Chrysler 300 Review

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

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.

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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  • 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!

  • ToolGuy First picture: I realize that opinions vary on the height of modern trucks, but that entry door on the building is 80 inches tall and hits just below the headlights. Does anyone really believe this is reasonable?Second picture: I do not believe that is a good parking spot to be able to access the bed storage. More specifically, how do you plan to unload topsoil with the truck parked like that? Maybe you kids are taller than me.
  • ToolGuy The other day I attempted to check the engine oil in one of my old embarrassing vehicles and I guess the red shop towel I used wasn't genuine Snap-on (lots of counterfeits floating around) plus my driveway isn't completely level and long story short, the engine seized 3 minutes later.No more used cars for me, and nothing but dealer service from here on in (the journalists were right).
  • Doughboy Wow, Merc knocks it out of the park with their naming convention… again. /s
  • Doughboy I’ve seen car bras before, but never car beards. ZZ Top would be proud.
  • Bkojote Allright, actual person who knows trucks here, the article gets it a bit wrong.First off, the Maverick is not at all comparable to a Tacoma just because they're both Hybrids. Or lemme be blunt, the butch-est non-hybrid Maverick Tremor is suitable for 2/10 difficulty trails, a Trailhunter is for about 5/10 or maybe 6/10, just about the upper end of any stock vehicle you're buying from the factory. Aside from a Sasquatch Bronco or Rubicon Jeep Wrangler you're looking at something you're towing back if you want more capability (or perhaps something you /wish/ you were towing back.)Now, where the real world difference should play out is on the trail, where a lot of low speed crawling usually saps efficiency, especially when loaded to the gills. Real world MPG from a 4Runner is about 12-13mpg, So if this loaded-with-overlander-catalog Trailhunter is still pulling in the 20's - or even 18-19, that's a massive improvement.
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