Pro’s: Stunning styling, HEMI V8, amazing electronics package, loads of interior and cargo room.
Con’s: Slightly touchy handling – needs more rubber.
Final Thought: A front engine, rear drive, full-sized sedan that delivers all the performance you could ask for from a sub-50k American luxury car.
This is it. The only remaining full-sized American sedan that has stuck to the formula that made the American auto industry great. It’s the 2012 Chrysler 300C and it’s one hell of an automobile. We’ll get to the specifics later, but understand that if you’re a looking for a 5-passenger, V8 powered, front-engined, rear-drive sedan, then this is the King. Remember, I said FULL SIZE sedan, so don’t get all crazy by throwing out cars like the Cadillac CTS or anything like that. What I love so much about this car is that Chrysler went back to basics with the 300C. I mean this feels like what a large American luxury sedan should feel like (in a good way). It’s big and comfortable with great performance and every luxury amenity you could ask for, plus it’s got a price tag that won’t make you fall over backwards when it comes time to write that monthly check.
2011 brought about a substantial refresh for Chrysler’s big boy by way of all new sheet metal, new electronics and a beautifully redesigned interior. Ladies and gentleman, this is a very handsome automobile. It’s a man’s car. A car that would feel just as home in a bar fight as it would taking a beautiful woman to the opera. I recently spent 7-days and 700 miles with the 300C doing everything from ferrying people to the airport, to food shopping, to driving down the California coastline and with each mile I enjoyed the 300C more and more.
This particular 300C was loaded with just about every option you could check on the order form. Some of which I liked and others that I could do without. The forward collision warning system for instance literally scared the hell out of me when it went off. Now granted I can see where this may come in handy for some, but I found it to be obtrusive and annoying for my driving style (you can turn it off). However things like the rear view camera, blind spot detection system and the new in-dash control system was spot-on.
While other car companies have gone out of their way to make their in-car systems more complicated, Chrysler has done the opposite.
Set in the dead center of the dash is an 8.4-inch touch screen that controls everything from the climate control and stereo functions to the Garmin sourced navigation (nice touch) and bluetooth phone connectivity. It’s incredibly intuitive and will take even the most electronically inept person no more than 5-minutes to master.
In my opinion a full-sized sedan means seating for 5 people averaging over 5’10” in height. At 6’4″ and 240-lbs I’m a bit bigger than the average person, but even more so than I is my buddy Chris Smith who comes in at 6’9″/260-lbs. We both commented on how spacious the interior was and even noticed how the head room was more than ample which is something you’d never expect considering the 300’s chopped roof line.
As someone with long legs I also found it surprising that they didn’t butt-up against the center console. Oh, and if you’re thirsty that same console greets your drinks with either heated or cooled cup holders. Fancy right?
Front and rear seat comfort was up as well from the last generation Chrysler 300. Climb into the cabin where the nicely bolstered leather trimmed seats live and you’ll swear you’re in an interior that cost twice as much. Seats have full power with inflatable lumbar support and came equipped with both heat and A/C ventilation. Rear passengers can be treated to warm bottoms as well if they so choose. Door panels now incorporate some nice wood and aluminum style touches as well as a nice sized leather wrapped arm rest.
Then there is the new panoramic sunroof that not only fills the car with light, but gives it a very open feeling making the cabin feel much larger. Planning to take a trip? Well then no worries as the 300 packs in plenty of cargo space (16.3ft) under that rear deck lid, so feel free to take that extra bag along. Again, all very nice touches here.
A redesigned dash cluster includes a larger analog tach and speedo with a steering wheel controlled information pod that is located directly between them. Here you can access everything from your oil temperature and trip odometer, to your fuel economy and outside climate. If there was one interior feature I could do without though, I’d have to say it’s the push button start. Honestly, I see it as another thing that can go wrong, that and I’m just a big fan of keys.
Powering this particular 300C was Chrysler’s tried and true 5.7L HEMI V8 with variable valve timing. It pumps out 363 hp and 394 lb-ft of torque which means performance numbers of 5.3 seconds to 60 mph and a 1/4 mile time of just over 14 seconds. Not bad for a car that weighs in at 4,400 lbs. Now I know that people are going to bitch about the 300 still having the carryover five speed transmission with AutoStick feature from the previous model, but so what?
It shifts perfectly fine and works with this package. There is a eight-speed unit coming soon, but with that will come a price increase for sure, so do yourself a favor and don’t wait as this transmission works great. Mileage is rated at 16 city/25 hwy, but I saw a combined of about 20 mpg.
If there was a fault with the 300C it would be the handling which is greatly limited by the cars 20″ x 8.0″ wheels that run 245/45 series tires. It’s not bad mind you, but this car simply needs more rubber all around to deal with all that weight, I’m thinking 275s at a minimum front and rear. And although the steering is nicely weighted and offers a nice feel, there just isn’t as much feedback as I would like. Now understand, the 300C isn’t marketed as a performance sedan, but if you’ve got a car with almost 400 lb-ft of torque that’s capable of a sub-6 second 0-60 time, then you really need to give it some better steering. Who knows, maybe this is why the car is electronically limited to 119 mph.
As auto-journalists we drive lots of cars that claim to be loads of things. Some are performance cars, some are luxury and yet others are built for pure economy. The 2012 Chrysler 300C fits dead-on in the full-size luxury market and comes in with no disappointments. Sure you can go out an look at the BMW 7-series, Audi A8 and the Mercedes-Benz S-class, but just know that before you do you’ll be paying over double the price for cars that don’t give you that much more in any department. Our tester stickered in at $46,300 – not a cheap car by any means, but a flat out bargain when you consider what the competition charges.