(Words and Photos by Keith Griffin) The 2015 Chrysler 300 gets a bolder front grill and other styling cues as well as an eight-speed transmission for better fuel efficiency with its 5.7-liter V8.
Let’s get this out of the way early. You’re not going to see a Chrysler 300 Hellcat. Those creatures are left to the Dodge side of the FCA family.
The best you’re going to do is the 2015 Chrysler 300S. Truth be told it’s nowhere near as powerful (slightly half the horsepower) but for most Americans it’s going to be almost as satisfying. Plus it’s a lot more luxurious.
FCA, the company formerly known as Chrysler, has decided to make Dodge its performance brand while Chrysler goes more luxurious. That’s also why Ram has its own identity as the maker of pickups and commercial vehicles. You’re going to find little reasons to cross-shop among the three.
Is it heretical to proclaim the Chrysler 300S almost as satisfying as the Charger Hellcat? Internet trolls will proclaim me grossly ignorant and cast a pox against my future grandchildren. But the numbers don’t lie. The 5.7-liter HEMI V8 puts out 363 horsepower at 5,200 rpm and 394 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,200 rpm. Chrysler says its 0-60 time is 5.8 seconds, which I had no reason to doubt in testing around Austin, Texas recently.
This car quickly attains and exceeds legal speed limits. It’s not a track car but then against most Hellcat Charger owners will probably never drive theirs on a track either. For $46,275, the Chrysler 300S trumps anything the domestics can throw at it except for the Chevy SS – and it’s nowhere near as luxurious inside.
The new 2015 Chrysler 300S is the sporty model in the 300 lineup. It features unique blacked-out accents, large 20-inch Hyper Black finish wheels, more athletically sculpted side sills, unique deck-lid spoiler and a higher output Pentastar V-6 engine with 300 horsepower and 264 lb.-ft. of torque (if you opt not to go HEMI), plus sport mode and paddle-shifting capabilities now as quick as 250 milliseconds with the eight-speed automatic transmission.
With that new transmission, the Chrysler 300 with the V8 gets better fuel economy of 16-mpg city and 25-mpg highway for a combined 19 mpg. The V6 version, which will make up the bulk of sales, is rated at 19-city and 31-highway for a combined 23-mpg.
The biggest flaw with the V8 HEMI? You can’t get it in all-wheel drive, which hampers its appeal for a large segment of the population living in colder climes. Invest in a set of good winter tires and you’ll be fine.
If you do opt for V6 power with all-wheel drive, you’re going to pay $2500 above base. That’s one of the heftiest AWD surcharges on the market. With AWD, the Chrysler is rated at 18-mpg city and 27-mpg highway for a combined 21-mpg.
Across the lineup, all 2015 Chrysler 300s get electronic power steering. Drivers can select among three settings: sport, normal and comfort. New for 2015, the “Sport” button enables sport-tuned steering; pedal, engine and transmission calibration; plus rear-biased torque on AWD models for more dynamic handling
Not all of the focus is on performance with the 2015 Chrysler 300. The 300 continues the styling cues first introduced on the smaller Chrysler 200 sedan earlier this year. It’s been redesigned with a focus on getting some of its mojo back.
When the modern version of the Chrysler 300 was introduced in 2005 it was a big, stunning car with a bold design. Chrysler execs admit it lost those “epic proportions” when it was restyled for 2011. Now the design once again embraces the “go big or go home” philosophy that made the 300 a hit.
Brandon Faurote, head of Chrysler design, said the focus is on a bolder front fascia with a grill that is 33 percent bigger than the 2014 model. It still lacks the boldness of the 2005 version, but the design is heading in the right direction.
Where Chrysler really gets it right is with the rear design. From the side view, the trunk gets a lift to give it more of a compact look and the rear spoiler lip adds a sporty flair. The dual exhaust tips are more horizontal and the tail lamps are more vertical with the stop function in the middle and surrounded by bright rings. It adds a more formal feel to the design.
The interior is well designed but the rotary transmission shifter feels like a miscue. Chrysler promotes it as modern but it lacks the substantive feel one expects from a transmission shifter.
However, the rest of the interior design is nothing short of brilliant. The 7-inch instrument panel features clean, crisp graphics. It sits behind a steering wheel with controls situated horizontally along the center spoke.
Heating and cooling controls are easily adjusted on the go in the center stack. Sure, you have to click through a couple screens to heat and cool your seats but that’s not a deal breaker.
The rest of the uConnect system is intuitive and easy to navigate. It’s a user interface that embraces the time tested philosophy of “Keep it simple stupid.” Too many manufacturers “smarten” up their infotainment systems beyond the simple comprehension required when driving.
Safety improvements for 2015 include adaptive cruise control with full stop up to two seconds. Forward collision warning plus offers alerts both visual and audible. The 300 will also brake without input in certain conditions. Under 20 mph the system brings it to a complete stop.
The most-used piece of technology ultimately might be the optional remote start. Download the app and your smartphone becomes your car keys. Just remember to lock your phone to keep it away from your kids.
Pricing for the 2015 Chrysler 300 Limited starts at $31,395 and works its way up to the fully loaded 300C starting at $42,395. Most buyers will be in the Limited segment and that’s a good place to be.
Wheelbase: 120.2 in.
Length: 198.6 in.
Width: 75.0 in.
Height: 58.7 in.
Curb weight: 4326 lbs.
Engine: 5.7-liter V8
Horsepower: 363 @ 5,200 rpm
Torque: 394 @ 4,200 rpm
EPA estimated mpg city/highway: 16-city/25-highway/19-combined
Base price: $38,990
As-tested price: $46,275
Also consider: (a comparative vehicle) Chevrolet SS, Ford Taurus, Nissan Maxima