When the images of the new Chrysler 300 were first released, I was instantly sold on its exterior design. But now that I've seen it in person, I'm not so sure. The overall shape is very similar to that of the previous generation car -- albeit bolder, more muscular, and more elegant -- but the tiny details that look nice from a distance look busy and slightly garish when you step closer. This is especially true when viewed from the rear where there are numerous small pieces of chrome in and around the taillights and on the bumper.
The interior is a huge improvement over the previous 300, with a more cohesive design that looks and feels really good. The gauges are especially nice, particularly at night when the cool blue backlighting really stands out. There are some hard plastics, but overall the interior is really well done; the highlights being the beautifully designed gauges and the infotainment interface. The latter is particularly good. It's attractive, intuitive, and quick to respond to inputs. It's also really easy to use while driving because the screen is so crisp and because the typeface very large.
Although it's difficult to not pine for the power and sweet sounds of the Hemi V-8, Chrysler's new V-6 is very impressive. It's extremely quiet and refined, even while it's struggling a bit to get this heavy car moving. Unfortunately, as long as it's paired to this relatively archaic five-speed automatic, it offers only a 2-mpg bump in combined fuel economy when compared to the fabulously powerful and wonderfully vocal Hemi V-8.
Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor, Digital Platforms
I distinctly remember seeing the new Chrysler 300 the same day I saw the new Dodge Charger. I was blown away by the Charger and thought the 300 was a clean evolution of the existing car. Several years later I've had a chance to drive both vehicles and the 300 is disappointing when compared to the Charger. The Charger's interior has gone from a hindrance to a boon for the car, but I want to see a much more special interior in the Chrysler, which is supposed to be the luxury version of the platform. Materials that look and feel appropriate in a Dodge suddenly seem cheap and tacky in a Chrysler product. If the exteriors of these two sedans can be so different, why do the interiors have a me-too feel? The only significant difference in the interiors that I detected is a much more sophisticated gauge cluster in the Chrysler 300, which is very nicely done. Spread the pizzazz from that design across the whole dashboard and I'd be happy. Yes, the interior is better than in the previous 300, but that's not good enough for a brand with near-luxury aspirations. And not when the rest of the car is so well done.
My other suggestion for improving the 300 is giving the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 a bit more torque. There's an eight-speed automatic coming for 2012 that might compensate somewhat, but I'd still like to see at least a 10-percent boost in torque to help the 300 feel as dignified as it looks, especially when so many of these cars are equipped with heavy twenty-inch wheels. Of course there's a V-8 available, but in 2011 shoppers deserve credible V-6 engine choices that don't feel like sacrifices.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
What I like: The 300's very smooth and supple ride quality on the freeway. The white-over-black scheme of our test car, and how great the headlights look in the dimming evening light when you unlock the car with the key fob. The brilliant touch-screen radio interface, one of the best in the business. The separate, old-fashioned tuning knob.
What I don't like: If you open the driver's door all the way, it opens so wide that it's hard to reach outside the car and grab to close it. I think they need a stronger detent at the partial-open position.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor