Like Cher, the Chrysler 300 just keeps making comebacks. A proud and prestigious vehicle during the 1950s, the 300 fell into anonymity during the '60s and then disappeared from the automotive landscape for more than 30 years. For the mid-2000s, though, Chrysler introduced its new 300, and it represented a bold new direction for the brand.
The 300 was an immediate hit thanks to its retro-inspired styling, powerful V8 engines, rear-wheel drive and refined road manners. Consumer interest did start to wane after a few years, but Chrysler is going for another comeback this year with a redesigned 300 that features a more powerful base V6 and a higher-quality interior. Overall, we like the 300 and find it to be a solid pick for a new or used large sedan.
Current Chrysler 300
The Chrysler 300 is a large five-passenger sedan with rear-wheel or all-wheel drive. It's been designed to appeal to consumers desiring something with a bit more personality than a regular family sedan or as an alternative to popular Japanese or European entry-luxury sedans. Some of the 300's underlying mechanicals are derived from Mercedes-Benz technology, and it's a platform sibling to Dodge's Challenger and Charger.
The 300's styling is unmistakably American, though with an added dash of refinement after its 2011 redesign. The large chrome grille, bejeweled headlights, high beltline, bulging fenders and big wheels give it a strong presence on the road. A long 120-inch wheelbase shortens up the front and rear overhangs and opens up plenty of occupant space on the inside. Cabin dimensions are generous in all directions, and the 300 offers more legroom than most of its competitors.
Its overall interior design has been described as simple but elegant. More importantly, that interior is now decked out in high-class materials that are pleasing to behold and touch. Even in its least expensive form, the 300 feels like a luxury car.
There are six trim levels: base, Limited, 300S V6, 300C, 300 S V8 and SRT8. The first three come with a 3.6-liter V6 that produces 292 horsepower. The base model comes standard with a five-speed automatic transmission. An eight-speed automatic that's standard on all other V6 models is optional. The 300C and 300S V8 get a 5.7-liter "Hemi" V8 that produces 363 hp. The SRT8 has a 6.3-liter, 470-hp V8. Rear-wheel drive and a five-speed automatic are standard, and all-wheel drive is optional on all but the base and SRT8.
Standard equipment includes niceties like automatic headlights, keyless ignition/entry, automatic dual-zone climate control, a power driver seat and a small touchscreen interface. Moving up to the Limited or 300C nets you (among other things) a rearview camera, heated front seats, Bluetooth and an upgraded sound system. The S gets unique styling elements, an upgraded electronics interface and a special Beats by Dr. Dre sound system. Many additional features are available to make the 300 just as luxurious and well-equipped as luxury sedans that cost thousands more. This is especially true of the SRT8, which comes standard with just about everything.
On the move, the new 300 glides down the road in a way reminiscent of a big Mercedes-Benz sedan. Its suspension dampens even heavily rutted pavement with sophistication, yet it does so without being overly soft or floaty. Handling and steering are also impressive, and although the V8 engines may be the biggest draw, the V6 is quite strong. The only significant downside to the car is compromised rear visibility.
Used Chrysler 300 Models
The current Chrysler 300 dates back to 2011. Though it may look like the car it replaces and has the same general underlying architecture, the second-generation 300 differs significantly. Besides the interior overhaul, the structure has been stiffened, the steering is now electrically assisted and the suspension has been recalibrated for better ride quality and more composed handling. Chrysler also added an abundance of sound-deadening materials to create one of the quietest cabins on the road.
In its first year, only the base, Limited and 300C trims were available, and a five-speed automatic was standard across the board. The S and SRT8 trims arrived a year later along with the V6's eight-speed auto.
The previous-generation Chrysler 300 was produced from 2005-'10. It had the same general shape and design theme as the current car, and even shared the same platform, but there are countless differences used car buyers should be aware of. In general, the interior wasn't nearly as well-crafted, the driving experience wasn't as refined and the two V6 engine choices were unimpressive.
The base car (known either as LX or Touring depending on the year) came with a 2.7-liter V6 that produced only 178 hp. This was insufficient for such a large car, and its fuel economy was poor. Stepping up to a higher trim level got you a 3.5-liter V6 with a more impressive 250 hp, though acceleration was still pretty mediocre. To make matters worse, both came with a four-speed automatic.
As such, we recommend finding a used Chrysler 300C, which packs a 5.7-liter V8 and five-speed automatic. It originally produced 340 hp, but this was upgraded for '09 to 359 horses. That year also saw the introduction of a more sophisticated optional all-wheel-drive system (available on both 300C and certain V6 models) that allowed the driver to "depower" the front drive wheels for better handling and fuel economy.
Next up on the 300 ladder was the high-performance SRT8. Its 6.1-liter V8 pumped out 425 horses, but it also got a stiffer suspension setup, more powerful brakes and a larger wheel-and-tire package. Throughout this generation, there were also special trims, including the long-wheelbase Walter P. Chrysler Executive/Signature Series (2007-'10) and the 300S (2010 only), which was essentially the 300C with additional sport and luxury features.
Changes other than the ones mentioned above were mild for the first-generation 300C. The most significant occurred for '08, when Chrysler updated the interior and navigation and entertainment systems. Front-seat side airbags also joined side curtain airbags on the option list that year, so make sure to check if a used 300 is equipped as such.
In Edmunds.com reviews of the previous-generation Chrysler 300, the car fared quite well. Our editors commented favorably on its masculine good looks, powerful V8 engines and value for the dollar. Negatives concerned the meager output and poor fuel economy of the V6 engines, some low-rent interior plastics and the car's poor outward visibility.
Going further back, the Chrysler 300 has a long but patchy history. It came into being in the mid-1950s as a way to showcase Chrysler's new "Hemi" V8 engine. The first 300 was introduced for 1955 and was based on the New Yorker two-door hardtop. Its 5.4-liter V8 developed 300 hp. After that, Chrysler began affixing sequential letters at the end of "300" for each year as well as offering different body styles, including a convertible. The 1957 300-C is typically considered the most beautiful and desirable of these early cars. The Hemi engines were discontinued in the 300 after 1958, but Chrysler continued to use the letter designations up until the '65 300-L. After that it was the plain 300. In total, there were seven generations of this car before it was dropped after the 1971 model year.
The 300 name was briefly resurrected in 1979 for a special version of the rather awful Cordoba. It would then take another 20 years before Chrysler decided to roll out the 300 moniker again. This was the 1999 300M. Unlike previous 300s, this was a front-drive sedan only. Based on the second generation of Chrysler's "cab forward" LH platform, the 300M used a 3.5-liter V6, making 253 hp (that's net horsepower, a far more conservative standard than the "gross" rating used prior to 1972) and mounted longitudinally in the engine bay. It was built through the 2004 model year.
Read the most recent 2013 Chrysler 300 review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Chrysler 300 page.
For more on past Chrysler 300 models, view our Chrysler 300 history page.