Text: Vince Pornelos / Photos: Vince Pornelos | posted January 10, 2012 11:26
When manufacturer get to work on bringing about a next generation model of a particular nameplate, it usually means they restyle the car, add a couple millimeters here, improve the driving characteristics and toss in some new features. Such is the natural course of a car's evolution.
When Chrysler went to work on the next generation 300, however, it seems like they really went forward with it, improving every single thing that it would fill up an entire review.
But we'll get to them. All of them.
I have to admit, I was a bit giddy to get behind the wheel of the all new Chrysler 300. Consider it an influence of the generation that grew up watching Snoop and Dre, but if there's one thing I know, the 300 is one great looking car. Or is it?
Based on a random sample of my friends, the new look does split opinions. Unlike the previous one, the new generation 300 is a little less gangsta (thought I'd never get to use that phrase in a review), having matured a bit more design-wise.
The proportions are still similar: wide and boxy, bulging arches for the huge wheels, a high beltline and a proud grille flanked by a great pair of headlamps. The lines and creases, however, have been smoothed over, the bulge on the arches refined, the headlamps toned and made more high tech. Think of the 2005-2011 model as 90's-era Puff Daddy versus the 2011-current 300 as today's suit-clad Diddy. The 300 has certainly leveled up in terms of sophistication.
The differences on the exterior were subtle, but the interior is simply leagues ahead of the old model. In terms of he abundance of plastic, the old one was blatant. In the new one, they've been as subtle as possible. The dash is clad in soft touch materials that, quite frankly, give an impressive feel of quality and class.
I've always believed that holding a car's primary controls (steering, shifter) is the vehicle's handshake, and the 300 definitely makes the grade. It's easy to love the real black olive ash wood trim panels, while the lavish use of leather befits the 300's stature. Best of all, the seats just invite you to hop in and relax. The 300 has certainly elevated its company.
Same goes, too, for the features in this new 300, priced at PhP 2,850,000. Of course there are the neat touches like the abundance of buttons and functions, the power features and other amenities, but they're pretty much standard fare. What I really like is Chrysler's new Uconnect entertainment system and the audio set up that comes with it. It is arguably the best audio system I've heard in a car so far... and this isn't even the system that has been tuned by Dr. Dre and Monster Beats yet.
It's not all show, as the new 300 does have significant go. In all honesty, I was a little disappointed when I found out this was the V6 version... until I realized that this was the new Pentastar V6 that Chrysler has come out with. The new engine definitely has a lot of promise, as the 3.6 liter Pentastar V6 uses variable valve timing, twin cams per bank and four valves per cylinder to develop 292 horsepower, impressive figures indeed.
Firing it up for the first time, there's a muted growl that emits, muffled by the excellent noise reduction measures that Chrysler put in place. The automatic transmission has 5-speeds to choose from, and can be manually selected via the AutoStick function; tap left to shift down, tap right to shift up. Off the line in normal driving mode, the 300 accelerates smoothly, motivated well by the new engine. Nail the throttle and you'll find that the new 300 V6 definitely has grunt reminiscent of the old 300C with the Hemi V8.
Chrysler claims a fuel economy of 19 mpg (8.1 km/l) in the city and 31 mpg (13.2 km/l) on the highway, but given our traffic conditions, 6.8 km/l and 11.5 km/l are more realistic figures, respectively. All things considered, such fuel economy figures aren't bad at all.
On the open highway, it's easy to get up to speed... even safer to stay at speed. The blind spot information system was a good addition in the 300, the variant considered to be the base model. I particularly had fun using the adaptive cruise control on this highway, uh, cruiser. It took a little while to truly trust the system as it maintains the preset gap to the car ahead at speed, but once you got the hang of it, it's something I've truly missed since handing the keys back.
Of course, I was expecting a comfortable drive and ride; this is, after all, an American car. It's quiet inside, but don't expect Lexus-levels of silence though the 300 can give the Germans a good run for their money.
Chrysler's engineers were able to achieve what is notably better handling than the old one without compromising its comfort. Gone is that horrendous floaty feeling whenever you turned the wheel any other way but straight. At speed, the new 300 accomplishes lane changes with a newfound confidence which lends me to think: can it take on a series of corners, say, on a mountain road?
Let's find out.
On to the mountain passes east of Manila, the 300 is easy to max out on the long straights. Brake hard, enter the corner, and you'll realize that this new car is leagues ahead of the old. There's little, if not none, of that hesitation between the time you turn the wheel and when the car actually points into the corner. The long 300, now with shorter overhangs front and rear, responds very well considering its size. Yes, the weight is still there, but it no longer needs to go through immigration before the car takes on a corner.
Dear friends, the new Chrysler 300 has arrived. On every measurable front, saying it has improved is a complete understatement. Chrysler has elevated their flagship sedan to a new plane that can seriously rival many Teutonic models.
Some may say that they still like the style of old, and on some angles, I would agree. I say, however, that this is how the 300 should have always been: an automobile that, simply put, exudes confidence on the road in every single way.