First Look: 2012 Chrysler 300S

Aficionados of powerful performance sedans will likely focus their attentions on the new 2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8, but the rebirth of the big bruiser isn’t the only news tied to the large sedan. In fact, Chrysler has formally announced the 2012 300 will, at long last, be mated with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

The news isn’t all that surprising, considering Chrysler formally announced the gearbox last summer. The eight-speed automatic is licensed from German powertrain supplier ZF, and until Chrysler can fully retool its transmission plant in Kokomo, Indiana, the automaker will be buying completed transmissions directly from the supplier.

Although the new transmission may ultimately be available on all 300 V-6 models, for now, it’s only confirmed for the new 2012 300S — and only when built with both Chrysler’s 3.6-liter V-6 and rear-wheel drive (opt for either all-wheel-drive or the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, and you’re relegated to the aging, Mercedes-Benz-derived five-speed automatic). The model, available with either V-6 or V-8 power , is much like the new 2012 200S in that it dresses up both the 300’s interior and exterior appearance. Cosmetic tweaks include body-colored accents in the front fascia, a unique black chrome grille insert with matching black headlamp bezels, and large 20-inch polished aluminum wheels with black painted accents.

Inside, 300S models are treated to piano black interior trim; a 10-speaker, 522-watt audio system developed by Beats by Dr. Dre; and cloth-trimmed 12-way power sport bucket seats up front. V-6 300S models are also available with the Luxury Package, which adds premium Nappa leather trim, a heated steering wheel, power tilt and telescoping steering colum, heated and cooled cup holders, satin chrome door sill accents, LED footwell accent lighting, and programmable memory functions for mirror, seat, and pedal settings. These features are standard on V-8-powered 300S models, as are LED-illuminated gauges, rain-sense windshield wipers, a back-up camera, and Homelink transponder.

Those seeking further luxury from the 300 can opt for the new Executive Series trim, which is available only on the V-8-powered 2012 300C. Chrysler describes the model as its “most luxurious flagship sedan ever,” and to that end, packs the car with all sorts of premium goodies. Executive Series cars receive an instrument panel and door panels wrapped in leather, two-tone Nappa leather seating, hand-sanded wood accents, heated and cooled front and rear seats, and berber floor mats with nubuck trim. Outside, Executive Series cars differ from run-of-the-mill 300Cs by way of a unique grille, which plates both the surround and the horizontal blade inserts in a platinum chrome finish.

Look for 2012 300 models, including both the 300S and 300C Executive Series, to roll into Chrysler showrooms nationwide later this fall.

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