With a heritage dating back to 1955, the Chrysler 300 has long been a rolling legend. The current-generation, full-size four-door sedan was launched as a 2005 model, then mildly reworked for 2011. The 2015 model year brought freshened styling and updated technology, but no major changes since.
New Touring and Touring L trim levels have been added for the 2018 model year. Some trim groups have been revised for 2018. Cloth upholstery is standard on the 2018 Chrysler 300, along with 17-inch wheels. Chrysler’s 5.3-liter V8 is now standard in the 2018 Chrysler 300C.
Classic American styling meets traditional rear-wheel drive in the current Chrysler 300, which may have either a fuss-free V6 engine or a powerful, throbbing Hemi V8. Five trim levels are offered: Touring, Touring L, 300S, 300 Limited, and high-performance 300C. All-wheel drive is an option for all except the 300C.
In all 300 sedans except the 300C and 300S, a 3.6-liter V6 develops 292 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. A 300-horsepower version of the V6, with a cold-air intake and performance exhaust system, goes into the 300S sedan. Each Chrysler 300 uses an 8-speed automatic transmission.
Stepping up in performance, the 300C unleashes a 5.7-liter V8 that generates 363 horsepower and 394 pound-feet of torque. In addition to V8 performance, including Sport mode and paddle shifters, the 300C delivers a compelling level of luxury appeal. The abundant standard-feature list includes premium audio, ventilated front seats, natural open-pore wood trim, and stitched Nappa leather upholstery. An analog clock sits on the 300C dashboard.
In recent years, crash-test scores for the Chrysler 300 have fallen behind rival sedans. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2018 model four stars overall, with a four-star rating for some frontal and side impacts. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the 2017 sedan Good ratings in frontal-impact tests, but Marginal in the small-overlap crash. A Superior rating for frontal impact applied only to cars with a safety-feature option group. Headlights were rated Poor.
Safety features also have not kept up with competitors. All Chrysler 300s have a driver’s knee airbag, rearview camera, and hill-start assist. An option package combines several elements of modern safety technology. Included are forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, active lane control, and adaptive cruise control, as well as automatic high-beam headlights.
Chrysler 300 Touring ($28,995) comes with cloth upholstery, 17-inch wheels, power driver’s seat, 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth audio, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a rearview camera. Rear-wheel drive is standard. AWD Touring ($31,495) has all-wheel drive.
Touring L ($28,995) gets leather upholstery, heated power front seats, 18-inch wheels. AWD Touring L ($31,495) has all-wheel drive.
300S ($35,795) gets a 300-horsepower version of the V6, with an option for V8 power. A sport-tuned suspension, Sport mode, paddle shifters, black trim, and 20-inch wheels are standard. AWD 300S ($38,295) has all-wheel drive.
Limited ($36,595) comes with perforated leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, Ash Burl wood trim, and 276-watt audio. AWD Limited ($39,095) has all-wheel drive.
300C ($40,995) contains a 5.7-liter V8, perforated and quilted leather, natural-pore wood trim, driver’s memory, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, and 20-inch wheels. (Prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.)
Although its shape might be close to timeless, the Chrysler 300 might be deemed either beautiful or excessively blocky and squared-off. Either way, it flaunts an elegantly upright, if laid-back, silhouette.
Body metal has a brawny but well-tailored, distinguished look, helped by wide, square shoulders. A simple rectangular grille integrates fully into the near-classic profile.
Visually, the 300 hasn’t changed much since introduction as a 2005 model. The crisp long-nose/short-deck design has held up especially well. Exuding an air of sophisticated confidence, it represents a careful blend of angles and rounded corners. Chrysler 300S models get blacked-out body trim.
Richly detailed yet somber in base form, the 300’s cabin gets a warmer, higher-end look in upper models. That’s especially true when fitted with natural wood trim and quilted leather. Designed with organic shapes and smooth curves, the cabin is admirably roomy.
Front passengers get ample head and leg space. Seats with wide bottom cushions and supportive seatbacks are suitable for riders with bigger bodies. Upper-trim models offer particularly good support.
Legroom is skimpier in back, more like a midsize sedan than a full-size. Three moderate-size passengers can occupy the rear seat. Upper trim levels get opulent sport seats that practically cradle one’s body.
Base trim translates to hard plastic trim, but more costly models move up to subdued metallic trim and naturally finished wood. Materials reach a premium pinnacle in 300C and 300S sedans. Excellent infotainment systems interface with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The trunk holds 16.3 cubic feet.
Mature yet athletic in nature, the 300 demonstrates that big cars can handle well, without lacking ride comfort.. Confident and stable, the 300 transmits road conditions to the driver better than most front-drive sedans, though body roll and gentle heaving motions are inevitable.
Base models feel softer and more pliant than their upper-trim counterparts. Sport mode, on 300S and 300C, firms up ride and handling. Twisting roads make it clear that the 300 is a big car, but Chrysler’s electric power steering lightens the effort needed.
For a sedan of this size, the V6 engine delivers wholly sufficient, satisfying power. A V6 version tackles entry ramps without strain, and passing is accomplished with assured briskness.
When in action, the V6 emits a mild rumble. Exhaust sound is more exuberant from the V8, whose power bursts strongly but smoothly into play, accelerating to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds. Paddle shifters for the 8-speed automatic add to the muscular pleasure. Sport mode modifies shift speeds for quicker responses.
The 300S gets a retuned suspension with stiffer springs and firmer bushings, along with quicker steering and 20-inch wheels. Especially with the V8 option, the 300S is fun to drive as well as more tautly composed than its mates.
Fuel economy is satisfying with V6 power, but the V8 is less appealing. With the V6, the 2018 Chrysler 300 is EPA-rated at a reasonably thrifty 19/30 mpg City/Highway, or 23 mpg Combined. All-wheel drive lowers the estimate to 18/27/21 mpg. The V8-powered Chrysler 300C (or 300S) is EPA-rated at a less-compelling 16/25 mpg City/Highway, or 19 mpg Combined.
Chrysler’s big bruiser continues to draw fans of large rear-drive sedans, with or without the bonus of strong V8 power. All models are abundantly equipped, but the upper trim levels are most compelling with their premium leather and natural-finish wood cabin trim. Stately, engaging features keep the rapidly-aging sedan from fading away.
Driving impressions by Marty Padgett, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.