What's New for 2008
Significant changes are in store for the 2008 Chrysler 300. An updated interior includes new soft-touch surfaces, revised instrument panel and console designs, and available LED accent lighting. New luxury-oriented options include adaptive cruise control, a surround-sound audio system, a dedicated iPod interface, Sirius Backseat TV for the rear entertainment system and a new hard-drive based MyGIG multimedia system with optional navigation. Safety has been enhanced with new front seat-mounted side airbags added to the 300's available side curtain airbag system. Wrapping everything up is freshened front and rear exterior styling and Chrysler's new limited lifetime powertrain warranty.
Mold-breaking cars don't come along very often. But that's exactly what happened when the Chrysler 300 debuted four years ago. Previous to the 300, modern full-size cars provided plenty of interior room and comfort but typically generated all the pizzazz and excitement of an ice cream social in a Florida retirement community. With the 300, Chrysler proved that this type of car could actually be fun and desirable. Shoppers loved its artful, edgy styling, rear-drive layout and powerful V8 engine options, and it was an immediate hit.
The 300 has been on the market for awhile now, however, and some of the excitement surrounding the car has subsided. For 2008, Chrysler has made a number of significant upgrades to keep the 300 from becoming a full-size aberration. Inside, the 300 gains a redesigned instrument panel and higher-quality materials. New ear-pleasing audio options range from a standard CD/MP3 stereo to an available high-end multimedia system with available navigation and a separate eight-speaker Boston Acoustics Surround Sound system. Another new feature is Sirius Backseat TV. This new video service provides three channels of children-oriented programming via the 300's rear-seat DVD entertainment system.
Although some of its rivals have also been updated this year, we think the reworked 2008 Chrysler 300 more than holds its own in the full-size segment -- especially if you're looking for distinctiveness and balanced rear-drive performance along with practicality and value. Last year it rated an honorable mention in our Edmunds Editors' Most Wanted Sedan Under $30,000 category, and the specialized SRT8 model is simply one of the most impressive sport sedans you can buy for the money. If you aren't sold on the 300's bold style or performance, however, front-drive sedans like the Chevrolet Impala, Hyundai Azera, Toyota Avalon and Ford Taurus (also available with all-wheel drive) are worth checking out as well.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The rear-drive 2008 Chrysler 300 large sedan is available in five wide-ranging trim levels -- LX, Touring, Limited, C and SRT8. The base 300 LX comes with 17-inch steel wheels, air-conditioning, a power driver seat, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, remote keyless entry and a CD/MP3 player with an auxiliary input jack. The Touring edition adds a larger V6, 17-inch aluminum wheels (18s on AWD models), leather upholstery and heated side mirrors.
This year's new Limited trim level comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, a touring suspension, projector headlamps, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power passenger seat, heated front seats, power-adjustable pedals and satellite radio. The 300C adds a V8 engine, power foldaway mirrors, premium leather trim, a driver memory system, a power tilt/telescoping steering column, remote starting, a Boston Acoustics sound system, rain-sensing wipers and xenon headlights. The high-performance 300C SRT8 model is equipped in a fashion similar to the standard 300C but comes with an even more powerful V8, a sport-tuned suspension, 20-inch alloy wheels, Brembo performance brakes, special stability control calibration, adaptive cruise control and an integrated rear spoiler.
Many of the upper trim levels' upgraded features are available as options on the lower trims. Other major options, typically grouped in packages with availability depending on the trim level, include hard-drive-based and surround-sound audio systems, a navigation system, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system with Sirius TV, adaptive cruise control, Bluetooth and an iPod interface. Also available is the W.P. Chrysler Executive Series. Available on the Touring and 300C rear-drive models, it adds 6 inches to the car's wheelbase and plenty of stretch-out space for rear-seat passengers.
Powertrains and Performance
The base rear-wheel-drive 300 LX comes with a 2.7-liter V6 good for 178 horsepower and 190 pound-feet of torque. Touring and Limited models upgrade to a 3.5-liter V6 capable of 250 hp and 250 lb-ft of torque. These two models are available with your choice of either rear- or all-wheel drive, as is the more muscular 300C with its 5.7-liter Hemi V8 that generates 340 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque.
The maximum-performance Chrysler 300C SRT8 is powered by a 6.1-liter V8 that cranks out 425 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque -- good enough for 0-60-mph runs in the low 5-second range. The LX and rear-drive Touring and Limited models transfer their power through a four-speed automatic transmission. If you opt for AWD or select either of the 300C models, you'll get a modern five-speed automatic with automanual capability.
Though the underpowered 2.7-liter V6 provides respectable fuel economy, the more commonly equipped 3.5-liter V6 is below average for a V6-equipped full-size sedan. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway. Thanks to cylinder-deactivation technology on the Hemi V8, the standard 300C actually isn't far behind with its 15/23 mpg rating.
ABS, traction control and stability control are optional on the base 300 LX but standard on all other models. Front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags are optional on all models. In National Highway Transportation Safety Administration crash testing, the 2008 Chrysler 300 earned a perfect five stars for driver and passenger protection during frontal impacts. It also earned a highest-possible "Good" rating in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's frontal-offset crash testing. At the time of this writing, neither organization has tested the 300 with this year's expanded side airbag availability.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Chrysler 300's interior features a simple but elegant and sophisticated layout for 2008 as a result of new instrument panel and center console designs highlighted with satin silver bezels. New soft-touch surfaces on the armrests and door panels along with a redesigned and relocated cruise control stalk complement this feeling, along with available light-emitting diode (LED) lighting in the front cupholders and door map pockets. The distinctive tortoise-shell accents in the 300C carry over and are especially appealing. Cabin dimensions are generous in all directions -- even more so in the extended-wheelbase models, of course, with these variations offering more rear legroom by far than any of their primary competitors. For its size, however, the 300's trunk capacity measures a modest 15.6 cubic feet.
After a generation of mostly tepid front-wheel-drive family sedans, the Chrysler 300 has led the return to rear-drive dynamics Americans experienced and took for granted decades ago. Based on a good deal of Mercedes-Benz technology underneath, the 2008 Chrysler 300 goes one step further and offers significantly more refinement than its pre-1970s ancestors. Models with the larger V6 and V8 deliver finely balanced performance with a comfortable ride and athletic moves when accelerating or cornering, though the base LX with the smaller V6 feels sluggish and isn't generally recommended. In addition, shorter drivers will likely take issue with the car's poor outward visibility. Though it's the most expensive model in the 300's lineup, the 300C SRT8 will elicit plenty of smiles with its overpowering engine, sharp steering response and sticky 20-inch tires. However, most buyers will find that the standard 300C offers plenty of excitement while keeping fuel costs reasonable.