Chrysler 300 Vs. Chevrolet SS Vs. Cadillac CTS

Craig Cole
by Craig Cole

The large, rear-wheel-drive sedan is a uniquely American phenomenon. Like bison, they used to roam free across the continent in an enormous herd that couldn’t be numbered, not even with an industrial-size abacus. But just like their furry, hoofed counterparts these cars have all but disappeared, victims of that relentless and unstoppable force called progress.

Reckless settlers steeped in corn liquor and armed with guns may have pushed our bison population to the very brink of extinction during the latter portion of the 19th century, but large sedans were undone by something totally different. Instead of lead projectiles moving at 2,000 feet per second, efficiency concerns and fuel-economy regulations prodded Detroit’s Big Three in a downsized, front-wheel-drive direction.

And the rest is history; V8 engines are dwindling and body-on-frame construction for cars has all but disappeared.

But the configuration wasn’t completely destroyed. You can still get a powerful rear-wheel-drive automobile if you know where to look. American automakers cooled to this layout but foreign companies have become its champion. Car companies from Germany and South Korea – of all places – have moved into position to take advantage of their weakened opponents.

One prime example of a large-and-lovely sedan is the Hyundai Genesis. This thoroughly modern car is offered with either a six- or eight-cylinder engine as well as innumerable luxury features and appointments. It’s a 21st century take on the American boulevard cruiser.

In addition to all of that nougaty goodness this car also comes with an admirable chassis that was tuned by Lotus of all companies. Leather seating surfaces are standard as is a pile of PSY compact discs, additionally the door panels are stuffed with something like 12 kilograms of kimchi, which if you can believe it is an excellent sound deadener and gives the cabin a tangy aroma. All of this can be yours for right around 39 grand, which is a steal.

AutoGuide enthusiast Jake wrote in to ask about the redesigned 2015 Genesis sedan, which unfortunately for him, isn’t available yet. You see dear reader, he’s in the market for a new car, like, right now, and if he can’t park this stylish new Hyundai in his garage he’ll have to settle for something else. But what other cars meet his unique set of requirements? Well, it’d be helpful to know what those prerequisites are…

SEE ALSO: 2 015 Hyundai Genesis Review

Jacob wants a large, rear-wheel-drive sedan that’s nicely equipped and delivers at least decent performance. He’s got around 40 grand to squander spend on a new ride. He also inquired about bison-skin floor mats, but regrettably we can’t help him find any of those, not until our panda pelt importation trial comes to a close. Remember, innocent until proven guilty! Perhaps Jake should get a gun permit and cook up some moonshine; it worked for the pioneers.

The Chrysler 300 was something of a sensation when it was introduced back in 2005. This rear-wheel drive large sedan was dressed in a form-fitting suit that made it look ready for a night on the town. The car’s bold styling, truncated side glass and available Hemi V8 commanded attention. It was far more exciting than the utterly forgettable Ford Five Hundred, which launched at the same time. Wait, what were we talking about again?

Today, Chrysler’s second-generation 300 is aging gracefully. This updated version maintains much of the original’s panache but gains more sophisticated styling and technology that’s far more advanced, which is why we’re recommending it as an option for Jake.

Specifically we’re pushing for the gussied-up John Varvatos Luxury Edition. Don’t know who that is? No worries; we’d never heard of him, either. Apparently he’s a men’s fashion designer and not a member of Slovenian parliament.

Base price for a rear-wheel-drive version of this car is $42,475, including destination and delivery fees. Of course it looks like there are some pretty appealing incentives available right now that could lower the price significantly.

But what do you get for your money? Well, starting with the Varvatos exclusives, they include standard 20-inch wheels, “platinum chrome” exterior mirror housings and door handles, a unique mesh grille and fog lamps. Passengers are treated inside to premium leather trim, extra-special cow hide on the doors and instrument panel, real wood accents and more.

Moving to things that actually matter, a 3.6-liter V6 is standard and a fire-breathing 5.7-liter Hemi is optional. Breaking with tradition, we’re going to recommend Jake go with the six-shooter on account that it’s paired to a cutting-edge eight-speed automatic transmission. The two-by-four is only available with an outdated five-speed slushier, plus it’s a lot less efficient. As much as we love a good eight-cylinder engine we’re going to suggest skipping it. All-wheel drive is available at extra cost.

The V6 delivers 292 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque, so it’s plenty muscular. When it comes to consumption this Chrysler stickers at 19 MPG city and 31 on the highway; combined it earns a score of 23 MPG.

In addition to that efficient powertrain, the car comes with a rearview camera, Chrysler’s Uconect 8.4 infotainment system, an electrically adjustable steering column, a power rear sunshade and more.

Add it all up and the 300 is certainly a very nice car, but regrettably it’s no luxury machine, not even in John Varvatos trim. It’s premium in many ways but we have a feeling it’s a step behind that hot new Hyundai Genesis that’s about to be unleashed.

If you want choice you’re going to have to find a Baskin Robbins 31 Flavors because the Chevy SS is very short on options. It’s available in one trim level with one engine and just one transmission. When it comes to extras there are only two. You can get a full-size spare tire for $500 and a power sunroof for $900. That’s it… In short, you can have it your way as long as it’s their way.

Luckily the car comes pretty well equipped. Some of its niceties include Brembo front brakes, a sport-tuned suspension and dual exhaust pipes. Inside it’s got a navigation system with an eight-inch display, there’s also Bluetooth support, heated and cooled front bucket seats and a heads-up display.

The SS is Chevy’s bad boy rear-wheel drive large sedan, probably aimed at drivers not assuaged by the mainstream Impala. It’s not necessarily pretty, the design is rather bland, but it can go from zero to 60 in less time than it takes to unwrap a stick of gum.

And it ought to be. Propulsion is provided by a 6.2-liter LS3 V8 engine that puts out 415 hp and an identical measurement of torque. All of those goodies are routed rearward through a six-speed automatic transmission.

All things considered the fuel economy isn’t that bad… oh wait, yes it is. The SS stickers at just 14 city and 21 highway; combined it scores 17 MPG.

Frightful consumption aside, we find the SS strangely appealing. It’s the obvious performance choice in this group, yet it still offers quite a bit of car for the money. Skipping the options, which isn’t that hard since for all intents and purposes there aren’t any, one of these cars can be had for $45,770, including $995 for delivery. Unfortunately that price is inflated by an additional $1,300 because of the gas-guzzler tax. Ouch!

Still, we love its V8 rumble and claimed zero to 60 time of five seconds. But we’ve got to ask, is this car related to the Schutzstaffel? Did they work with neo-Nazis to come up with the name? Dressed in black this powerful sedan looks like it could be a member of Hitler’s personal bodyguard.

So far we’ve suggested a middle-of-the-road large sedan to Jake in the form of Chrysler’s John Varvatos-ified 300 as well as a performance option that’s sure to get his blood pumping; of course that’s the national socialist-themed Chevy SS. Now it’s time for a true luxury sedan.

The Cadillac CTS is a premium four-door with attractive styling and driver-focused dynamics. It’s available with either rear- or all-wheel drive and offers three different engines. There’s a base 2.0-liter turbo – the one we’re recommending – along with a 3.6-liter V6 and a twin-turbocharged version of that engine as well.

The asking price for a base, rear-wheel-drive CTS is $46,025, including $925 in freight fees. That’s kind of pricey for what you get. The car comes with a number of things you’d expect including push-button start, a premium Bose audio system, remote start, dual-zone climate control and a bunch of other ancillary goodies. It’s also got a sport-tuned suspension and Brembo brakes. But perhaps what’s more interesting is what you don’t get at that price; leather seating surfaces are nowhere to be found (you’re treated to “leatherette” instead), a navigation system is AWOL and you have to crank your own windows! Wait… actually, ignore that last point; with all the talk of vinyl we confused the CTS with a 1987 Ford Tempo for a moment. It won’t happen again, we promise.

It may lack some key features but at least the performance shouldn’t be that bad. The car’s force-fed four-banger delivers 272 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed self-shifting transmission is the engine’s sole dance partner, though an eight-gear autobox is standard with the other powerplants.

And neither is the fuel economy. This version of the CTS should be able to stretch a gallon of dinosaur extract 20 miles around town and 30 on interstate road trips. Combined, it clocks in at 23 MPG. That’s identical to the Chrysler’s combined score, and remember, it has a V6 engine and lacks direct fuel injection.

Clearly with the CTS you’re paying for the wreath and crest, or rather, just the crest since they’re in the process of pruning the logo’s foliage. In any event, you’re paying more and getting less, and that’s just un-American.

In the process of coming up with these three vehicle recommendations we thought of a couple other suggestions Jake might be interested in; fortunately we quickly came to our senses and jettisoned them. First was the Audi A6. How exciting! Well, don’t get all hot and bothered because a model that’s reasonably priced features front-wheel drive and a CVT. That sounds about as much fun as a broken nose. And then in a moment of complete insanity we pondered the Lincoln MKS, after all it can be had with a powerful EcoBoost V6 and all-wheel drive. But then we remembered it’s an MKS, the laughing stock of the luxury market.

As always, good luck in your quest for a new family vehicle, Jake, and thanks again for taking the time to Ask AutoGuide.

If you need a little assistance shopping for your next vehicle feel free to do the same. Send a short message to Let us know the basics of what you’re looking for. How many seats do you need? What size of vehicle do you want? How much are you willing to spend? With some of those fundamentals out of the way we’ll get busy to come up with two or three must-see vehicles that you’ll have to put on your test-drive list.

Craig Cole
Craig Cole

Born and raised in metro Detroit, Craig was steeped in mechanics from childhood. He feels as much at home with a wrench or welding gun in his hand as he does behind the wheel or in front of a camera. Putting his Bachelor's Degree in Journalism to good use, he's always pumping out videos, reviews, and features for When the workday is over, he can be found out driving his fully restored 1936 Ford V8 sedan. Craig has covered the automotive industry full time for more than 10 years and is a member of the Automotive Press Association (APA) and Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA).

More by Craig Cole

Join the conversation
  • Nick Dasko Nick Dasko on Apr 13, 2014

    Chrysler doesn't understand luxury. The 300 doesn't even have one touch up-down windows, something that's on my Mk5 GTI. If you want a luxurious rwd sedan get the Cadillac. If you prize power go for the Chevy, if you want both get a last year CTS-V.

  • Joe Kaminski Joe Kaminski on Apr 13, 2014

    I vote Chrysler, but I would save a little coin and ditch the Varvatos package. You can get a fully loaded V6 300C for $43,600 sticker price. The car is insanely comfortable to drive, and Chrysler's infotainment system is probably the best out there. And judging from the almost 45000 problem free miles I've racked up on my 2012 Charger I'm gonna say that it seems Chrysler has gotten their quality problems taken care of.