (EDS). Again GM was huge. But being huge didn't make it better. There are many examples of GM not building the best cars they could, it's no surprise that they were building cars to maximize their profits, not to be the best built cars on the road, the closest brand to achieve that status was Cadillac. Anyone who owned a Cadillac knew it could have been a much higher level of quality than it was. It had a higher level of engineering and design features compared to it's competition. But as my Godfather used to say "how good is good?" Being as good as your competitors, isn't being as good as you could be. So, today GM does not hold 50% of the automotive market as it once did, and because of a multitude of reasons it never will again. No matter how much it improves it's quality, market value and dealer network, based on competition alone it can't have a 50% market share again. It has only 3 of its original 5 brands, and there are too many strong competitors taking pieces of the market share. So that says it's playing in a different game, therfore there's a whole new normal to use as a baseline than before. GM has to continue downsizing to fit into today's market. It can still be big, but in a different game and scale. The new normal will never be the same scale it once was as compared to the now "worlds" automotive industry. Just like how the US railroad industry had to reinvent its self to meet the changing transportation industry, and IBM has had to reinvent its self to play in the ever changing Information Technology industry it finds it's self in. IBM was once the industry leader, now it has to scale it's self down to remain in the industry it created. GM is in the same place that the railroads, IBM and other big companies like AT&T and Standard Oil have found themselves in. It seems like being the industry leader is always followed by having to reinvent it's self to just remain viable. It's part of the business cycle. GM, it's time you accept your fate, not dead, but not huge either.
  • Tassos The Euro spec Taurus is the US spec Ford FUSION.Very few buyers care to see it here. FOrd has stopped making the Fusion long agoWake us when you have some interesting news to report.