Unique packages help update Chrysler’s 300
2016 Chrysler 300 Limited AWD
MSRP: $34,395; As tested, $38,385
Powertrain: 292-HP 3.6-liter V6; eight-speed automatic transmission
EPA figures: 21 MPG combined; 18 city, 27 highway
The survivor? Sure. With near-constant new appearance packages and that thing that the Dodge-Chrysler portion of the FCA empire is known for — 250 different versions of the same car — the slab-faced Baby Bentley is still pretty dynamic, despite being a little long in the tooth underneath.
The Chrysler 300, orphaned by the recent decision to axe the smaller and not-quite-successful-enough Chrysler 200, still offers a particularly American version of bold and brawny, for those who want their four-door family sedans to stand apart from a field of practically identical Japanese, Korean and domestic competitors.
For 2017, this will mean even more color and finishing treatments for the 300, which is still largely differentiated by its engine size. A standard 292- or 300-horsepower 3.6-liter V6, good for up to 31 MPG on the highway, works as the traditional choice, while the bigger boost comes from a 363-horsepower 5.7-liter Hemi V8, still good for 25 MPG on the highway.
The out-of-control SRT version of a few years back has been dropped from the lineup, but given that the craze now is to drop that Hellcat engine in everything in the family, stick around and maybe you’ll be surprised.
More important to mountain residents is the integrated option for AWD, which, not unlike the mechanically similar Dodge Chargers driven by the State Patrol, provides more rounded all-season stability. I recently drove a 2016 Limited model with AWD, and the only particular penalty is a little less mileage for the V6, coming in at about 27 MPG on the highway.
I also got a 90th Anniversary Edition (again, one of seemingly dozens of stylistic variants you can order up), which featured a wide array of the 300’s newest-generation bits. Those included the new spinning knob-styled gear selector, a broad swath of glossy wood-like trim and attractive cream-colored leather and an enticing blue LED-lit instrument cluster and blue-edged, silvery gauges. The leather-grain-styled dash is indeed very rubbery and controls are very austere — just a few audio and AC knobs, unlike the cockpit’s worth of controls on other makes. An 8.4-inch touchscreen was also standard.
The 300’s also been given a tastefully macho update up front, with a black mesh grille surrounded by more chrome, plus sharper-looking headlight clusters, some curb-level chrome trim and improved running lamps. Added contour lines on the 300’s hood and squared-off tail lamps give the car just a bit of Jaguar-worthy flourish, just to keep that wish-I-was-British thing going. In the rear, the whole tail is also taller and features chromed-out bumper trim and exhaust ports.
Mine featured chunky 19-inch fan-blade-style wheels that looked a lot like Ninja throwing stars — wheels tend to be extraordinarily important to 300 owners, so choose wisely.
300’s V6 versions drive with a happy medium of powerful stability, though the modest exhaust noises may have extroverts also considering that beefier Hemi. Still, you’ll find few issues as you work your way over the passes; ride is solid but comfortable enough for a family cruiser. And you might even find the 300’s short snout just a little truncated if you’re used to mid-sized sedans with more up-front real estate. There’s less of the stuck-in-the-bottom-of-a-bathtub feeling found in the Charger or Challenger, which is also pleasant.
Overall, the Limited version’s rear-wheel-drive variant has also been given a bit of a performance tune-up, with more responsive springs, steering and bushings, plus sway bars on the Hemi version.
As for the gazillion iterations, 2017 is going to offer 300 buyers some variations including S models with interior and exterior sport appearance packages, adding custom front fascia, deck lids, LED fog lamps and special leather inside.
The Platinum version, with 20-inch wheels, a 900-watt Harmon Kardon stereo and a load of additional flourish, still stands at the top of the pile.
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