The 300 comes standard with seatbelt pretensioners and front driver and passenger airbags. Front and rear side-curtain airbags are available on all models. The advanced front airbags are teamed with an occupant classification system that detects the size of the passenger and smartly reacts to each situation based on the person's perceived safety needs. Optional on base models and standard on others are anti-lock brakes, all-speed traction control, and Electronic Stability Program (ESP), an effective system used on Mercedes-Benz models.
You're not going to get anywhere in a hurry if you opt for the base 300, as it's powered by a sweet but under-endowed 2.7-liter V-6 engine that makes 190-horsepower and 190 lb-ft of torque. Move up to the Limited and the Touring, and the V-6 displacement increases to 3.5 liters, giving a willing 250 horses and 250 lb-ft of torque. In all three models, the engine is mated to a four-speed automatic transmission.
The 300C harks back to the past for its inspiration-a modern Hemi OHV V-8 engine that displaces 5.7 liters and makes a bodacious 340 horsepower and 390 lb-ft of torque. Mated to a five-speed automatic transmission, it gives the 300C a surprising turn of speed. The Hemi is fitted with Chrysler's Multi-Displacement System (MDS), enabling it to transition from eight- to four-cylinder operation to conserve fuel. Smartly programmed, the switching is transparent to the driver, giving 10- to 20-percent fuel savings with no apparent downside.
If you want even more power, the 300 is available in a high-performance SRT8 model that has a 6.1-liter V-8 producing 425 horsepower and 420 lb-ft. Allied with suspension and braking upgrades, the SRT8 is a brutally serious performance sedan, with a top speed of 165 mph and 0-60-mph times low in the five-second bracket.
Behind the Wheel
Anyone who likes American cars is going to love the 300. It also appeals to anyone who needs a family sedan with a ton of room and wants to waft down the highway serenely.The base 300 is a bit underpowered, but the mid-level 300s deliver the right amount of performance for most consumers at an attractive price point. The 300C, however, is the true standout, quickening an enthusiasts' pulse by incorporating all the things we love about American cars-style, presence, lots of horsepower, and a mean V-8 engine note-along with some of the sophistication we've come to expect of the best German cars. The 300C has balanced steering, fine brakes, a supple ride, and good handling, thanks to its rear-wheel-drive layout and all-around independent suspension that has a lot in common with the far pricier Mercedes Benz E-Class. The SRT8 is fast, mean, and a riot to drive-plus it's priced many thousands less than competitive models.
Ultimately, all 300s feel like cut-rate luxury cars rather than overpriced family sedans, buyers will congratulate themselves for making the right value decision, while remaining cognizant of certain refinement and technology compromises. The space, power, and road presence is more than enough to compensate for any showroom envy specification-watchers may have. Many luxury-car makers offer a better warranty than Chrysler's 3-year/36,000-mile deal, but at least all 300s come with the Chrysler Premium Care Warranty, which gives you a free loaner car for non-body shop maintenance and repairs. Most 300s can tow 2,000 pounds, but we suspect that the majority of their owners will prefer to leave the trailer behind, as the car's looks are greatly diminished with a Coleman camper in tow. The 2005 Chrysler 300 earned the IntelliChoice Best Overall Value of the Year award in the Large Car category, proving that its object value proposition is as appealing as its distinctive styling.
Chrysler once again has built the great American sedan, and it's a really great one.