What's New for 2011
The Chrysler 300 has received a major overhaul for 2011. Though the underlying structure and general exterior look remain the same, almost every component has been revised or redesigned.
Back in 2005, Chrysler launched its all-new 300 sedan, a car with a dramatic retro-inspired look. With rear-wheel drive, big wheels and an available Hemi V8 behind a big 1930s-style grille, it was a revelation in a sea of bland, front-wheel-drive family sedans. As time has passed, the 300's look has become less distinctive and consumer interest has waned. Now, a new 2011 Chrysler 300 has been introduced. But are happy days here again?
Those fond of the previous 300's retro-inspired styling should certainly be pleased. The overall look is still very much as you remember, but Chrysler has smoothed out the edges, given the windshield a more rakish angle and refined the car's many exterior details (lights, grille, trim) to create a sharper, classier appearance. It's the difference between Jay Z in concert and Jay Z at the Oscars with Beyonce on his arm -- still handsome, but now far more stylish.
If the styling is revised yet familiar, the same can be said for the car underneath. The 300's rear-wheel-drive platform is carried over from the old car, but it's been thoroughly overhauled. The structure has been stiffened, the steering is now electrically assisted and the suspension has been recalibrated for a better ride quality and more composed handling. To enhance the 300's luxury aspirations, the cabin boasts higher-quality materials, more acoustic insulation and a far more refined appearance. Meanwhile, the list of available features is lengthy and rivals just about any luxury sedan.
In terms of engine selection, the big news is the discontinuation of last year's rental-grade 2.7-liter V6 and, for good measure, the inefficient 3.5-liter V6. In their place is Chrysler's new 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 that produces more power and gets better fuel economy than both outgoing six-cylinders. With 292 horsepower available from the new V6, it's no longer a must to choose the optional Hemi V8. Of course, if you want the most power available, the V8 is even stronger this year, putting 363 hp and 394 pound-feet of torque at your disposal.
Overall, we're pretty impressed with the 2011 Chrysler 300. While last year's car was getting on in years and its cabin didn't stack up with the competition, the handsome new 300 is more than a worthy rival for cars like the Buick LaCrosse, Ford Taurus and Toyota Avalon. In fact, like the Hyundai Genesis, the new 300 bridges the gap between those other full-size sedans and genuine luxury cars. It should be near the top of your list, and if this is a sign of Chrysler to come, then happy days are definitely here again.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Chrysler 300 is a full-size sedan available in base, Limited, 300C and 300C AWD trim levels.
The base 300 comes standard with 17-inch wheels, automatic headlamps, heated mirrors, keyless ignition/entry, cruise control, automatic dual-zone climate control, an eight-way power driver seat with four-way power lumbar, a tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel, a trip computer, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a touchscreen infotainment interface and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface.
The 300 Limited adds 18-inch wheels, foglamps, additional exterior chrome trim, a rearview camera, remote ignition, heated front seats, a power front passenger seat, Bluetooth (optional on base) and a six-speaker Alpine sound system (optional on base). The Limited can be equipped with the Luxury Group, which adds a driver-side auto-dimming mirror, power-adjustable pedals, interior LED lighting, a power-adjustable steering wheel, driver memory functions, leather upholstery (optional separately), heated and ventilated front seats, heated and cooled cupholders, heated rear seats and a power rear sunshade.
The 300C includes the Luxury Group along with a V8 engine, upgraded brakes, automatic high beams, automatic wipers and a Garmin-sourced navigation system integrated into the 300's touchscreen infotainment interface that includes real-time traffic and other live information (optional on Limited). The 300C AWD differs only in that it has all-wheel drive and standard 19-inch wheels.
Several packages are available on all but the base 300. The Sound Group is really just a nine-speaker Alpine surround-sound audio system. The SafetyTec Group includes adaptive and automatic leveling xenon headlamps, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, a blind-spot warning system, rear cross-path detection system, front and rear parking sensors and LED rear foglamps. This package on the Limited includes automatic wipers and automatic high beams. A sunroof is also optional on all but the base 300, while 20-inch wheels can be added to the Limited and 300C.
Powertrains and Performance
The base 2011 Chrysler 300 and the Limited trim are powered by a 3.6-liter V6 that produces 292 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. Rear-wheel drive and a five-speed automatic transmission are standard. Chrysler estimates that this engine will return 18 mpg city/27 mpg highway and 21 combined -- quite impressive given this car's size, power and less-than-aerodynamic shape. In Edmunds performance testing, the V6-powered 300 went from zero to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds.
The Chrysler 300C gets a 5.7-liter Hemi V8 good for 363 hp and 394 lb-ft of torque. It, too, has rear-wheel drive and the five-speed auto standard, but it can also be had with an all-wheel-drive system. Chrysler estimates that the 300C will return 16/25/19 with rear-drive and 15/23/18 with AWD.
Every Chrysler 300 comes with antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front airbags, a driver knee airbag and side curtain airbags. A rearview camera is standard on all but the base 300. The SafetyTec Group is available on all but the base 300 and adds forward collision warning, a blind-spot warning system, rear cross-path detection system, and front and rear parking sensors.
In Edmunds brake testing, a 300 with 17-inch wheels came to a stop from 60 mph in a short 118 feet.
Interior Design and Special Features
Gone is the center stack that resembled a desktop computer tower. Gone is the enormous four-spoke steering wheel removed from the U.S.S. Constitution. Gone are the Indiglo gauges and the brittle plastic switchgear. The Chrysler 300 now has a cabin that might (just might) make luxury car shoppers think twice about paying extra for a fancy badge. While the look is hardly what we'd describe as groundbreaking (or even especially interesting), it's classy enough and the controls are well laid-out. Perhaps most impressively, the materials are top-notch, with surfaces that are soft-touch and pleasantly textured. The difference is really night and day compared to last year's car.
Chrysler's new Uconnect Touch interface is standard. This 8.4-inch touchscreen controls the car's many infotainment features and is a vast improvement on the substantially smaller screen presently found in other Chrysler Group vehicles. When equipped with the optional Garmin-sourced navigation system, the 300 comes with Sirius Travel Link, a technology previously exclusive to Ford that features real-time information for traffic conditions, weather and even movie times.
Rearward visibility continues to be compromised by the thick rear pillars, though on the upside, this year's more rakish windshield has improved forward visibility. Passengers should continue to find an abundance of space in all dimensions, and the trunk's volume of 16.3 cubic feet is pretty generous.
The new 2011 Chrysler 300 glides down the road in a way that reminds us 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. However, this won't be the case should you throw on the optional 20s or some big aftermarket wheels, so you've been warned, DUB subscribers. Handling has also been improved -- though the 300 leans through corners, it remains composed. The 300's new electric-assist steering also has appropriate weighting and feel.
The new V6 provides more than enough power for those looking at full-size sedans. It's smooth, quiet (mostly because of the cabin's ample sound deadening) and pretty fuel-efficient given the 300's weight. However, the V8 is worth its extra cost for those hankering for a taste of good-old American muscle.