Not long ago, the dream of our fathers and grandfathers was to own a big, powerful, American sedan with rear-wheel drive, not unlike today's 2015 Chrysler 300.
Those nostalgic years are dim memories, as are most of the hulking Detroit iron with such storied names as Hudson, Mercury, Oldsmobile, DeSoto, Nash, and Packard. Some are still around but no longer fit the ideal. Buick, Cadillac, and Lincoln are smaller and less imposing.
Only Chrysler still builds a full-size, rear-drive car of the sort that dominated American highways through most of the 20th century. Its competitors from Ford and General Motors have front- or all-wheel drive, though Cadillac is said to be developing a new rear-drive flagship.
Chrysler actually offers two nameplates that fit the old template. Off the same platform as the 300, it also builds the Dodge Charger, which caters to the performance cohort with, among other rousers, a Hellcat model that boasts 707 horsepower.
The Chrysler 300 is no performance slouch, of course, boasting an optional Hemi V-8 engine with 363 hp and 394 lb.-ft. of torque. But that's as powerful as it gets.
In fact, the standard V-6 engine also would suffice nicely, as it did in the base model tested here: the 300 Limited with all-wheel drive, a $2,500 option not available on V-8 models. It is rated at 292 hp with 260 lb.-ft. of torque. If you order the 300S model, the V-6 delivers 300 hp and 264 lb.-ft. of torque.
But it's a distinction without much of a difference. The 300S, which is a step up in price from the Limited, has a sport-tuned suspension system and exterior styling cues that announce that its owner is more rowdy than relaxed.
At the top of the line is the 300C Platinum, outfitted with opulent features that likely would satisfy the pickiest multimillionaire. It starts at $43,390 and, with luxury and safety options, tops out at $51,175.
My Dad would have been perfectly happy with the 300 Limited that is the subject here. He probably would prefer a muscular V-8 engine but would understand that smaller modern engines far outperform the big eights of yore.
Moreover, guys like my Dad weren't rich, so they'd appreciate the 300 Limited's affordable price. The version tested here had a base price of $34,890, which is right around the average price of new cars sold today.
That price includes full safety equipment, automatic climate control, leather-trimmed upholstery and steering wheel, satellite radio, heated and powered front seats and outside mirrors, and 19-inch alloy wheels.
With options that include navigation, Chrysler's UConnect communications system with smartphone remote starting, high-definition radio, LED fog lights, garage door opener, and a backup camera, the tested price was $37,580.
It should be noted that although the 300 is a large car by modern standards, it's something of a pipsqueak historically. The 1957 300C, for example, was 18.5 feet long, or almost 2 feet longer than the 2015 model. Chrysler's 1975 Imperial was nearly 20 feet long.
The gap shows in the new car's interior volume of 122 cubic feet, which barely places it in the government's large car category. Though there's plenty of elbow, leg, and headroom up front, the outboard back seats are barely adequate for average-sized humans, and the center rear position is impossibly compromised by a hard cushion, large floor hump, and intrusion of the center console.
On the road, the tested 300 Limited does not feel like a large car, which is a good thing. The axiom in automobiles is that big cars should drive small, and vice versa.
With its AWD, the tester could be steered steadily and rapidly around curves almost like a midsize sports sedan. The V-6 engine, hooked to the wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission, delivers its power unobtrusively and is instantly responsive to quick downshifts for passing.
With comfortable front seats and a suspension system nicely balanced between performance and comfort, the 300 Limited delivers a controlled and composed ride. It is in the areas of performance, ride, and handling that this modern Chrysler totally eclipses the old mushmobiles that Dad and Grandpa lusted after.
There's real allure in a big American rear-drive sedan, but if the weather gets nasty in your area, be glad you can order the all-wheel drive.
Copyright © 2015 Motor Matters
|Base price||$34,890 (as tested: $37,580)|
|Curb weight||4,235 lbs.|
|Engine type||24-valve Pentastar V-6 w/SMPFI|
|Epa mileage rating||18 mpg city, 27 mpg highway|
|Fuel capacity||18.5 gal.|
|Horsepower (net)||292 at 6350 rpm|
|Overall length||198.6 in.|
|Torque (lb.-ft.)||260 at 4800 rpm|
|Vehicle type||5-passenger full-size AWD sedan|
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