The Chrysler 300 is an automotive comeback kid. A proud, prestigious vehicle in the 1950s, the 300 fell into anonymity during the '60s and then disappeared from the automotive landscape for more than 30 years. Chrysler reintroduced the 300 in the mid-2000s though, leading the brand in a bold, new direction. With retro style, powerful V8 engines, rear-wheel drive and refined road manners, the 300 was an immediate hit. Interest waned after a few years, but Chrysler recently redesigned the 300 with additional features, including an upgraded interior and a more powerful standard V6 engine. A big, bold American sedan, the 300 is a fine choice either new or used.
Current Chrysler 300
The Chrysler 300 is a five-passenger full-size sedan with an unmistakably American design. A high doorline, chiseled bumpers, bulging fenders and big wheels give it strong road presence and make for an alternative to the bland, uninspired lines of average family sedans.
The 300 offers four trim levels: 300 Limited, 300S, 300C and 300C Platinum. A 3.6-liter V6 engine (292 horsepower, 260 pound-feet of torque) comes standard across the board, although it gets a power boost in the 300S (300 hp, 264 lb-ft). Power-hungry drivers can opt for a 5.7-liter V8 with 363 hp and 394 lb-ft. Both engines pair with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Rear-wheel drive is standard; all-wheel drive is optional.
The 300 Limited comes generously equipped with leather upholstery, power front seats with heating, keyless entry and ignition, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone connection, and an 8.4-inch touchscreen interface. Even smaller details such as an auto-dimming rearview mirror, dual-zone climate control, and a rearview camera are nice touches for a base model sedan. The 300S is a sportier take on the base model, with more power underhood and additional features including 20-inch wheels, sport-tuned suspension and a 10-speaker audio system. The 300C takes a more luxury approach with heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats and even a heated steering wheel. There's also a panoramic sunroof, LED cabin lighting, a power rear sunshade and a navigation system.
The 300C Platinum goes all-in on fancy with a unique exterior trim, a cushy, touring-style suspension, upgraded leather, bending headlights, a 19-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, and even heated and cooled cupholders.
A driver assistance package (SafetyTec Plus) is optional for all but the Limited trim and includes features such as parking sensors, automatic wipers, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking.
Cabin dimensions are generous in all directions, and the 300 offers more legroom than most of its competitors. A long, 120-inch wheelbase shortens up the front and rear overhangs and opens up plenty of passenger space inside. Overall interior design is simple, elegant and trimmed in high-class materials. Even in its least expensive form, the 300 feels like a luxury car.
On the move, the 300 feels a lot like you'd expect: It's a big American sedan with a floaty ride. Power from the standard V6 engine is adequate for most drivers, but we do like the added bravado from the optional V8. Our chief complaint is that the 300 lack good rearward visibility, the consequence of its stocky outside design.
Used Chrysler 300 Models
The current Chrysler 300 dates back to 2011. It may look like the first-generation car and share the same general underlying structure, but the second-generation 300 differs significantly. Besides the interior overhaul, the structure is stiffer, the steering is electrically assisted, and the suspension is recalibrated for improved ride quality and handling. Chrysler also added an abundance of sound-deadening materials to create one of the quietest cabins on the road.
Since then, Chrysler has made a variety of updates. 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 SRT8 (produced through 2014) had a 6.4-liter V8 good for 470 hp. In 2013, the 3.6-liter V6 came standard on all but SRT8 trims, although it was still optional for the S and C trims.
A refresh in 2015 sharpened the 300's exterior lines, while upgrading tech and safety offerings including the addition of adaptive cruise control, lane departure and lane keeping assist, and an 8.4-inch touchscreen media interface that added voice commands and Wi-Fi hotspot access. An eight-speed automatic transmission also became standard across the board. In 2016, the 300C base trim level received an upgraded suspension, while the 300S got an optional, more performance-oriented suspension. Siri Eye Free was also added, and driver assistance features were bundled into the optional SafetyTec Plus package.
The first-generation Chrysler 300 was produced from 2005 to 2010. 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 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.
We recommend finding a used Chrysler 300C with a 5.7-liter V8 and a five-speed automatic instead. It originally produced 340 hp, but this was upgraded to 359 hp for '09. 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.
The high-performance SRT8 with 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 options list that year, so make sure to check if a used 300 is equipped as such.
In Edmunds 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. The 1957 300-C is typically considered the most beautiful and desirable of these early cars. The 300-hp 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-wheel-drive sedan only. Based on the second generation of Chrysler's "cab-forward" LH platform, the 300M used a 3.5-liter V6 that put out 253 hp. It was built through the 2004 model year.