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2013 Chrysler 300 Test Drive Review
From the size and responsiveness of the screen to the graphics and intuitive user experience, Uconnect 8.4 should serve as an industry standard among infotainment systems.
Luxury doesn't get much more affordable than a Chrysler 300, and while it's not the most refined sedan you can buy, it sure delivers serious bang for the buck no matter which trim you choose. Stylish and safe, roomy and comfortable, technologically advanced yet deliciously retro, the Chrysler 300 deserves greater consideration, especially in light of price discounts.
Look and Feel
Out of 10
Chrysler democratized luxury for the masses with the 2005 300, a full-size sedan built on Mercedes-Benz mechanicals, styled to look like a Bentley, and priced within reach of a working-class family. Needless to say, it was an instant hit.
In 2011, Chrysler restyled and refined the 300, retaining its characteristic chopped-roof look and faux-Bentley design cues while modernizing the powertrains, infotainment and safety technology, and interior materials.
Now, for 2013, the Chrysler 300 gets standard leather seats and an 8.4-inch color touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth hands-free calling and music streaming. The 300S trims receive a slight power increase and can be equipped with a black-painted roof option this year. Chrysler also debuts new Motown, Glacier, John Varvatos and SRT Core special-edition models for 2013.
Our test sample was the 300 Motown, a cosmetic package added to the base model. It includes 20-inch chrome wheels, extra chrome trim, a unique grille, heated outside mirrors and upgraded suspension tuning. Inside, the 300 Motown features Pearl White premium leather with perforated inserts and black trim, Piano Black and Black Olive Ash wood-tone interior trim, Satin Silver cabin accents, and a USB stick pre-loaded with 100 Motown hits.
Upgrades to our Jazz Blue test car included a navigation system, a panoramic glass sunroof, and the Power and Sound Group, containing a Beats Audio system, a reversing camera, a power front passenger’s seat, remote engine start, a universal garage door opener, fog lights and more. Options increased the price from $34,340 to $38,325, including the $995 destination charge.
I’m a fan of the Chrysler 300’s crisp, creased, showy exterior styling, in particular the swollen front fender arches, the C-shaped LED running lights, the big 20-inch wheels and the custom-looking greenhouse. The design cues might appear to be cheap knockoffs of aspirational British motor cars, but just as Timex regularly lands on best-watch lists in the pages of Esquire magazine, so too does this flashy and affordable Chrysler make its owners look good on a budget.
Out of 10
Every 2013 Chrysler 300 except for the SRT Core and SRT8 come standard with a 3.6-liter V6 engine, an 8-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is optional, equipped with an active transfer case and a front-axle disconnect system to better conserve fuel.
The V6 is rated to generate 292 hp at 6,350 rpm and 260 lb-ft of torque at 4,800 rpm, unless it is installed in the 300S model, which has a cold-air induction system and a sport-tuned exhaust that delivers 300 hp. Fuel economy ranges from 18 mpg in the city with AWD to 31 mpg on the highway with rear-wheel drive.
A 5.7-liter V8 is optional for all models except the standard 300, the Motown, the SRT Core and the SRT8. It generates 363 hp at 6,300 rpm and 394 lb-ft of torque at 4,200 rpm. A 5-speed automatic transmission is standard, AWD is optional, and this Hemi V8 is equipped with Fuel Saver Technology designed to operate the engine on 4 of its 8 cylinders in order to conserve fuel. As a result, the V8 returns 25 mpg on the highway with rear-wheel drive. City mileage rates 15 mpg with AWD.
The performance-oriented 300 SRT Core and SRT8 models get a 6.4-liter Hemi V8 cranking 470 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels through a 5-speed automatic. AWD is not available. However, and try hard not to laugh, this engine does come with Fuel Saver Technology. The SRT models burn premium unleaded at the rate of 14/23.
Unless you’ve absolutely got to have a Hemi, stick with the standard V6 engine. It supplies quick acceleration accompanied by decent fuel economy and is only occasionally caught with its pants down when the 8-speed automatic is lazily spinning in an upper gear and you make a modest part-throttle request for additional acceleration. Be decisive, and the powertrain will respond.
Though the 300’s structure is aging, this remains a solid car, one that feels firmly planted to the road a majority of the time. Sharp bumps reverberate through the structure and the steering column, but the rest of the time the touring-tuned suspension filters the worst of road zits. Ride quality is surprisingly good given the Motown’s meaty 245/45R20 all-season tires, which, combined with the car’s nearly perfect 52/48 front-to-rear weight distribution and impressive suppression of body roll, make the 300 surprisingly athletic.
Although this Chrysler can grip the pavement in a corner, the steering is on the slow and vague side, outward visibility isn’t terrific, and on the narrow, winding roads laced atop the foothills of Santa Barbara County, the bulky 300 proved itself dimensionally challenged. This is a cruiser, more at home on the highway, in the city, or on grand, sweeping curves that can be taken with speed.
Dynamically, the most aggravating aspect of the 300 is also the newest thing about the car: the E-Shifter transmission gear selector. This wasn’t my first E-Shifter rodeo, yet I often found myself in Neutral rather than Drive or in Park instead of Reverse. Most of the time this was simply a nuisance, but during one 3-point turn on a hilly road up in the hills, the E-Shifter’s aggravating interface inspired genuine panic that some Santa Barbara local in a mint Jag E-Type might come screaming around the nearest corner and slam into the Chrysler while I tried to figure out how to get it into Reverse.
If you’re wondering, I averaged 20.4 mpg during my week with the 300, well below the EPA’s combined fuel economy rating of 23 mpg for this powertrain.
Form and Function
Out of 10
A 2013 Chrysler 300 without any options starts at $31,340, but includes heated leather seats, dual-zone automatic climate control with a humidity sensor and air filtration, an 8.4-inch color touchscreen infotainment system, a 12-way power driver’s seat, Keyless Go with push-button ignition, LED interior lighting, LED running lights, aluminum wheels and more. Not bad, especially after always-available rebates are sliced off the dealer invoice price.
Because the 300 is positioned as an affordable luxury car, options for all versions, except the standard 300 and the 300 Motown, include features such as heated and cooled cupholders, a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, a power rear sunshade, a power tilt/telescopic steering wheel, power adjustable pedals and a number of information, entertainment and safety technologies. The 300 Luxury and John Varvatos models get premium leather and hand-sanded matte wood trim to glam up the cabin, an effort that has landed the 300 on an industry bellwether list for the best interiors on the market.
My test car did not have this extended leather treatment or real wood trim, revealing that vehicles without it reflect their price point in terms of cabin materials. While storage areas are lined to quell vibration and the car’s headliner looks good, the materials stand in stark contrast to the Motown version’s supple Nappa leather upholstery. Upper dashboard and door padding is soft, but the lower plastic panels and the way some storage covers operate lack refinement.
In a nation with alarming obesity rates, the 300’s roomy interior and big, wide seats are likely to find favor with folks who enjoy food. Plus, power seat height adjusters raise them to a level that makes it very easy to slide into and out of a Chrysler 300. The rear seat is tighter in terms of legroom than might be expected, and hard plastic front seatback trim can be unkind to the shins of longer-limbed rear passengers.
Trunk space is generous at 16.3 cubic feet, but the Beats Audio subwoofer takes up some of that space. A cargo net holds plastic grocery sacks in place, and a cargo hook is affixed to the left side of the trunk for the same purpose. The trunk’s hinges are enclosed, so there’s no need to worry about crushing luggage, and a 60/40-split-folding rear seat expands cargo room as is necessary.
Out of 10
There is greater technical sophistication to a Chrysler 300 than many people realize. Every version is equipped with a Uconnect 8.4 touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth hands-free calling and music streaming, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio input jack, a USB port, an SD card input and voice recognition technology. Buyers can upgrade this system with navigation, a Beats Audio system developed by rap artist Dr. Dre, or a Harman Kardon premium audio system.
My car had navigation and the Beats Audio system, and while I can’t vouch for how Kanye might sound over those speakers, my daughters gave ‘em a workout using Kelly Clarkson and Taylor Swift.
I’m a big fan of Chrysler’s Uconnect 8.4 system. From the size and responsiveness of the screen to the graphics and intuitive user experience, Uconnect 8.4 should serve as an industry standard among infotainment systems. Equipped with a large screen, crisp displays and friendly menus, responsive touch control and simple Bluetooth pairing, I have absolutely no problem finding what I’m looking for and making it work like it is supposed to. You might call Uconnect 8.4 a miracle.
Add this excellent infotainment system to the long list of genuinely useful safety systems that are available for the Chrysler 300, and I give this car high marks for technology.
Out of 10
In addition to the Uconnect technology, and depending on the trim level and options selected by the buyer, the Chrysler 300 is offered with numerous safety upgrades. They include front and rear parking assist sensors, a reversing camera and a suite of safety technologies in the form of Blind Spot Detection, Cross-Path Detection, Adaptive Forward Lighting System, Automatic High-Beam Headlights and Adaptive Speed Control with Forward Collision Warning.
These safety features complement the standard airbag package with a knee airbag for the driver, the traction and stability control system, and the antilock braking system, which is equipped with brake assist, Ready Alert Braking and Rain Brake Support.
If this list of standard and optional safety features doesn’t convince you that the Chrysler 300 is a safe car, check out its crash-test ratings. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the 300 a 5-star overall crash-test rating, the highest possible score. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says this car is a Top Safety Pick.
Out of 10
Chrysler dealers regularly discount the 300, and as this review is written in August of 2013, buyers can choose zero-percent financing for 60 months and a $750 rebate, or a $3,250 rebate. Subtract those from the invoice price, and the 300 delivers strong value in terms of transaction price.
When it comes time to sell a Chrysler 300, the car is expected to do an average job of holding its value, meaning it’s a good idea to care well for the car and resist the urge to modify it. Reliability is average for models with the V6 engine, while versions with the V8 engine do not impress their owners in this regard. The V6 engine also delivers better fuel economy, leading us to conclude that this year’s decision to make the V6 standard in nearly every trim was a wise one.
Christian Wardlaw has nearly two decades of experience reviewing cars, and has served in editorial leadership roles with Edmunds, Autobytel, and J.D. Power and Associates. Chris prefers to focus on the cars people actually buy rather than the cars about which people dream, and emphasizes the importance of fuel economy and safety as much as how much fun a car is to drive. Chris is married to an automotive journalist, is the father of four daughters, and lives in Southern California.
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