Last year the Chrysler 300 got a complete makeover, and this year the 2012 model still received some significant changes. There are some new models that have joined the lineup. A sporty Chrysler 300S that we’ll be reviewing this week, the new Chrysler 300C Luxury Series, and a new Chrysler 300 SRT8 super-sedan. The Chrysler 300S is a sportier 300, and comes with extras like 20-inch wheels and a firmer suspension.
The Chrysler 300 is a full-size four-door sedan that is comfortable, quiet and a cruiser. It can be ordered with a V6 or V8 powerplant and comes with an optional eight-speed automatic. The Chrysler 300 is one of just a few rear-wheel-drive sedans that can be purchased for less than $35,000 making it a good choice for driving enthusiasts.
Outside, the 300S receives a number of visiual treatments that set it apart from the standard version. The S gets a gloss-black grille and headlight housings framed against monochrome bodywork. The 300S looks a little more menacing as it also comes with large dark wheels and the S just looks more aggressive. Chrysler would like it to compete with the Cadillac CTS-V and it could be a poor man’s version of the Mercedes-Benz AMG E-Class.
The sedan is big and the driver can feel it the moment he or she sits behind the wheel. Interior dimensions and roominess are generous in the front and rear of the cabin. The 300S also has a luxury feel to it. The thick leather-wrapped four-spoke padded steering wheel offers an immediate luxury experience. On the S model, magnesium paddle shifters rise behind the horizontal spokes letting the driver know this a sport model and meant for spirited driving.
A luxury cabin
This S tester also came with Radar Red luxury-leather bucket seats with the S logo added for visual flare. The materials in the cabin are first rate and the S interior feels sporty. The driver’s seat offers plenty of adjustability and the tilt-telescoping steering wheel makes it easy to find a comfortable seating position. The S model comes with a number of standard luxury features and offers even more optional goodies.
This 2012 Chrysler 300S AWD tester comes with a V6 and 8-speed automatic transmission ($35,820) The S model gets body-color trim with gloss-black grille and headlight trim, matte carbon and piano-black cabin trim, 300S logo on the leather seats, and keyless entry with remote start.
300S options include UConnect with 8.4-inch touch screen, Garmin navigation, Sirius Travel Link with Real Time Traffic and Sirius satellite radio ($795). the large, 8.4-inch screen is easily understood at a glance and easy to operate. Other available options include a Safety Tech package ($2,420) and also a Luxury package ($3,250).
An award-winning powertrain
The standard 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 is an award-winning engine. It comes with double overhead cams, 24 valves, and variable valve timing that aids flexibility and good fuel economy. The V6 produces 292 horsepower and 260 lb ft of torque. The 3.6-liter powerplant is high-revving and delivers strong acceleration.
The Pentastar V6 is mated to a new highly efficient eight-speed automatic with E-Shifter. The automatic achieves improved fuel-mileage because it allows easier acceleration and lower engine speed on the highway. The V6 with AWD achieves 18/27 city/highway fuel mileage which is the same as the rear-drive with the five-speed automatic. At 50 mph, the 300 eight-speed will cruise all day long at just 1000 rpm’s allowing moderate interstate cruising using minimal fuel.
The 2012 Chrysler 300 with the eight-speed also gets a new shifter. It has four positions (PRND) and a +/- gate to the side for manual operation. The new shifter could be a weak point for the big sedan. The short stubby shifter looks like an inverted silver putter. The unit is actually an electronic switch and needs to be pushed properly to find the right gear. It’s easy to get the wrong gear and can be a bit confusing and it definitely takes getting used to.
Smooth and comfortable on the road
Driving the big 300S sedan feels much like driving a more expensive German luxury sedan. The 300S is smooth and comfortable, but if you need the power, the V6 has ample power to move all that weight with confidence. The four-door S is not a sports sedan, but the sport suspension offers enough stiffness to give it a sporty feel. Body roll is acceptable when taking tight corners, and the electric-assist steering has good weighting and feel.
The available All-wheel drive is worth the extra cost and gives the sedan better stability in either wet or dry conditions.The ride height on 2012 Chrysler 300 AWD models is slightly lower than on 2011 models giving it a sleeker profile.
Overall, the 2012 Chrysler 300S V6 AWD is a roomy car that offers comfort, all-wheel-drive capability, enough power for most situations and has a unique presence. At $35,820, it offers a good value.