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trinacriabob

Test drive: Chrysler 300

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Yesterday, I had to do an administrative errand that involved some important paperwork and traveling between Northern California and Northern Nevada. So, I went on-line and rented an ECONOMY car from one of the majors.

Upon arriving at the lot, there were no $ 18.99 economy cars, so I knew an upgrade was in order for the same price. The people in front of me were given a Jeep but I wanted something with an actual trunk, so the lady gave me a base model Chrysler 300.

Now, I've probably posted before that I am quite disenchanted with the styling of most Chrysler products...and the 300 is no exception. I don't like the grille, the greenhouse and the squatty proportions. I got inside and got myself organized.

Kudos to the bucket seats that suited me beatifully. Not too bolstered and not too flat, I was able to live in them for the round-trip of 339 miles with no fatigue. That was great. The dash is sensible, as is the center stack. Everything is fairly predictable and one learns to operate the items in the center stack rather quickly. Additional kudos for less of a blind-spot than anticipated, especially with the thickness of the C-pillar. The seating position is also advantageous. However, the top of the dash cowl is unusually deep, or wide, and the continuation of this plane onto the hood makes it seem more like a truck or SUV. The high and flat hood plane just felt weird.

On the minus side, there did not appear to be an automatic door locking feature. The pale green bezel illumination at night with dark gray indicators was not at all pleasing...maybe better in a mental hospital. The cruise control stalk was downright bizarre and no match for the user friendliness of those found on GM products. Lastly, the operation of the power seats, again, couldn't hold a candle to those in a GM car. The movements that the switch allowed for seemed to have limited range and didn't allow for much "blending."

Driving the 300 is a mixed bag. I returned home to pick up paperwork, so I popped the hood to see what powered this car. GOOD GOD...I couldn't believe it. It was a puny 2.7 litre DOHC V6...the same one that finds its way into some Sebrings/Stratuses. Fairly quiet at cruise, it is rather rambunctious when throttled...a little on the grainy side. The transmission is just OK. It seems like mine, with almost a quarter of a million miles, shifts more smoothly due to a better marriage to the engine. Here, the tranny seems to hunt a lot to keep the 2.7 litre engine operating at an optimum place. When you consider that each litre is about 60 cubic inches, this engine measures out to 162 cubic inches, give or take. Once I knew that, I could see why the transmission would downshift so often.

Handling feels secure. Again, a traditional mounting of the engine told me that this is a RWD car. So I immediately thought of Sixty-Eight Panther! I will admit that I too prefer a RWD car but my reason is the serviceability. (I truly would like for the Grand Prix, the LaCrosse or the Monte Carlo to have the styling and proportions that they do while being rear-wheel drive. However, when "the elements" are out there, the FWD comes in handy). I was expecting a handling bonus from the RWD, given the equal weight distribution. I did not detect one. In fact, on the road up to Tahoe and then back down the leeward side of the Sierra, when pushed hard in the mountain turns, the 300 did NOT seem to like it. Of the W-bodies, the Grand Prix, complete with its unequal FWD distribution, seems more up to the task of taking on the twisties. But, overall, it was a pleasant riding car with a very nice supple yet controlled ride at highway speeds.

The fuel economy was about 26 mpg over the 339 miles. This included about 85:15 highway:city as well as a gas guzzling climb from sea level to an altitude of 7,400 feet over Echo Summit on US 50.

My knee jerk reaction from Day One has been to hate this car. I no longer hate this car and wouldn't mind being upgraded into one in the future as the opportunity arises. Would I buy one? NO. The drive confirmed that there are other mid-size products better suited to me.

Edited by trinacriabob
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The cruise control stalk was downright bizarre and no match for the user friendliness of those found on GM products. Lastly, the operation of the power seats, again, couldn't hold a candle to those in a GM car.

That Cruise control is very strange, but it's from the E-Class so that is why. The LH models had far better cruise controls (steering wheel mounted). The seat adjusters...I can't remember if it was the Avenger or the 300C I was in but one of the two felt less substantial than those found in the LH cars.

GOOD GOD...I couldn't believe it. It was a puny 2.7 litre DOHC V6...the same one that finds its way into some Sebrings/Stratuses.

Uh, it's been the base engine since they debuted...so I dunno how you could be surprised :P

The 2.7L I have is very smooth and quiet most of the time bu sounds good under throttle too...the transmission also shifts perfectly..so I can't explain why they are different in the car you drove...aren't they the same transmission?

As far as handling and stuff...it'll probably be a more willing partner as a Touring or C model.

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Nice, thorough review. What did you think of the quality of the interior (you touched on some of it but I just wondered what your overall impression was)?

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Nice, thorough review. What did you think of the quality of the interior (you touched on some of it but I just wondered what your overall impression was)?

Mine was the base model. The interior layout was practical and reasonably well assembled. I detected few, if any, fit and finish issues. The overall dashboard design was very generic in a "Main Street USA" kind of way and the materials used (the feel of the vinyl on the dash) were acceptable. It certainly wasn't the dash on something like a Grand Prix, or even a Monte Carlo, where it's unique to that car and not duplicated elsewhere. While the seats were very comfortable, I would have to say I did not care for the fabric as it was very "base model," but then, lately, a lot of the base model fabrics in a lot of cars aren't that nice to the touch.
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I'm in an 06 300 Touring right now. Since I'm in my first few miles, I haven't been able to form too many opinions, but I can tell a few things from my initial experience:

The interior is nicer than this board has given credit for. It's not class leading, but it ain't bad, with enough soft touch plastic, decent leather and good ergonomics. Only real dissappointment is the trunk, which had the carpeting all askew in a car with 15k miles. That carpeting also looks like the stuff they put under your home carpeting upon installation.

Oh, and in black, the car looks like a bad ass

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I'm in an 06 300 Touring right now. Since I'm in my first few miles, I haven't been able to form too many opinions, but I can tell a few things from my initial experience:

The interior is nicer than this board has given credit for. It's not class leading, but it ain't bad, with enough soft touch plastic, decent leather and good ergonomics. Only real dissappointment is the trunk, which had the carpeting all askew in a car with 15k miles. That carpeting also looks like the stuff they put under your home carpeting upon installation.

Oh, and in black, the car looks like a bad ass

The interior on the Touring and upper models is much nicer than the "base" 300, just due to the fact that the "base" 300 eliminates all of the chrome accents. This makes the "base interior look kinda cheap and monotone. I have a Touring 300 with the jade (green, not gray) interior, and I think it's really nice. People who ride in it always compliment on the interior.

The trunk carpeting will move around if you don't keep the Velcro attached where the trunk carpeting meets the back of the rear seat carpeting. Since yours was a rental, people have probably been putting all kinds of luggage in and out of the back....and since they don't care about it, they never reattach the Velcro.

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The interior on the Touring and upper models is much nicer than the "base" 300, just due to the fact that the "base" 300 eliminates all of the chrome accents. This makes the "base interior look kinda cheap and monotone. I have a Touring 300 with the jade (green, not gray) interior, and I think it's really nice. People who ride in it always compliment on the interior.

The trunk carpeting will move around if you don't keep the Velcro attached where the trunk carpeting meets the back of the rear seat carpeting. Since yours was a rental, people have probably been putting all kinds of luggage in and out of the back....and since they don't care about it, they never reattach the Velcro.

Not a rental, a trade-in, but you're 100% right about the trunk. I got a second look tonight and it is velcro...carpet's still cheap, but I'm a big fan of the 300, in the 14 or so mi. I've put on it. I generally get haches or SUV's as my company ride, but the dog doesn't have plans with us this weekend, so I figured I'd grab the 300.
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I'm in an 06 300 Touring right now. Since I'm in my first few miles, I haven't been able to form too many opinions, but I can tell a few things from my initial experience:

The interior is nicer than this board has given credit for. It's not class leading, but it ain't bad, with enough soft touch plastic, decent leather and good ergonomics. Only real dissappointment is the trunk, which had the carpeting all askew in a car with 15k miles. That carpeting also looks like the stuff they put under your home carpeting upon installation.

Oh, and in black, the car looks like a bad ass

i got the same impression of the interior when i sat in one at an auto show a while back. and i still think the 300, in certain colors, and especially in black, looks bad ass.
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I've always thought it was insane that Chrysler has the 2.7L engine in the heavy 300 series, even if it is in the base model. Reminds me of the 1979-'81 R-bodies (Plymouth Gran Fury, Dodge St. Regis and Chrysler Newport/New Yorker) that came with the 225 Slant Six. But at least that engine had a modicum of torque down low in the RPM range.

It seems to me that many Chrysler products are becoming "under-engined". The 2.7L in the base 300 (and Magnum wagon) is an example. So is the upcoming larger & heavier next-gen minivans that will come standard with the aging 3.3L V6--a good, durable engine that is already on the verge of being overworked in my '06 SWB Caravan. And with the new Sebring, you've got to order up to the "Limited" level in order to get the desirable 3.5L V6--and it's STILL an option at that point.

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My knee jerk reaction from Day One has been to hate this car. I no longer hate this car and wouldn't mind being upgraded into one in the future as the opportunity arises. Would I buy one? NO. The drive confirmed that there are other mid-size products better suited to me.

Mid-size? Um, no. The 300 is a full sized sedan.

The Sebring is the midsized one.

Maybe you should try driving a model other than the cheapie/rental. Like oh, um, I don't know... the 300C with the V8.

The 300 is one of the most if not the ONLY daring sedan to appear out of Detroit recently. Chrysler's cars may no longer be beautiful, but they can still be eye catching (even if it is in a bad way).

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I've always thought it was insane that Chrysler has the 2.7L engine in the heavy 300 series, even if it is in the base model. Reminds me of the 1979-'81 R-bodies (Plymouth Gran Fury, Dodge St. Regis and Chrysler Newport/New Yorker) that came with the 225 Slant Six. But at least that engine had a modicum of torque down low in the RPM range.

It seems to me that many Chrysler products are becoming "under-engined". The 2.7L in the base 300 (and Magnum wagon) is an example. So is the upcoming larger & heavier next-gen minivans that will come standard with the aging 3.3L V6--a good, durable engine that is already on the verge of being overworked in my '06 SWB Caravan. And with the new Sebring, you've got to order up to the "Limited" level in order to get the desirable 3.5L V6--and it's STILL an option at that point.

Somewhat, but for fleet duty and lots of rentals, you'd be surprised how well it does. Not a road burner by any means, and definitely suffers from the Chrysler 4-spd syndrome of not having the best gear ratio sorting, but it all does the job quite well and is pretty economical in the process.

The base models are, though, for the most part clearly meant for a lot of fleet use and not as many regular buyers, with the hubcaps, softer suspension, and also as mentioned the downgraded cabin--which, without the chrome or silver details, really does go down a few notches but is still not bad.

The 3.5L does very well and is a nice bump up, especially since getting the MB 5-speed which helps it work much better than in past times, and the 5.7L & 6.1L's are self explanatory.

That's probably one of the best parts about the car--the huge assortment of models and options available. FWD, RWD, base with cloth, mid level V6 with leather and either a few or a lot of options, V8 trimmed with everything, etc., all retaining the same basic cool look and great driving nature.

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Chrysler's cars may no longer be beautiful, but they can still be eye catching (even if it is in a bad way).

And that's exactly the point. While I thought it was definitely a pleasant car (even with the 2.7 litre engine), it's the styling that takes it out of the conteder list for potential purchase.

I design(ed) things for a living (up to 2 months ago), though not cars. I require a car that is aesthetically very balanced and pleasing to the eye. The 300 and Chargers do not qualify, IMO. On the other hand, when I see a new GP drive down the street, or the new MC with the updated 2006 + front end, I take note. To me, those are good-looking cars! And they are mechanically sound, as well.

Plus, most of us here are rabid GM fans!

Edited by trinacriabob
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And that's exactly the point. While I thought it was definitely a pleasant car (even with the 2.7 litre engine), it's the styling that takes it out of the conteder list for potential purchase.

I design(ed) things for a living (up to 2 months ago), though not cars. I require a car that is aesthetically very balanced and pleasing to the eye. The 300 and Chargers do not qualify, IMO. On the other hand, when I see a new GP drive down the street, or the new MC with the updated 2006 + front end, I take note. To me, those are good-looking cars! And they are mechanically sound, as well.

Plus, most of us here are rabid GM fans!

I must respectfully disagree since I've never found the current generation Monte Carlo to be remotely attractive...and the only thing that looks good about it now is the front end. The GP is alright but somewhat of a step back from the previous gen's styling. To each his own of course. :)

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Cool, nice review.

Marcia rented a 3.5 powered 300 Touring last summer.

I returned it for her sunday night, but not before XP &

I did some "wheelspin testing" in it after turning off the

traction control. Let's just say it did very well.

We added about 2 miles on the car's odometer without

actually moving an inch. :metal:

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And that's exactly the point. While I thought it was definitely a pleasant car (even with the 2.7 litre engine), it's the styling that takes it out of the conteder list for potential purchase.

I design(ed) things for a living (up to 2 months ago), though not cars. I require a car that is aesthetically very balanced and pleasing to the eye. The 300 and Chargers do not qualify, IMO. On the other hand, when I see a new GP drive down the street, or the new MC with the updated 2006 + front end, I take note. To me, those are good-looking cars! And they are mechanically sound, as well.

Plus, most of us here are rabid GM fans!

To me, the GP and MC's proportions really hurt their styling (overhangs, etc.) Additionally, to me, the GP and MC look like caricatures of sporty cars......not "stylish" to my eyes.

I've been pretty impressed each time I've been in an LX car with my longest period being with a Magnum R/T Hemi as a rental.

The LX cars are nice because you can take a base model, throw some "bling" wheels and tires on it, and it lhas some real presence. GM's base midsize cars are nowhere near as adaptable from a stylish standpoint.

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The LX cars are nice because you can take a base model, throw some "bling" wheels and tires on it, and it lhas some real presence. GM's base midsize cars are nowhere near as adaptable from a stylish standpoint.

And, dude, I agree with you often but not this time. To me, these cars say "Gotham City" caricature. They are such a "period niche" product that they will not hold up for the long haul in terms of styling. Then, I don't think any of the available powertrains (especially trannies) are as long lived as their GM counterparts in the cars we refer to.
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And, dude, I agree with you often but not this time. To me, these cars say "Gotham City" caricature. They are such a "period niche" product that they will not hold up for the long haul in terms of styling. Then, I don't think any of the available powertrains (especially trannies) are as long lived as their GM counterparts in the cars we refer to.

Failed engines and trannies in GM vehicles isn't exactly unheard of. I've heard a fair share of stories about replaced trannies and blown engines. Also, how do you know they won't hold up? For all we know...in 20-30 years they could be remembered as one of the few cars that had styling that wasn't jelly-bean or wannabe Japanese. Can you see the future? (if so tell me the winning lottery numbers :P) They will also hold up because of their powertrain choices (excluding the 2.7L) and the fact that they are RWD when most of the competition was/is FWD. The styling isn't for everyone (which is fine), but at the same time it won't be forgotten.

Edited by Dodgefan
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And, dude, I agree with you often but not this time. To me, these cars say "Gotham City" caricature. They are such a "period niche" product that they will not hold up for the long haul in terms of styling. Then, I don't think any of the available powertrains (especially trannies) are as long lived as their GM counterparts in the cars we refer to.

I like the styling..they are distinctive and will hold up, I think...unlike GM's W-bodies--the bland styling of which are instantly forgotten.

A friend of mine once described a certain era of GM styling (refering to the FWD A-, J-, N- bodies) as so bland that you could misplace one in an empty parking lot.. :)

Edited by moltar
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I like the styling..they are distinctive and will hold up, I think...unlike GM's W-bodies--the bland styling of which are instantly forgotten.

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the 2.7 exists because of Europe. Just like the 2.8 in the CTS.

I got a Magnum SXT loaner for tonight and tomorrow (3.5v6 4 spd) so I am noting all the comments here and will compare notes. i started a similar thread.

I agree with a lot of what Bob is saying. Especially the 'Gotham City' part and the whole idea of its kinda neat but i sure as heck wouldn't buy one. It's a period piece, big time. I should have more clear ideas tomorrow. There is just too much amiss with these RWD chryslers.

I enjoyed driving the Edge and Acadia more than I did the magnum.

Edited by regfootball
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I like the styling..they are distinctive and will hold up, I think...unlike GM's W-bodies--the bland styling of which are instantly forgotten.

A friend of mine once described a certain era of GM styling (refering to the FWD A-, J-, N- bodies) as so bland that you could misplace one in an empty parking lot.. :)

Sort of like most of todays cookie cutter FWD Asian sedans and Korean knockoffs.

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I like the styling..they are distinctive and will hold up, I think...unlike GM's W-bodies--the bland styling of which are instantly forgotten.

A friend of mine once described a certain era of GM styling (refering to the FWD A-, J-, N- bodies) as so bland that you could misplace one in an empty parking lot.. :)

Which is why I still love theLX cars. Love `em or hate `em...you'll never misake a Charger for a Camry or Taurus.

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I've always liked the 300, even the last generation. Kudos to Chrysler for making something destinctive. Whether one hates the look or loves it, it generates discussion about the styling and the company.

Although I think it is a mistake to have the 300 pull double duty (under $30k and over $40k - Canadian, boys and girls!!), it wouldn't be a new way of doing things. My father had a '69 300 and the differences between the 300 and the Newport Custom at the time were mostly in engine size, seat cloth/vinyl and the grille, so there is a history to this.

I like the current Impala/Monte Carlo, but they are more conservative in nature, which is GM's culture, for sure. However, I doubt you will find many people who would say the Impala/Monte are UGLY (non-descript, bland, perhaps, but not ugly); whereas, I've met lots of people who strongly dislike the current 300. I don't view that as a bad thing. As a perennial "also-ran," Chrysler needs to be noticed. Their marketing has always been done to a different beat. GM, however, has illusions about catching the Camry and believes that can't be done by taking risks.

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V6-powered, I'd take the Impala. V8-powered, I'd take the 300C!

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