2006 300C New Car Test Drive
When it debuted as a 2005 model, the Chrysler 300 revived the long-dormant tradition of the full-size, high-style American performance car. While a 2.7-liter V6 was standard, and a 3.5-liter V6 optional, the engine that grabbed the headlines was the top-tier 5.7-liter Hemi V8 developing 340 horsepower.
The 300's namesake and inspiration, the original Chrysler C-300 of 1955, was one of the defining members of the big-muscle breed, powered by the original edition of Chrysler's famous hemispherical-head V8 known as the Hemi. With 300 horsepower from dual four-barrel carburetors and a solid-lifter cam, the C-300 achieved early fame as one of the most powerful automobiles built by Detroit. It won the NASCAR championship in its first year out, and set top speed records on the beach at Daytona.
Later 300s featured bigger Hemi engines and better-handling chassis. And now Chrysler is following this tradition, too. Released in the spring of 2005, the 2006 Chrysler 300 SRT8 upped the Hemi ante with 6.1 liters of displacement, 425 horsepower, and a chassis tuned for grand touring.
Meanwhile, Chrysler announced more than a dozen refinements across the 300 model range for 2006, including new colors, new special editions, higher levels of standard equipment, and a new DVD entertainment option integrated into the center console.
The Chrysler 300 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.
A Chrysler 300 with a 2.7-liter V6 retailed for the low price of $24,450 including destination. You can't put any new car in your driveway that looks more expensive 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, the sweet-sounding exhaust note coming from subtle pipes under the rear bumper. The 340-hp 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 of $34,400, it's a deal.
Along with the new Dodge Charger, the 300 is the first big, rear-wheel-drive sedan to come out of Chrysler in many years, replacing the front-wheel-drive LH line which, in one form or another, had served Chrysler since 1993. Back then, there were engineering cases for front-wheel drive, including reduced manufacturing costs and more efficient packaging. But the way Chrysler sees it, more prosperous times call for more performance-oriented cars, and rear-wheel drive remains much better than front-wheel drive for managing horsepower.
New technology has also helped the case for rear-wheel drive. Traction control, electronic stability programs, anti-lock brakes, and electronic brake distribution all improve the driver's ability to control the car. One of the most oft-touted 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 2005, and the 300 received excellent reviews.
All-wheel drive is available for drivers who want more traction.
Four engines are available in the 2006 Chrysler 300: 2.7-liter and 3.5-liter V6s, and 5.7 and 6.1-liter Hemi V8s. Trim levels are keyed to engine size.
The base Chrysler 300 ($23,775) comes with a 2.7-liter double-overhead-cam V6 making 190 horsepower and 190 pound-feet of torque, and rated 21/28 EPA miles per gallon. It's mated to a four-speed automatic transmission, refined this year for smoother shifting. Cloth interior with an eight-way power driver's seat are standard, along with solar window glass.
The new Great American Package ($1,435), available only on this base model, enhances safety with antilock brakes, emergency brake assist, electronic stability program and traction control, front and rear side-curtain airbags, and heated mirrors; plus comfort, convenience, and appearance features including a 6-CD changer with MP3 capability, carbon-trimmed instrument panel, and 17-inch machined-face wheels.
The 300 Touring ($27,825) uses a 3.5-liter single-overhead-cam V6 making 250 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque, rated19/27 miles per gallon on recommended 89 octane (87 acceptable). The 300 Touring also adds on the goodies: leather interior, 17-inch machined-face aluminum wheels, and fog lamps. Antilock brakes with emergency brake assist, electronic stability program and traction control are also standard. Touring is also available with all-wheel drive ($29,825), which includes a five-speed automatic transmission with semi-manual AutoStick control.
The new 300 Walter P. Chrysler Signature Series ($30,065) adds two-tone leather upholstery with special interior trim, Sirius Satellite Radio with a one-year subscription, GPS navigation, and a 276-watt Boston Acoustics stereo with 6-CD/MP3 player. AWD is not available.
The 300 Limited ($30,820) also begins with Touring equipment but adds chrome wheels, heated front seats, power passenger seat, automatic headlamps, automatic temperature control, Sirius Satellite Radio and electronic vehicle information center. AWD is available ($32,120) and again upgrades the automatic transmission from four speeds to five.
The 300C brings the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 mated to the five-speed automatic with AutoStick, in both rear-wheel ($33,725) and all-wheel-drive ($35,050) versions. Also standard are 18-inch chrome wheels, dual exhaust, projector low-beam headlamps, a premium leather interior and, new for 2006, power adjustable pedals. 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.
The 300C Heritage Edition (price NA) features SmartBeam intelligent headlamps (which automatically adjust brightness for driving conditions), a 368-watt Boston Acoustics stereo, and additional exterior chrome.
The SRT8 ($39,920) tops the 300 pecking order. This is a true high-performance sedan, in the mode of BMW's M models or Mercedes' AMG brand, and it features loads of performance tweaks, unique design features and most of the luxury gear. The SRT8's centerpiece is a 425-hp, 6.1-liter Hemi V8.
Stand-alone 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, power adjustable pedals, premium sound system, GPS Navigation system, SIRIUS satellite radio, sunroof, walnut interior accents and Xenon high-intensity headlamps. Higher-level models can be ordered with a DVD entertainment system integrated into the center console.