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Sedan hasn’t lost its strut

Chrysler is finally hard at work on the successor to the 300, one of the longest-running modern designs in the industry. (The new 300 will supposedly arrive in 2018.)

The 2015 Chrysler 300S features Chrysler's still-strong 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, now bolted to a fairly refined eight-speed automatic. (Photo courtesy Chrysler/TNS)
The 2015 Chrysler 300S features Chrysler's still-strong 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, now bolted to a fairly refined eight-speed automatic. (Photo courtesy Chrysler/TNS)Read more


Leave those sequined jeans and the tomato-red cowboy boots in the closet.

Likewise, we probably won't need the parrot or David Lee Roth's ankle-length black leather coat for our spin in the Chrysler 300.

Which suits me just fine. I'm odd-looking enough without having to dress like a refugee from Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen.

When the modern-day Chrysler 300 arrived in 2005, it invited all sorts of embellishment — like a wildly stylish, slightly dangerous den on wheels where various glitzy crimes might be committed.

Back then, the 300 flashed urban style that absolutely jolted the auto industry with its chopped-down top, exaggerated Rolls-Royce-like grille and starkly flat sides.

Drivers had to dress for a 300 occasion.

But after a decade in which the overall shape of the car has remained more or less the same, the 300 actually seems mildly respectable today — though still packing heat.

It has aged nicely.

Chrysler is finally hard at work on the successor to the 300, one of the longest-running modern designs in the industry. (The new 300 will supposedly arrive in 2018.)

Granted, the current car got a pretty substantial facelift in 2011, but it remains as recognizable as Mick Jagger with its familiar extrovert grille and bold stance.

And the dark blue 2015 300S I had recently still had the unmistakable big-city stroll that Ralph Gilles — now senior vice president of design — gave the car more than 10 years ago.

For 2015, the 300's signature giant grille, which got toned down in 2011, is nearly a third larger, flanked by modern projector-style headlamps.

Extremely short overhangs front and rear — virtues Gilles bestowed on the car a decade ago — continue to look fresh.

While still mostly flat, the 300's body now sports a tiny bit more curve in its sides, including graceful arches atop the wheel wells.

My 300S rode pretty smoothly on 245/45 tires wrapped around appropriately dark 20-inch wheels. In back, fine-looking vertical taillamps still stood tall along a squared-off trunk.

Also, the side windows of the 300 seemed a tad larger and a little less ominous.

But the most important element in the 300's strong personality — besides its enduring design — continues to reside not-so-quietly beneath the hood.

Sadly, the vast majority of 300s these days arrive with mainstream V-6 engines, which are adequate and keep sales high but further dilute the car's great heritage from the '50s and '60s.

The 300S I had proudly featured Chrysler's still-strong 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, now bolted to a fairly refined eight-speed automatic.

With age comes value — or so I try to tell myself each morning staring back at what's left of me in the mirror.

And get this: For a reasonable $39,885, the 300 offers well-seasoned style, a powerful V-8, eight-speed automatic, fully independent suspension and room for at least four real adults.

That strikes me as a pretty good deal.

Incidentally, in case you hadn't noticed, the 300 is one of only three full-size, rear-wheel drive, V-8 powered sedans still wearing American badges — with the Dodge Charger and Chevy SS rounding out the shriveled segment.

Ironically, the 300 and the Charger are built in Canada, and the SS hails from Australia.

By the time the new 300 arrives, that number could be down to two — or none, depending on which direction Chrysler decides to go.

Get it while you can, as Dr. Joplin advised.

The big 363-horsepower Hemi in the 300 I had didn't sound all that promising initially, idling lazily with an occasional tick from its old-school engine (overhead valves, pushrods, iron block).

Blip the throttle, though, and the magical Hemi felt as silky as some German vehicles. The car's 394 pound-feet of smooth torque begins flowing down low, pushing passengers into their seats and easily spinning the back tires if provoked. Whoops.

Sixty comes up in a quick five seconds. Thanks to cylinder deactivation, the thirsty Hemi can muster 16 miles per gallon in town and 25 on the highway.

Best of all, though, you don't need to stick to straight-line driving.

A few years back, Chrysler sedans steered like the front wheels had been disconnected — and maybe stashed in the trunk.

Your kid's pedal car offered heavier, livelier steering.

But Chrysler went to work on its electric-assist steering units, bringing models like the 300 back down to earth.

While still somewhat murky, the steering is now quick and provides the sort of heft you expect in a 4,300-pound sedan. Moreover — unlike most of those grand 300s from the '50s and '60s — this one turns pretty obediently into relatively fast corners, holding the line you choose without much lean.

The 300 won't run away from a 3-series BMW on a country back road, but it can definitely provoke a curse or two from the Bimmer driver.

Even better, the 300 moved with athletic, long-legged grace, stepping firmly over bumps and potholes. It always felt ready for a cross-country run.

Here's the problem, though: I'm not sure we could stay inside it for several days straight.

Although Chrysler has continued to tweak the 300's Mercedes-based platform and healthy Hemi, I guess it ran out of money by the time designers got to the interior. It's much better than it was 10 years ago, but nowhere near as nice as a $30,000 Chevy Impala.

The black furnishings in mine had so many hard surfaces I could almost hear an echo when I cranked up the music — and that's where this 300 really departs from its rich past.

Its coarse-looking black plastic dashboard and door panels looked a bit like they had been pulled out of a Dodge Charger police cruiser.

A nice hood over the instrument panel added shape to the gently rounded dash, as did a large center stack that dominated the middle of it.

But the only items softening the plastic on the door panels were padded centers and armrests.

Fortunately, smooth black leather seats with good bolsters and white stitching provided a slight touch of luxury, and the back seats offered good legroom and headroom.

I also got accustomed to the big round knob for the rotary shift, although it made looking for a gear about as exciting as searching for the permanent-press cycle on a washer.

But, hey, it works.

Overall, the interior looked fine. It just didn't feel great to the touch, and that's a real flaw in a $40,000 car.

Even lugging all that plastic, though, the 300 still seemed kind of special.

Four heavily hyped letters — H-E-M-I — guarantee it will stay that way.


2015 Chrysler 300S

Type of vehicle: Full-size, five-passenger, rear-wheel-drive sedan

Price as tested: $39,885

Fuel economy: 16 miles per gallon city, 25 highway

Weight: About 4,300 pounds

Engine: 5.7-liter V-8 with 363 horsepower and 394 pound-feet of torque

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic

Performance: 0 to 60 mph in an estimated 5.1 seconds

SOURCES: Chrysler Division; Car and Driver



Terry Box writes for the Dallas Morning News. He may be reached at


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