“Imported From Detroit.” Chrysler LLC may have gone through a lot in the past decade but their new slogan shows that the confidence is back. The other member of the Big Three isn’t out just yet and is ready to show the world why the big-bodied American sedan holds so much prestige and eminence. Gone are the pencil-pushing front wheel drive cars that were seen more often in rental car parking lots than driveways; replaced with full size rear wheel drive vehicles that exude American class. Here to take back a trophy from the Germans and Japanese is one of Chrysler’s shinning stars, the 2011 300 Limited.
Like the latest Dodge Charger we tested earlier, the 2011 Chrysler 300 rides on the second variant of the rear wheel drive LX platform. And just as the Charger went through its second generation changes, the 300 followed suit with a new body, new interior, new suspension and new drivetrains. Deep at its core, the 300 still rides on a modified version of a Mercedes-Benz chassis from the days of Daimler-Chrysler. This means that a fully independent, multi-link coil sprung suspension is utilized with slightly softer settings when compared to the Charger’s set up. On the outside, the same aura of class that made the first 300 so successful is present, but much more fresh. It is an excellent blend between retro and contemporary as the new front end features a rounder grille, LED head lights and a more mysterious face. Chrome accents galore litter the rest of the car but do not draw too much attention and never look gaudy. The added and oh-so-subtle trunk spoiler and rear LED tail lights finish off the car, which overall, looks classic. Add in the optional 20 inch wheels, and the 2011 300 is a presence-filled as ever.
In order to sample the other LX, we tested a 2011 300 Limited. Included in its $31,175 base price were features such as keyless entry with remote start, leather seats with heat and power adjustment up front, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, Sirius satellite radio and the Uconnect 8.4 inch touch screen. Added to our tester was the 27H package that included a $650 9 speaker, 506-watt stereo with subwoofer, $1,295 dual-pane panoramic sunroof, $795 Garmin supplied navigation with real-time updates, and $995 20 inch wheels with a touring-tuned suspension. Including destination charge, our 300 limited carried a final MSRP of $35,730. That price in itself is impressive considering the stuff that comes packed inside the 300, but being impressive on paper is entirely different from in practice.
An initial reaction to the 300 was, despite its striking outward appearance, to be just another car. The first generation carried way too many trim levels, meaning that rental car grade materials and engines were often found in older 300s. Just like the new Charger, Chrysler did away with that by reviving the interior and ditching two base V6 engines for one: the 3.6 liter Pentastar. New for 2011 and motivating Chrysler’s rebirth by finding work in most of its vehicles, this simple yet effective designed engine is a pure gem. Producing 292 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque, the Pentastar sings sweetly to its 6,500 rpm redline. This engine does make most of its power up top and despite being older, the five speed automatic found in the 2011 does the best job that it can do. Fuel mileage is good considering the 300’s size: 18 mpg in the city and 27 on the highway. We averaged 28 on the freeway and the car held speed rather easily. Sadly, low-end torque isn’t the Pentastar’s biggest strong point and if a buyer’s utmost concern is instantaneous rear wheel drive burnouts, then the optional 5.7 liter Hemi V8 should be considered.
For 2011, the cheapness of the interior is long gone, replaced with comfort, quality and style. Accompanying the familiar and easy to use dials and buttons found on the Charger is a level of elegance that almost shouldn’t be available at this price level. The fit and finish rivals its German and Japanese competitors and it takes the old thoughts about American car quality and tosses them in the trash can. The 300 does all of this while not blending in with any other manufacture: this is without a doubt a Chrysler. The Uconnect touch screen is, just as with the Charger, the best media controller on the market today. Easy to use is an understatement and the reaction time is top-notch. Add in the Limited’s premium, Alpine-sourced stereo with numerous aux inputs and the inside of the 300 is a place of envy.
This is finally what Chrysler wanted in the first place. The goal to recapture the joy and magic that filled their icons of the past and put the pleasure back into motoring has been attained with the new 300. In a world where premium luxury cruisers are being engineered with technology instead of passion, the Chrysler comes rolling into play. Vehicles of this caliber are starting to become rated solely on their horsepower-to-technology rating and seem to be loosing their grip on why this segment was so special in the first place. The new 300, with its spacious and timeless interior, noise-free ride and soft but ample suspension brings back the love previously felt in the 1950s and 60s. It urges people to get in and simply drive for no reason other than enjoyment.
Some of those initial thoughts regarding the Chrysler are officially gone. Instead of a nice looking rental car with a wheezy engine and sticky buttons, the drive delivered the same feedback only previously thought to be held by the Mercedes-Benz E Class and BMW 5 Series. But compared to the Germans, the American undercuts its competition by thousands making it one of the best bargains on the market today. The engine and transmission, though peaky, have plenty of power to satisfy and bring a smile to a driver’s face. The exterior is much cleaner than before and the 300s from the 1950s would be proud to have the 2011 parked alongside. The Limited package offers so much for the car that it almost shouldn’t be overlooked, adding just the right amount of flare to an already impressive package. Chrysler LLC needs to be proud as their 2011 300 Limited is truly, “Imported From Detroit.”
Photos: © Copyright 2011 Ossamah Shabbir