I must admit, I had a love/hate relationship with the last generation Chrysler 300C. I loved what it could have been, but I hated what it ended up being. Fantastic styling (when it debuted) with an interior that only a true die hard Chrysler fan could love, and even then, not all of them could stomach it. The refresh in 2008 fixed some issues, but it wasn’t enough.
When I first saw the 2011 300C in photos, I actually thought it was ugly. The amount of chrome splashed around the exterior – and that rear end! But once I saw it in person, it just felt right. The question is: is this what American luxury should be?
The bold front end of the last generation has been smoothed out and the windshield has a steeper angle. The entire greenhouse now has more glass, which gives it slightly less of a mobster look, but it still has some swagger to it.
While the car is slathered in chrome, it feels tasteful when seen in person. The front headlights feature LED daytime running lights in the shape of a C. These give the 300C a distinctive presence on the road. Speaking of lights, why is a $40k luxury sedan not equipped with HID headlights? It has projector beams, but regular halogen bulbs. Definitely something that surprised me the first time I drove the 300C at night.
When I looked at the hood I noticed the unpainted black windshield washer nozzles. This is a $40k luxury sedan, why aren’t these either painted, or better yet, tucked under the cowl near the windshield? This definitely felt like a oversight in the detail department, and you know what they say, the devil is in the details.
Moving on, I also felt the door handles felt cheap and flimsy on the outside of the the 300C. The handles are clearly the same plastic bits used on the new Dodge Durango and Jeep Grand Cherokee, and I feel the same way about how they operate on those vehicles. They give no confidence in the vehicle and lack a solid feeling that the rest of the 300C portrays.
The taillights have an intricate design with a single LED light pipe running vertically in the center. Of course like everything else, the taillights feature chrome bits in their design. Again, they look better in person than in pictures.
While the rear end looks nice, the plastic bumper cover felt somewhat cheap and flimsy. If you pushed on the bumper cover where it met with the taillights or trunk lid, it would flex and other parts of it would move. Its like there aren’t enough clips holding it or it’s just too thin. I’m not sure which, but it looks nicer than it is.
Inside the 300C is what I wished the last generation had been. With real wood and soft touch dashboard, the materials are first rate. Nearly everything you touch is a soft material that feels like quality.
The steering wheel is thick and meaty, which portrays how the 300C’s steering feels. The steering wheel in my tester was heated – even the wooden top half of the wheel.
The large 8.4-inch touch screen display was responsive and the software was easy to use. The buttons were large and the interface was simple. If you aren’t interested in using the touch screen you have real buttons for both the main radio controls and climate control.
One of the main attention getters in the cabin were the bright silver and blue gauges. With the neon blue backlighting and chrome plastic, the gauges look like something straight out of a concept car. While I found them to be attractive, I can see how some consumers may feel the design is over the top or too flashy.
While the 300 is available with the new Pentastar V-6, my tester was the 300C , which means it has the Hemi V-8 rated at 363 horsepower and 394 pound feet of torque. The 300C certainly isn’t lacking for power, though if you do need more you can always opt up to the 300C SRT8 with the 6.4-liter Hemi and 470 horsepower. You know, cause you need it.
The 300C is rated at 16/25. I averaged 20.1 mpg in mixed suburban driving. This included some somewhat aggressive driving and a heavy foot. I would call it acceptable considering the power and weight. And while some feel the transmission is antiquated, I will say it was well programmed, better than many six-speed automatics on the market.
For 2012 the 300C will receive an eight-speed automatic transmission which will definitely increase the EPA ratings.
During my week with the 300C it was nearly 90 degrees, with over 80 percent humidity. It was literally miserable. But I ran into an issue, the air conditioning wouldn’t stop blowing air onto the windshield. It didn’t matter whether I had the climate on control on the automatic setting or if I manually told it to direct air at my feet, a certain amount of air always came out of the defroster vent at the base of the windshield. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, but the ridiculous weather made it so that this air made the windshield foggy the entire time.
With my tester priced at $40,985, the new Chrysler 300C feels like it should. Priced right and overall equipped with the right stuff, the new 300 has taken my love/hate relationship and ditched the hate. It’s not perfect, but it is a terrific full-size sedan that I would definitely have on my shopping list.
Full Disclosure- The review vehicle was provided by Chrysler