Mountain Wheels: Brash Chrysler 300S gets a tougher look
June 30, 2014
2014 Chrysler 300S AWD
MSRP: $36,365; as tested, $47,190
Powertrain: 300-HP 3.6-liter V6 engine, eight-speed automatic transmission
EPA figures: 21 mpg combined (18 city, 27 highway)
I recently tried to sell one of the glossy downhill sports magazines on the notion that the Chrysler 300S — with its aggressive wheels, 300 horsepower and that whole chunky, bad-boy look — might be the ultimate ski car. They did not go for that for a second.
I will offer it to you, mountain kids, and say that Chrysler does indeed do a pretty comprehensive job of offering AWD on its full range of 300 sedans — you can even get the 363-HP Hemi engine, and AWD, if you want to be the toughest-looking dude at the Beach.
Recently minted bazillionaire rapper Dr. Dre's Beats speakers are also part of the 300S I drove a few weeks back, and I bet you can get a custom Thule rack, maybe done up in NATO urban camo colors, to accentuate your ride.
Yes, the 300 has never particularly been top of mind for dedicated powderhounds, instead drawing the attention of our urban friends. But with an almost SUV-sized cabin and nearly 30 mpg on the highway (even with the 300HP 3.6-liter V6 and AWD), the 300S might be an interesting consideration for those hoping to live in both worlds. Appropriately shod with good tires, the AWD is going to get you where you want to go, in plenty of in-your-face style.
The 2014 version of the storied Baby Bentley has gotten its share of upgrades, both good and bad; you'll find an eight-speed ZF transmission with exactly the same shift-by-wire gear selector they used in high-end Audis, though you may also find it damnably imprecise in getting into reverse when you need it.
But they're really trying with the whole sporty aspect, not just up in Hemi-land; clicking my test car into Sport mode livened up the gear changes and revs and did put a light SRT-styled spin on things. You can also use the wheel-mounted paddle shifters to … paddle shift.
I also cannot say if many people bought the whole "Imported from Detroit" campaign, but the 300S certainly went whole hog, even suggesting that the "S" here stands for "stance." That means a lot more neo-custom blacked-out (some body-colored, not chrome-laden) bits like the more quietly menacing grille, black window trim and the smoked head and tail lamps, plus some deep-dish 19-inch wheels and the 552-watt, 10-speaker sound system.
My $36,365 entry point got a little bit north of $47,000 with about every option you could throw at the 300S, including a $1,500 tab for black painted roof and another $1,595 for a dual-panel panoramic sunroof.
Inside, there's snazzy leather seating with unique badging and even some flashy white highlight stitching; add some carbon-fiber-looking highlights in the doors, dash and console trim, plus updated, silver-backed instruments and a mid-instrument video cluster, and the cumulative effect is pretty impressive.
I took a full crew of adult passengers on a lengthy day trip and they agreed that the 300S is spacious, comfortable and noticeably smooth — and speedy when it needs to be, as well. That 3.6-liter engine may not have the dirty bark of the Hemi, but my folks still liked it, and were genuinely impressed by the car's ability to gracefully but aggressively take corners. We also did not experience any of the claustrophobia one used to feel in Chrysler's trifecta of macho sedans (the Challenger and the Charger), instead enjoying the space and the sturdy security.
Chrysler's UConnect navigation and information system remains one of the easiest to use in the industry, with oversized touchscreen controls you can actually use while driving.
Brash and ballsy? Sure? Winter capable? More than a Prius, I would suggest.
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