Pros: Available V8 power and all-wheel drive; top-notch interior; big backseat; stellar 8.4-inch touchscreen interface; distinctive looks; highly customizable
Cons: Outdated 5-speed automatic with V8 hampers fuel economy; outward vision can be limited
What's New: Revised model lineup, each with leather seating standard on all models; numerous limited edition models
The full-size, rear-wheel drive 2013 Chrysler 300 is a rare breed of car. There are a handful of true competitors but they include the Ford Taurus, Hyundai Azera, Nissan Maxima, Toyota Avalon and 2014 Chevrolet Impala. However, the Chrysler 300 is a little classier and offers distinctive, square-jawed, all-American styling, confident handing, a smooth and efficient standard V6 combined with a state of the art 8-speed automatic transmission, creature comforts galore and cutting-edge cabin technology.
No matter how pleasant the 300 is with its standard V6, it doubles as a muscle sedan when equipped with Chrysler's stellar 363-horsepower 5.7-liter Hemi V8. Unfortunately, Hemi-equipped 300 models come with Chrysler's 5-speed automatic, but on the upside, all-wheel drive is available with the V6 as well as the 5.7-liter V8 -- a good thing for people who live in areas where it rains or snows a lot. And for serious performance sedan customers, the 300 is offered in SRT-8 form, with a massively powerful 6.4-liter V8 engine.
For 2013, Chrysler is offering several appealing special editions of the 300 that highlight its many unique styling and comfort options and accessories available through its Mopar subsidiary. These include the Glacier Edition, the John Varvatos Luxury Edition and the Motown Edition.
Comfort & Utility
The 2013 Chrysler 300 comes in four main trim levels: the base 300, 300S, 300C and 300C Luxury Series. The base model ($29,995) features standard leather seating surfaces with heated front seats, 17-in alloy wheels, LED daytime running lamps, keyless entry/ignition, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, iPod/USB/Bluetooth connectivity, a 6-speaker audio system and an 8.4-in touchscreen display.
The sport-flavored 300S ($32,995) rides on 20-in wheels, and has faster steering, darkened headlamps, body color accessories, piano black/faux carbon fiber interior trim and a 552-watt Beats by Dr. Dre audio system. A contrasting black painted roof is available, as is red leather interior trim. The standard V6 is upgraded to 300 hp, thanks to sport-tuned exhaust and cold air intake systems; and the 8-speed automatic has a sport shift mode for faster shift characteristics, as well as paddle shifters on the steering wheels.
The 300C ($35,995) features 18-in wheels, a rear window sunshade, rearview camera, navigation system, heated and ventilated front seats, Nappa leather seating surfaces, genuine wood trim, LED ambient lighting, a 6-speaker Alpine audio system and available options like adaptive cruise control and a 900-watt Harman Kardon sound system.
The 300C Luxury Series ($39,995) adds niceties like platinum chrome body accents, 20-in wheels, Nappa leather armrest and door trim, power-adjustable pedals, heated and cooled cupholders, Berber floormats, power tilt/telescopic steering column with a heated, leather-and-wood rim and available option packages with two-tone seats.
Highlights for the muscular SRT-8 ($48,995) include intensified styling, a ginormous 6.4-liter V8, performance steering, upgraded brakes, unique 20-in wheels with performance tires, a 2-mode electronically adjustable suspension, 3-mode stability control, genuine carbon fiber interior trim, leather-and-suede sport seats and access to the SRT track experience program.
The standard seats are comfortable, and for 2013 they all come standard with leather seating surfaces and are heated in front. The SRT-8's seats are the most supportive of all; pity they're not more widely available. Happily, every 300 is treated to high-quality cabin materials and a refined yet high-tech cockpit, including an outstanding 8.4-in touchscreen (see Technology below). The leather-wrapped dash in the Luxury Series is a treat, no doubt, but it is somewhat unnecessary with the standard layout being so nice.
Rear passengers in the 300 can be forgiven for thinking that they fell asleep and woke up in a full-size luxury car like a Lexus LS. Everything is right about the 300's rear quarters, from the high bottom cushion to the ample legroom. Headroom is limited for tall folks due to the squat rear roofline. Still, this is one of the best backseats you'll find at any price. The trunk is also pretty accommodating, checking in at 16.3 cu ft.
Chrysler has introduced several limited editions of the 300 for 2013, including the Glacier, John Varvatos and Motown Limited Editions, all offering unique designer-inspired color and equipment schemes. Also worth noting is the huge array of custom accessories available through the Mopar division, including grilles, wheels, interior upgrades and performance components that do not void the factory warranty.
Unlike the mechanically identical Dodge Charger, the Chrysler 300 comes standard with the company's outstanding 8.4-in touchscreen, which is like a pint-sized iPad in its graphics and ease of use. The optional navigation system is really just cheesy Garmin software, so that's a bit of a letdown, but otherwise this touchscreen is one of the best of its breed. The system is not equipped with a hard-drive, so you can't store digital music permanently, but the included SD-card reader teams up with the USB port to ensure that you'll have plenty of musical options in your ride.
Performance & Fuel Economy
The base and Limited trims feature a 3.6-liter V6 that puts out 292 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. An 8-speed automatic is standard with the V6 and has no trouble keeping the V6 in its rewarding sweet spot, while boosting fuel economy to 19 miles per gallon city/31 mpg highway. We like the 8-speed's stubby electronic shift lever, too.
For an additional $2,200, the 300S, 300C and Luxury Series models can be ordered with a 5.7-liter V8 that churns out 363 hp and 394 lb-ft of torque, while the SRT-8 really goes to town with a 6.4-liter V8 good for 470 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque. An aging 5-speed automatic with the foibles mentioned above is standard either way; at some point in the coming years, the V8s are expected to switch to the more modern transmission, but for 2013, that's what we get. But these V8s are so intoxicating -- especially the 6.4-liter engine -- that you might not care a whit about the transmission after one run through the gears. Hopefully, you won't care about fuel economy, either, as it's a mere 16 mpg city/25 mpg hwy with the 5.7 and 14 mpg city/23 mpg hwy with the 6.4.
A few other details: rear-wheel drive is standard on all 300 models, but all-wheel drive can be specified on all models except for the SRT-8, and with either engine. Fuel economy is a respectable 18 mpg city/27 mpg hwy for the V6 but just 15 mpg city/23 mpg hwy for the Hemi-equipped models.
The 2012 Chrysler 300 comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, and seven airbags (front, front side, driver knee, full-length side curtain).
Available on some 300 models is a SafetyTec package for $1,995 that includes adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning, parking sensors and rain-sensing wipers.
In government crash testing the 300 was basically perfect, garnering a 5-star overall rating marred only by a (perfectly acceptable) 4-star rollover rating. The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rated the 300 Good -- the highest possible rating -- in every category.
On the highway, the Chrysler 300 is a beast in the best way, steamrolling through miles like the Mercedes luxury sedans to which its suspension is distantly related. Road noise is barely present on most surfaces, and impacts feel distant and gentle. In corners, the 300 is a tale of two suspensions: the more compliant base setup on V6 models is noticeably softer, while the 300S's firmer underpinnings give it a surprising tenacity. The SRT-8, of course, is the ultimate 300, putting up performance numbers that would shame many sports cars. Just remember that the 300 is a large car, so it won't necessarily be your friend on tight back roads.
Other Cars to Consider
Dodge Charger: The mechanically identical Charger starts at $24,995, and represents a cheaper and brasher expression of the full-size, rear-wheel drive American sedan. It's less of a luxury car, for sure, but its in-your-face attitude might rub you the right way. Like the 300, the charger is available with all-wheel drive or as a super-fast SRT-8 version.
Hyundai Genesis: Starting at $34,200, the rear-wheel drive Genesis is probably the 300's closest competitor, offering V6 and V8 engines along with a similarly premium cabin. It doesn't have the same bold styling as the 300, but it does perform nearly as well.
Acura TL: Pricier versions of the 300 can exceed $40,000, and there are many capable rivals at that price. Starting at $35,905, the TL is just one among many. It is also available with all-wheel drive, and like the 300, comes with a commendable amount of standard features and only a few high-content option packages.
Chevrolet Impala: The new 2014 Impala is nothing like the previous car. It now has the look, feel and stance of a real luxury touring sedan. If you remember the Impala SS from the 1960s and like that vibe, you'll love the new Impala especially in LTZ V6 form. eAssist Impalas deliver good fuel economy for a large sedan.
The Chrysler 300 has two stellar engine options, available all-wheel drive and a vast array of available configurations ranging from a comfortable family sedan to high-performance super-sedan capable of keeping pace with Europe's finest. This is a truly special breed of American car that gets our recommendation in any of its many expressions.
What do you think of the new Chrysler 300? Let us know in the comments below.