“When it drives down the road you’re going to see this thing,” said Al Gardner during his opening remarks at the media drive of the new 2015 300. The Chrysler brand’s president and CEO isn’t kidding; this sedan’s grille is roughly a third larger than the outgoing version’s.
Engine: 5.7-liter Hemi V8 with 363 hp and 394 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: Eight-speed TorqueFlite automatic
Fuel Economy: 16 city, 25 highway, 19 combined
Pricing: The model we evaluated stickered for $46,890 out the door
Insipid styling has never been an issue for this nameplate, whether it was the original 1955 model or the modern version that debuted for 2005, though things may be getting out of hand at this point. Bolder isn’t always better, even if the the new 300 really is attractive.
The Pentastar brand’s popular large car has been warmed over this year and like tasty leftovers it promises to be even more delicious this time around. For 2015 the focus was on technology and customer choice not foundation-shattering changes. With the exception of its tail-light buckets all of the sheet-metal stampings are identical, but in spite of this familiarity there’s a fair bit that engineers and designers have done to spice things up.
A Little of This, a Little of That
Outside the headlights have been redesigned as has the car’s rear fascia and exhaust tips. Full-LED tail-lights are standard and help give it a slightly wider appearance than its predecessor. Fog-lamps featuring the same illumination technology are available at extra cost.
Inside there’s newly available driver-assistance technology, an optional leather-wrapped instrument panel and four different cabin themes that were inspired by different cities in the U. S.
Still, these changes are all pretty iterative but that’s OK because the 300, which was most recently redesigned in 2011, is quite competitive. What other large sedans offer a burly V8 engine and rear-wheel drive? The Chevrolet SS, budget-busters from Germany and … crickets.
Arguably lower-trim versions of this car compete with models like the Toyota Avalon, Chevy Impala and dreaded Ford Taurus. They all offer V6 power and relatively spacious cabins, with the exception of the Blue Oval’s bull, which is laughably cramped inside given its distended external dimensions.
All the Trimmings
The 2015 Chrysler 300 is offered in four different trims spanning a broad price spectrum. Serving entry-level duty is the Limited model; stepping up from there is the 300S followed by the 300C and finally, at the top of the hierarchy, the 300C Platinum, which is a new luxury trim for this car.
Base price for the limited is $32,390, including $995 for shipping and handling. That’s identical to the outgoing 2014 model. The range-topping Platinum version kicks off at $43,390, again including delivery.
All-wheel drive is optional on every model and bumps the sticker price by an additional $2,500. If you want the husky Hemi V8 it’ll set you back $3,000, though it’s not available in Limited-trim cars. That’s a lot of cash for two extra cylinders though the low-RPM torque and muscle-car soundtrack could be worth the extra outlay.
The Platinum model I evaluated clocked out at a not-unreasonable $46,890, including delivery fees. Options included Phantom Black Tri-Coat Pearl paint, which inflated the base price by $500 as well as the Hemi engine.
This model is new for 2015 and it makes a pretty convincing luxury statement. The car I sampled featured the La Jolla-inspired cabin, which is exclusive to Platinum models. It matches dark indigo elements with crisp linen hues. Supposedly it’s reminiscent of this California town’s sandy beaches and inky-blue ocean. Unfortunately the indigo leather looked almost black and the linen elements already showed some griminess. It is an attractive combination but if you opt for it you’d better be fastidious about keeping those creamy cowhides clean.
The other cities Chrysler designers drew inspiration from include Manhattan, Detroit and Sausalito, another Golden State town. That’s all well and good, but what about Cleveland, Ohio or Gary, Indiana? Rust-colored elements and expanded-steel trim might be neat design elements so long as you didn’t get tetanus from them.
Back to the Platinum car, hand-sanded, open-pore wood trim, a Polenta Frau leather-wrapped steering wheel and satin-chrome accents are a few of the other elements that dress them up. Twenty-inch wheels give the exterior some visual pizzazz.
Like other Chrysler products the 2015 300 comes with a rotary shifter. This gear-changing dial is mounted on the center console where the old lever used to be, a choice that’s somewhat odd because it eats up a bit space that might have been better used for an additional storage cubby.
Drivers are treated to a swanky new instrument cluster with a useful digital display nestled between the tach and speedo. Additionally the company’s Uconnect infotainment system is as responsive and straightforward as ever, while audiophiles will appreciate the two available premium sound systems, one from Beats, the other by Harman Kardon.
Of course more significant technologies are offered, though they don’t come free. Some of these features include lane-departure warning, 911 assist, automatic high beams and adaptive cruise control that can bring the car to a complete stop in bumper-to-bumper traffic. All of these features and more are offered in the SafetyTec 2 package, which adds $1,695 to the window sticker.
Other helpful options are included in the SafetyTec 1 group, which carries an identical price tag. Items like blind-spot monitoring, Rear Cross Path detection and forward collision warning help reduce driver fatigue. Overall more than 80 new safety and security features have been added to the 2015 Chrysler 300.
As in years past Chrysler’s award-winning 3.6-liter Pentastar engine is the entry-level powerplant in the new 300. This smooth-running six-shooter puts out 292 horses or a full 300 in the sporty S version of the car thanks to a unique dual-exhaust system.
The crowd-pleasing Hemi V8 is just as enjoyable as in years past. This optional 5.7-liter engine puts out 363 hp and a whopping 394 lb-ft of twist. This is the propulsion unit you really want, however the Pentastar is perfectly fine, providing brisk acceleration and even better thrift.
Helping improve efficiency is a resourceful eight-speed automatic transmission. This advanced gearbox has been standard with the base engine for a few years now, though at long last it’s paired with the Hemi for 2015. Compared to the outgoing five-speed its three additional ratios improve driving performance and more importantly fuel economy.
According to the U.S. EPA, rear-wheel-drive Platinum-trim 300s should return 16 MPG in the city and 25 on the interstate, which is pretty good for a car that’s this large and powerful. In mixed, fairly aggressive motoring we fell just shy of the combined efficiency rating of 19 miles per gallon. Naturally the V6 can do even better, returning up to 31 on the highway.
On The Road… Again
The acceleration provided by this Chrysler’s burly V8 is strong, if not quite as vigorous as its 363-horse rating would suggest. Still, 300C drivers will not be wanting for power or smoothness. Belying its decidedly old-school configuration this pushrod two-by-four is extremely well isolated; hardly any vibration makes its way into the occupant compartment. It also remains pleasantly hushed, even at wide-open throttle. Fortunately some muscular V8 backbeat can be heard, though not nearly enough for enthusiasts.
For all of its fuel-economy benefits, not everything is perfect with Chrysler’s TorqueFlite eight-speed transmission. Disappointingly shift quality isn’t all that great. Sometimes gear changes are totally imperceptible but on other occasions they’re pretty ragged. I’m not certain what happened – perhaps it was just the vehicle I was evaluating – but transmission performance definitely has room for improvement.
As for the rest of the cabin, it remains quiet in just about every driving situation, though a little bit of tire noise does make itself heard while traversing eroded asphalt, though the 300 is probably still more hushed than some of its rivals.
The Chrysler 300 also gains electric power steering for 2015, which is another way of eking out better fuel economy. For the most part it works well though it does feel a little too light, even in sport mode, though this not a car you’re going to take autocrossing every other weekend. For a large, plush sedan it’s just fine.
For 2015 Chrysler designers and engineers have taken a good car and made in better in numerous ways. The 300C Platinum is comfortable and well-crafted, responsive and refined. With a strong and smooth-running V8 engine I prefer this car to many of its rivals, especially the dumpy Ford Taurus.
Still, I can’t help but want more. The company could have gone a little further with this redesign. Fresher exterior styling, a more significantly updated cockpit or even some truly groundbreaking features would have been appreciated, as would a smoother transmission. Maybe they spent too much of their budget making the grille bigger … Still, the 2015 300 is nicely done and a solid recommendation.