2011 Chrysler 300

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Date Posted: February 3, 2011
By Zack Spencer

Less brutal than the original, this new 300 has more class

 No more hard plastic, the latest 300 has soft-touch materials and huge screen
 Front LED accent lights
 Rear LED lights
 Pair of new Chrysler 300's
 This new 300 has better outward visibility
 The instrument cluster has high-end watch-inspired dials
 Every body panel has been changed
 It still looks like a 300 but with more class

The Scoop

When Chrysler resurrected the 300 nameplate (originally sold from the mid 50s until the late 70s) back in 2005, it was met with the kind of enthusiasm that automakers can only dream of. A wide swath of the public from hip-hop stars all the way to seniors adopted the aggressive exterior styling and full-size dimensions. In fact, the 2005 Chrysler 300 wasn't just a sales hit it won more awards than any other vehicle to date. As an icon of modern motoring, the challenge in updating the 300 is to move it forward but still try to capture the essence of the original. For 2011, Chrysler debuted their latest creation in sunny California, a perfect place to exercise the all new suspension, engine and interior modifications to this iconic car.

The Skin

Every panel of this 2011 model is new-- nothing is carried over. This might be surprising because the overall shape of the 300 remains so recognizable. The idea was to keep the basic silhouette of the last model but make it less ''brutal'', as the Mark Hall the head of 300 design told me. He went on to say that the biggest complaint from previous owners, or potential owners, was the lack of outward visibility. So the glass area has been improved by 15 percent and the top of the front window has been raised, making it easier to see traffic lights. The front and rear lights now have LED details that bring this latest car up-market and the more sculpted front grille completes the move to a more polished design. Granted, the front does look a bit less aggressive but in person it really works.

The Cockpit

As Reid Bigland, the President and CEO of Chrysler Canada puts it, ''we are like reformed smokers'' when it comes to cheap, plastic interiors. One of the worst offenders over the last decade, Chrysler has seen the light and now is producing very pleasant and comfortable interiors complete with soft touch-points and well deign cockpits. The 300 features a standard 213mm (8.4 inch) centre screen for radio or optional navigation functions. This is framed by simple chrome and wood accents, along with high-end watch inspired speedometer and tachometer dials; the new 300 is a simple but vastly improved car. With a starting price of $32,995, the new 300 has more standard features like keyless entry and push button start, 10-way power driver's seat, leather wrapped steering wheel and shifter. The Limited version adds leather seats, bigger 18-inch wheels and backup camera for just $2000 more. Yes, the Hemi powered 300C is still available with RWD or AWD and starts at $39,995.

The Ride

The 363hp Hemi engine is carried over from the last model so I wanted to drive the Limited model with optional 20-inch wheels, powered by Chrysler's all-new 3.6L V6 engine. Now widely used across the Chrysler Group, this engine recently won one of ''Ward's 10 best engines''. Their judges chose this engine because it is ''Quiet, supremely versatile and a joy to drive''. I the full-sized 300 I was very surprised by how easily the 292hp V6 was able to merge onto the highway, pass at higher speeds and cruise with ease. In the city, the 300's smooth, yet responsive suspension makes stop and go driving very relaxing. The proven 5-speed automatic will be replaced sometime in 2012 with an all-new, exclusive 8-speed gearbox. The reason this V6 is so important is that Chrysler believes many buyers who might be shopping for a V6 power mid-sized car will move to this larger 300 for the same price

Verdict

For drivers that can appreciate a RWD full-sized sedan will be pleased to know that the adjustments to the front and multi-link rear suspension make this car a relative bargain in the full-sized space. The Chrysler 300 is like a BMW 7 Series on a budget. Lincoln and Cadillac buyers should also take note.

It is unlikely that Chrysler will be able to recapture the frenzy that surrounded the 2005 300 release. That car was so unique and fresh that it literally stopped traffic. The 2011 model is familiar but different in its approach. The more upscale exterior and interior design provide luxury car refinement at an attainable price point. Chrysler has had a major rebound in Canada after their dark days in 2009. In fact, in 2010 they were the fastest growing car company in Canada. This new 300 will help cement their future and I'm sure the CAW employees at their Brampton assembly plant will be pleased to hear this.

The Good, The Bad

Good:

Styling, power, interior upgrades and refinement all come together to make a wonderful driving experience.

Bad:

The 8-speed gearbox isn't ready yet and AWD is only available on the V8 model.

The Lowdown

Power: 3.6L V6 with 292hp or 5.7L V8 with 363hp

Fill-up: 11.7L/7.3L/100km (city/highway V6)

Backup: 3-year/60,000km

Sticker price: Over $32,995-$41,995

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