I have to echo Phil Floraday's sentiments regarding the interior. The majority of the new 300 is so well done, there is no excuse for chintzy materials on the center stack. I loved the huge, crisp, fast-acting touch screen but was continually distracted by all the cheap, poorly grained plastic that surrounded it. It's not the only low-rent trim in the cabin (take a closer look at the plastic around the window-switch pod), but those other bits are better grained and not as prominent.
It's a shame, since so many other surfaces your fingers touch and your eyes see is of such high quality. And luxury features abound: the heated steering wheel, the heated and cooled seats, the ash-wood trim accented with thin strips of chrome. At night, the interior is bathed in calming, cool blue light, and the instrument panel radiates a blue-and-white glow that reminds me of the diffused light I've seen in undersea caverns in the Caribbean.
Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor
When it debuted in 2004, the Chrysler 300 was an astonishing car, so good that we named it our Automobile of the Year. The 2011 300 is a heavily revised version of that excellent vehicle. It speaks volumes that some of the same components and fundamental architecture can carry over and not seem stale. Instead, this 2011 version feels nearly as groundbreaking as the first 300 -- unfortunately, as several of my colleagues have already mentioned, some of its interior materials are somewhat disappointing. The new V-6 engine makes the base model significantly more desirable than before, to the point that Hemi sales will almost certainly be cannibalized.
I love the giant panoramic sunroof. Rear-seat room is cavernous, as is trunk space. For such a big car, the 300 corners well and rides even better. At a time when some consumers are perplexed/annoyed with infotainment systems such as MyFord Touch, the Chrysler sports a new center-stack layout that's very straightforward and a new touch-screen with big buttons and clear icons. The exterior styling is very striking, particularly the LEDs on the front end.
Besides the interior that's more fitting of a highline Dodge--as Phil Floraday aptly pointed out -- my only other complaint is that $43K is way more than I'd be willing to spend on a six-cylinder Chrysler 300. On chrysler.com, I just built a 300C V-8 with the premium sound system, the SafetyTec package, and the big sunroof for only $965 more than the price of this V-6 test car.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
I drove both this and a Mercedes-Benz CLS in the same week and my thoughts about them are similar. Both are well-executed, evolutionary designs that remind us how hard it is to bottle lighting. The 300, when it came out seven years ago (really, seven years already?) was an absolute sensation. I still remember the first time seeing a picture of one. I couldn't turn the page. I couldn't believe it was a production car. This iteration, with its evolutionary styling, has the same feel as a typical pop singer's second album -- familiar, still pleasant, but a bit cloying and forgettable.
That said, the new car does not have to rely on styling alone. It has, at last, a competently assembled interior and an excellent V-6. I look at the other cars in this segment -- Nissan Maxima, Ford Taurus, and the Hyundai Genesis -- and sense this is the winner based on its chassis tuning and charisma, even if that charisma is nowhere close to that of first iteration.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor