2008 Chrysler 300 Touring AWD Review

Minor exterior changes for poor man’s Bentley

2008 Chrysler 300 Touring AWD Review
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Some might call it a poor man’s Bentley, but the Chrysler 300 is still one of the best looking sedans on American roads even after five years on the market.

FAST FACTS

1. Standard 250hp V6 a far cry from available V8 options.

2. Interior and exterior changes so minimal only an auto journalist would pick up on them.

The classic long, square nose, short rear deck and dramatic silhouette are still firmly intact for 2008. The award-winning exterior is essentially carried over from previous generations, notwithstanding subtle changes to the lower front fascia, a new SRT-inspired integrated trunk lip spoiler, revised taillights and updated side moldings.

The 300 comes in a variety of trims, the most of which are rear-wheel drive. The model I tested – a 2008 Chrysler 300 Touring AWD – comes standard with fog lights and chromed 18-inch aluminum wheels with four-wheel ABS disc brakes.

Available all-wheel drive models include Touring, Limited and 300C, the first two of which also come in RWD layouts with a 250-hp 3.5-liter V6 for modest motivation. Up-line 300C and RWD-only SRT8 models have more power and torque thanks to their HEMI V-8 engines – sized 5.7- and 6.1-litres – that produce 340 hp and 425 hp respectively.

SMALL BUT NOTICEABLE INTERIOR UPDATES

Standard interior features on the 2008 Chrysler 300 include premium cloth bucket seats, a tilting and telescoping steering wheel, power windows, door locks, heated mirrors and trunk lid release, manual front and rear climate zones, 12V power outlet and a 60/40-split folding rear seat to name a few. Soft-to-touch surfaces on the arm rests, door panels and dashboard are new this year along with a redesigned instrument panel and centre console. Electroluminescent backlighting makes reading the white-face gauges easy, even in the dark.

Hints of satin silver add sophistication to the otherwise plain but comfortable interior. The standard AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo has an auxiliary jack for connecting portable music players, however, the Sirius satellite radio in my tester cost extra, though you also get a free one year subscription to the service.

Although I didn't have an opportunity to use it, the microphone for the optional hands-free communication system is built into the auto-dimming rear view mirror. These items are part of the protection group options package, which also adds a cabin air filtering system, run flat tires and additional airbags.

PASSABLE DRIVING EXPERIENCE

Safety-wise, the Chrysler 300 features an electronic stability program (ESP) with brake assist and traction control. Advanced multistage front driver and passenger airbags are standard. Front seat-mounted side airbags are optional. A remote Sentry keyless entry system with engine immobilizer helps deter any would-be thieves.

Besides its all-wheel drive system, there's nothing really special about the Touring AWD model and the way it drives. It has decent fuel economy, gets you from A to B without much fuss and looks good in the process. The back seat can accommodate up to three adults and a child seat anchor system is included for securely strapping in the most valuable cargo of all.

While this vehicle is a far cry from the gnarly SRT8 version I drove last year, my only complaints are the five speed automatic transmission and heavy steering. While in motion, the transmission is smooth and quiet, but shifting into drive or reverse (from park) emits a 'clunkity-clunk' noise. There's also a slight delay from the time I press on the gas to when the vehicle actually gets underway while the steering has a heavy, mechanical feel about it. In fact, a different system is found on the 300C and SRT models that is much smoother with less resistance than there is here.

The soft suspension in the Touring AWD model lacks the excitement of the performance-tuned setup in the SRT8. Unlike the latter model, a high-performance machine this is not; understeer and body roll are both present.

PLUS

New soft touch surfaces inside
After five years on the market it still draws looks
Decent value package

MINUS

Heavy steering
Clunky five-speed transmission
Generally uninspired ride makes you long for SRT8 version

THE VERDICT

Still the Chrysler 300 continues to get top aesthetic reviews. It stands out in crowded parking lots or in traffic without the snobbery of some higher-priced European and Asian competitors. The current generation is getting a bit long in the tooth, so a refresh in the next year or two, isn't out of the question. The Touring AWD model won't win many races, but it's still a decent value.

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