What's New for 2009
The 2009 Chrysler 300 receives significant updates. The 5.7-liter 300C now features variable valve timing that increases horsepower and torque for better performance. All-wheel-drive models get an innovative new active transfer case that disconnects the front axle for better fuel efficiency and performance. A comfort-tuned suspension debuts for those seeking a softer ride, while driving enthusiasts should appreciate the new Chrysler 300C Heritage that features the same sport-tuned steering and suspension as the Dodge Charger R/T Daytona. The SRT8 gains a new grille, revised suspension tuning and additional standard equipment.
The Chrysler 300 was a game-changing vehicle for Detroit's sickly No. 3 brand when it debuted in 2005. With distinctive styling and Mercedes-sourced underpinnings, the 300 was a well-deserved hit that brought rear-wheel drive back into the American car buyer's mind after years in exile. And with available V8 power, it was plenty fast.
After significant interior and equipment changes last year, the 2009 Chrysler 300 gets even more upgrades and additions. Most notably, the 300C's 5.7-liter V8 gains variable valve timing, which boosts horsepower by 19 (now 359). Thanks to cylinder deactivation, fuel consumption remains acceptable given the ample amount of power available. The available all-wheel-drive system has also been upgraded with a specialized active transfer case. This automatically disconnects the front axle to improve fuel economy on the highway by up to 1 mpg, while also providing the better performance and handling afforded by rear-wheel drive. Wheel slippage, low temperatures or a certain number of windshield wiper passes re-engage all four wheels. The driver can also manually manipulate the system.
We've always been fans of the Chrysler 300, and its continuous improvements only make it more attractive. There are certainly other full-size sedans to consider, though which ones depend on which 300 you're considering. The base LX's engine is slow and inefficient, and we advise passing on the trim level. Compared to the 300 Touring and Limited, the Ford Taurus offers more maximum passenger and cargo space, while the Toyota Avalon offers more luxury and refinement. The high-performance 300C and SRT8 versions have fewer rivals. However, those seeking any 300 for its rear-wheel-drive performance capabilities should also take a good look at the impressive Pontiac G8. That said, the 2009 Chrysler 300 remains a solid choice for a large sedan.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Chrysler 300 is a full-size sedan available in LX, Touring, Limited, 300C and SRT8 trim levels. All but the LX and SRT8 also come in an all-wheel-drive version. The base LX comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, cruise control, full power accessories, a tilt-telescoping steering column, eight-way power driver seat, 60/40-split rear seat and a four-speaker stereo with CD/MP3 player and auxiliary audio jack.
The 300 Touring adds a larger V6 engine, automatic headlamps, foglamps, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, leather-trimmed wheel and shift knob, and satellite radio. The optional Comfort/Convenience Group adds heated front seats, power passenger seat, power-adjustable pedals and auto up/down front power windows. The 300 Limited adds a comfort-tuned suspension, 18-inch wheels, the Comfort/Convenience Group, trip computer, steering wheel audio controls and a six-speaker touchscreen-operated stereo with six-CD changer and 30GB hard drive for digital music storage (known as uconnect Tunes). When equipped with all-wheel drive, the Touring and Limited gain a larger fuel tank, 18-inch wheels (Touring), a five-speed automatic transmission and upgraded brakes.
The 300C gains a V8 engine, auto-dimming and power-folding heated exterior mirrors, driver memory functions, power-adjustable steering column, upgraded leather upholstery, rain-sensing wipers, remote ignition, "Tortoiseshell" interior trim and a universal garage opener.
Optional on all but the LX is the Protection Group, which adds front side airbags, side curtain airbags, auto-dimming rearview mirror and Bluetooth phone connectivity with iPod integration (uconnect phone). The 300C gains rear parking assist with this package. The Limited and 300C can also be equipped with a rear-seat entertainment system with Sirius Satellite TV, and a voice-activated navigation system with real-time traffic (uconnect GPS). The Luxury Group for the 300C adds adaptive cruise control, HID headlamps and heated rear seats. The 300C Heritage package adds 20-inch wheels and the same performance-tuned steering, suspension and shocks found on the Dodge Charger R/T Daytona, plus a bunch of the above luxury features. A sunroof is optional on all but the LX.
Of special note is the Walter P. Chrysler Executive Series long-wheelbase package available on Touring and 300C trim levels. It adds 6 inches to the standard wheelbase to increase rear seat legroom. It also includes the Comfort/Convenience and Protection Groups, plus the rear-seat entertainment system, uconnect Tunes and uconnect GPS. On the 300C version, the Luxury Group and eight-speaker surround sound system are included.
The 300 SRT8 is equipped similar to the 300C Heritage, but comes with an even more powerful V8, Brembo performance brakes, special stability control calibration, unique exterior trim, a sunroof and an integrated rear spoiler.
Powertrains and Performance
The base 2009 Chrysler 300 LX is only available with rear-wheel drive and a 2.7-liter V6 that produces 178 hp and 190 pound-feet of torque. A four-speed automatic is standard. Fuel economy with this engine is 18 mpg city/26 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined.
The Touring and Limited trim levels come standard with rear-wheel drive and a 3.5-liter V6 good for 250 hp and 250 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy is 17 city/24 highway and 20 combined. All-wheel drive is optional. Fuel economy with AWD is 15/22/18 mpg. A four-speed automatic transmission is standard with the rear-wheel-drive 3.5-liter 300 sedans, while a five-speed automatic comes with all-wheel drive.
The Chrysler 300C gets a 5.7-liter V8 with 359 hp and 389 lb-ft of torque. It delivers 15/23/18 mpg regardless of rear- or all-wheel drive. A five-speed automatic is standard. The 300 SRT8's 6.1-liter V8 cranks out 425 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed automatic is standard. Fuel economy is 13/18/15 mpg.
The Chrysler 300 LX doesn't get much in the way of standard safety equipment, but antilock brakes and stability and traction control are at least optional. They are standard on all other trim levels. Front seat side airbags are optional on all regular Chrysler 300s, while full-length side curtain airbags are optional on all but the LX and standard on the SRT8.
In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash testing, the 2009 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. In government side crash testing, the 300, when equipped with the front side and full-length curtain airbags, received four stars for driver protection and five stars for the passenger. The IIHS, however, tested a 300 without the side airbags and gave it the worst rating of "Poor."
Interior Design and Special Features
The Chrysler 300's interior features a simple but elegant layout that benefited from last year's new instrument panel, center console design and upgraded surfaces. It is now a much nicer cabin, but given the 300C's price, some may expect something nicer. Controls are relatively simple, while loads of available high-tech features bring nearly endless entertainment options. Cabin dimensions are generous in all directions -- even more so in the extended-wheelbase models, which of course offer more rear legroom by far than any primary competitors. Unfortunately, the 300's signature low-profile windows result in compromised visibility -- particularly for shorter drivers. Also, the 300's trunk capacity measures a relatively 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 that Americans took for granted decades ago. Based on a good deal of Mercedes-Benz technology underneath, the 2009 Chrysler 300 is far more impressive in its driver control and handling than the rear-drive, full-size behemoths of yore. The Limited and 300C's new comfort suspension tuning should appeal to those buyers hunting for a comfortable cruising sedan, while the new 300C Heritage package and its tauter suspension plays the opposite game for those hunting for handling to match the big Hemi engine. Still, no 300 can quite match the thrilling yet refined Pontiac G8 GT -- not even the wild 300 SRT8.