2005 300C New Car Test Drive
For some time Chrysler has been threatening to re-invent the sedan back to the way it used to be. And now they've done it. The all-new 2005 Chrysler 300 is the first big rear-wheel-drive sedan to come out of Chrysler in many years. It replaces the front-wheel-drive LH line, which Chrysler has used for years. Back then, there were engineering cases for front-wheel drive, including reduced manufacturing costs and more compact packaging. But new technology has made rear-wheel drive preferable again. Traction control, electronic stability programs, anti-lock brakes, and electronic brake distribution all improve the driver's ability to control the car. And one thing hasn't changed: Rear-wheel drive is much better than front-wheel drive for managing horsepower. The 300C, which comes with a 340-horsepower Hemi V8, is too powerful for front-wheel drive.
The 300 might be a case of back to the future, but there's little that's retro about it, except maybe the giant grille, with a shape like the 1958 300C. The Chrysler 300 was introduced in 1955 with an engine having hemispherical combustion chambers, called the Hemi; it also had two four-barrel carburetors, and it achieved early fame as the most powerful engine built by Detroit, winning the NASCAR championship in its first year and setting top speed records on the beach at Daytona. There have been some successful Chrysler 300s along the way, but nothing to match the impact of the '55.
One of the advantages of front-wheel drive is traction in snow, but that too has been erased over the years. To prove the 300's traction and handling in snow, Chrysler invited automotive journalists to its testing facility on a frozen lake in Michigan's Upper Peninsula in early March, and the 300 received excellent reviews. All-wheel drive will be available for drivers who want more traction.
The Chrysler 300's styling is distinctive, and its interior is roomy, efficient and stylish. The instrument panel and switchgear are easy to read and operate. Pieces of Mercedes-Benz are slipping into Chrysler cars nowadays, and the 300C features a Mercedes-like steering wheel, leather under an arc of wood at the top.
While the 5.7-liter Hemi grabs the headlines, there are 2.7- and 3.5-liter V6 engines available. A standard Chrysler 300 with a 2.7-liter V6 can be had for the eye-popping low price of $23,595 including destination. You can't buy any new car that looks more expensive in your driveway for less. It's a large, modern, stylish, comfortable car for a small price. Better is the Touring model with leather, a powerful 3.5-liter V6 and all the latest active safety features.
With the 300C, it's all about the growl, a sweet-sounding exhaust note coming from subtle pipes under the rear bumper. The 340-horsepower Hemi has to carry 4046 pounds, so it won't run with a Corvette, but it is plenty fast, with a 0-60 time of 6.3 seconds, according to Chrysler. At the same time, the ride is smooth, solid and comfortable and the cabin is very quiet. With a base price less than $33,000, that's a killer car.
There are three engines available: a 2.7-liter V6, a 3.5-liter V6, and the 5.7-liter V8 Hemi. The base Chrysler 300 ($22,970) comes with a 2.7-liter double-overhead-cam V6 engine making 190 horsepower and 190 feet-pounds of torque, and getting 21/28 EPA miles per gallon. It's mated to a four-speed automatic transmission. Cloth interior with an eight-way power driver's seat is standard, along with solar window glass.
The 300 Touring ($26,770) uses a 3.5-liter single-overhead-cam V6 making 250 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque, 19/27 miles per gallon on recommended 89 octane (87 acceptable), with the same four-speed automatic transmission. The 300 Touring adds on the goodies: leather interior, aluminum 5-spoke wheels, fog lamps, and antilock brakes with emergency brake assist, electronic stability program and traction control.
The 300 Limited ($29,265) takes it one step further with chrome wheels, heated front seats, power passenger seat, automatic headlamps, automatic temperature control and electronic vehicle information center.
The 300C ($32,370) brings the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 mated to a five-speed automatic with AutoStick, 18-inch chrome wheels, dual exhaust, big brakes, projector low-beam headlamps, and a premium leather interior. It gets 17/25 mpg on 89 octane recommended (87 acceptable). It also has bigger and more powerful front brakes, because the engine is some 300 pounds heavier than the V6 and the car is considerably faster. The Hemi engine was brutally tested by Chrysler engineers, and is covered by Chrysler's 7-year/70,000-mile powertrain warranty.
Options include front and rear curtain airbags, Boston Acoustics premium sound system, air filtration, ultrasonic rear object detection, self-sealing tires, hands-free cellphone capability, adjustable pedals, premium sound system, GPS Navigation system, SIRIUS satellite radio, sunroof, walnut interior accents and Xenon high-intensity headlamps.