Chrysler’s full-size, rear-wheel-drive 300 is America’s last true “dad car.” With its strong hood, broad shoulders and paternal gaze, the 300 sedan is bold, confident and unmistakably American. It’s been a successful car for Chrysler, too — sales are up 48% in the four years since its last redesign — and for its 2015 update, Chrysler seems bent on not messing with success when the updated 300 starts arriving in dealerships in the first quarter of 2015.
Compared to the massively reworked 2015 Dodge Charger (which, to continue the metaphor, would be your fun uncle's car), this is as safe as a refresh gets, involving only new front and rear bumpers, grilles, wheels, and all-LED taillamps. Sport-flavored 300S models also now get blackout window trim to go with darkened headlamp bezels and gorgeous new 20-inch Y-spoke wheels; if there’s a Hemi V-8 under the hood, the 300S also gets standard sill extensions and big lip spoiler. But at the end of the day, the 300 looks more or less the same.
Interior upgrades are just as subtle, which is fine, as dads are usually suspicious of anything that changes too quickly. The blue instrument cluster is the most obvious difference, with its chronograph-inspired gauges flanking an easy-to-use, seven-inch high-resolution driver information display. The gear selector has been replaced by a Jaguar-style rotary e-shifter, and a pair of USB ports have been added in back so that kids or, just as likely, livery customers can charge their devices without cluttering up the front half of the cabin. And as ever, an analog clock remains front and center on the dash, like a grandfather clock for the car.
The 300’s revised model lineup leaves no model underequipped, with even the base $32,390 Limited model boasting standard leather seats, Chrysler’s intuitive 8.4-inch touchscreen Uconnect system, keyless starting, heated 12-way power front seats, capless fuel filling, and more. Chrysler expects that about 45 percent of buyers will opt for the Limited, while 15 percent will choose the more luxurious $38,890 300C model with its standard dual-pane moonroof, Nappa leather, hand-sanded wood, polished wheels, rear window sunshade, and navigation. A select few (about five percent) will get the new-for-’15, fully loaded 300C Platinum model ($43,390) with its diamond-stitched hides, open pore wood, leather-wrapped dashboard, platinum silver trim, 20-inch wheels, and a 900-watt, 19-speaker Harman/Kardon surround sound system. The remaining 35 percent, Chrysler estimates, will come in 300S guise, which start at $35,890 and get everything in the Limited, plus piano black and “carbon hyrdographic” trim, a 552-watt Beats sound system and a slew of performance upgrades, which we’ll get to later.
All 300 trim levels come standard with Chrysler’s Pentastar 3.6-liter V-6 and rear-wheel drive. Limited, 300C and Platinum grades get the 292-hp version of the V-6, while 300S models get a 300-horse version with a tweaked exhaust system. If that’s not enough, grunt, 300S, 300C and Platinum models are available with a 363-hp Hemi V-8, the only eight-pot in the class (save for the Charger, of coures), and for the first time, every 300s comes with Chrysler’s sweet, decisive eight-speed automatic.
We took Chrysler up on its offer to drive the 2015 300 on the beautiful Hill Country roads around Austin, Texas, spending some quality wheel-time in an all-wheel-drive 300 Limited, a rear-wheel-drive 300S, and a Hemi-powered 300C. Not surprisingly, we found that the V-6 models required some cajoling to get moving with any gusto, especially when sadled with all-wheel drive, which adds another 206 pounds to the 300’s two-ton weight. Efficiency remains impressive for a full-sizer, however, with 19/31 mpg for the rear-drive model and 18/27 for the all-wheel-drive version.
The V-8 models, on the other hand, handles any acceleration requests as effortlessly as dad opening a jar — Chrysler says that the eight-speed lobbed 0.2 seconds off the V-8’s 0-60 time, to under six seconds for the Hemi-powered 300S. The penalty? Like some dads we know, this one drinks a lot: just 16/25 mpg, an improvement of one mile per gallon on the highway, but still not great.
The 300C and every all-wheel-drive 300 ride on the same “Touring” suspension, which includes 19-inch wheels with all-season tires. Thus equipped, the 300 floats nicely over bumps and undulations but is nothing we’d characterize as fun — a feel familiar to 300 buyers after more than a decade of using the now-ancient Mercedes-based chassis. The 300S, on the other hand, receives a new-for-‘15 “Sport” suspension boasting stiffer springs front and back, as well as unique shock tuning, a larger front stabilizer bar, and a unique electric power steering calibration. Steering effort and feel are increased considerably when the “Sport” button on the dash is pressed, which also puts the engine/transmission in a more excited state, quickening shifts. Thus equipped, the 300S becomes a far more gifted dance partner on country roads; finally there's a agile 300, albeit not quite at the level of the Cadillac CTS or a BMW 5-Series. If ever there was a car for “cool” dads, the 300S is the one.
So Chrysler chose not to change it too drastically even when it had the chance this time, but that’s just fine, as the 300 was already quite comfortable in its own skin. As a big, solid, rear-drive luxury sedan that come stacked with goodies for about the same price as the tiny Audi A3 or Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class, it’s easy to see why.
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