The 2014 Chrysler 300 is a rare breed. There are a handful of true competitors -- Ford Taurus, Hyundai Azera, Nissan Maxima, Toyota Avalon and 2014 Chevrolet Impala. However, the Chrysler 300 uses rear-wheel drive architecture, a departure from all rivals. It also 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.
What's New for 2014?
Following major updates for 2012 and minor updates last year, the 300 is unchanged for the 2014 model year.
What We Like
Available V8 power and all-wheel drive; top-notch interior; big back seat; stellar 8.4-inch touchscreen interface; distinctive looks; highly customizable
What We Don't
Outdated 5-speed automatic with V8 hampers fuel economy; outward vision can be limited
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 6-cylinder engine in its rewarding sweet spot while boosting fuel economy to 19 miles per gallon city/31 mpg hwy. 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. Fuel economy is a mere 16 mpg city/25 mpg hwy with the 5.7-liter, or 14 mpg city/23 mpg hwy with the 6.4-liter.
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 all-wheel-drive V6 300, but it's just 15 mpg city/23 mpg hwy for Hemi-powered all-wheel-drive models.
Standard Features & Options
The Chrysler 300 is available with five trim levels -- a base model, the 300S, the 300C, the 300C Luxury Series and the 300C SRT-8.
The base 300 ($31,500) 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 ($34,500) 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 ($37,500) 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 such as adaptive cruise control and a 900-watt Harman Kardon sound system.
The 300C Luxury Series ($42,000) adds niceties such as platinum chrome body accents, 20-in wheels, Nappa leather armrest and door trim, power-adjustable pedals, heated and cooled cupholders, Berber floor mats, power tilt/telescopic steering column with a heated, leather-and-wood rim and available option packages with 2-tone seats.
Highlights for the muscular SRT-8 ($45,500) include intensified styling, a huge 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.
Major options include a Harmon Kardon sound system and a panoramic sunroof, along with the Hemi V8 for 300S, 300C and 300C Luxury Series models.
The 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 rated the 300 Good -- the highest possible rating -- in every category.
Behind the Wheel
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.
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. 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 plenty of musical options.
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 performs 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 lot 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, from a comfortable family sedan to a 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.