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2005 Chrysler 300 Test Drive Review

With Bentley styling, Mercedes-Benz engineering, and a Buick price, the new 2005 Chrysler 300 is deserving of its instant hit status.

7.7 /10
Overall Score

In the 1990s, Chrysler Corporation introduced the world to what it called “cab-forward” design. Think short hood, short trunk, a daringly long roofline arc, and plenty of room inside for people and cargo. The Chrysler brand sold multiple variations of this theme: 300M, Concorde, LHS, and New Yorker.

Now, the all-new Chrysler 300 replaces those cars with a rear-wheel or all-wheel drive full-size sedan equipped with a V6 or a V8 engine. Thanks to the DaimlerChrysler union, the new 300 uses plenty of Mercedes-Benz engineering. And thanks to creative license, this big Chrysler has more than a passing resemblance to a Bentley.

Look and Feel

8/ 10

Blunt-nosed, chop-topped, and sharply creased, the 2005 Chrysler 300 resembles a street-legal concept car. Detailing recalls the Bentley Arnage, such as the bold grille that flows up and into a swollen hood, flanked by round headlamp elements beneath clear glass. The front fenders share flavoring with the Bentley Continental GT, while dramatic wheel arch flares and intricate aluminum alloy wheel designs convey luxury.

Once you get inside the Chrysler 300, the company’s attempt at affordable luxury is less compelling. Simulated wood shift knob and steering wheel trim, electroluminescent gauges, and silver dashboard trim are all that distinguish the 300 from a run-of-the-mill family sedan. The font selection for the gauges is, however, undeniably classy.


8/ 10

Chrysler offers a 190-horsepower, 2.7-liter V6 engine in the 300, but you’d do well to avoid it in favor of the more powerful and refined 250-hp 3.5-liter V6. Get the upscale Chrysler 300C, and the car is equipped with a satisfying 340-hp 5.7-liter “Hemi” V8. An automatic transmission powers the Chrysler’s rear wheels unless you choose all-wheel drive (AWD).

During the course of the model year, Chrysler debuted the 300 SRT8. Think Mercedes AMG, but for a Chrysler. In addition to performance tuning, the SRT8 adds a 425-hp 6.1-liter Hemi V8, transforming the car into a genuine luxury sport sedan.

It helps that Mercedes donates engineering elements from the previous-generation E-Class sedan, which helps the Chrysler 300 feel like a solid, secure, and supple German luxury car on the open road. The steering is a little light in terms of effort but supplies good feel and feedback, and the brakes are effective when it comes time to scrub some speed. With SRT8 trim, the big Chrysler goes around curves as well as it goes in a straight line.

Our favorite engine would be either of the Hemi V8s, but most people will be happy with the punchy 3.5-liter V6, which offers the best combination of acceleration and efficiency. Skip the wheezy 2.7-liter if you know what’s good for you.

Form and Function

9/ 10

Though it has a small greenhouse, the Chrysler 300 is big and roomy inside. Oversized front seats are more like thrones, and both the driver and front passenger sit up high with a good view out—unless you’re trying to see an overhead traffic light and you’ve pulled too close to the intersection.

Rear seat space is equally appealing, but the 300’s 15.6 cubic-foot trunk measures on the small side for what is a full-size car. Interior storage is generous, with bins and trays just about anywhere they’ll fit. Clearly, Chrysler designers have been on long road trips before.

Multiple versions of the car are available: standard, Touring, Signature Series, Limited, 300C, and 300 SRT8. As you move up the trim level ladder, the Chrysler 300 offers leather seats, automatic climate control, a power sunroof, stereo and connectivity upgrades, safety enhancements, added conveniences, and more.

Tech Level

8/ 10

The Chrysler 300’s standard stereo includes a CD player and not much more. Signature Series trim is necessary at a minimum in order to obtain a 6-disc in-dash CD changer, an MP3 player, and satellite radio. Navigation, Bluetooth hands-free cell phone pairing, and a Boston Acoustics premium sound system are available, depending on the version of the car.

Additionally, Chrysler 300 buyers can get rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a programmable garage door opener, memory for the driver’s preferred settings, and a more sophisticated dual-zone climate control system.


3/ 10

Chrysler offers several safety features for the 300, but most are not included as standard equipment. For example, to get antilock brakes, traction control, and stability control on this car, Touring trim is a minimum requirement. Side-impact and side-curtain airbags are also extra-cost items.

You’re going to want those extra airbags because according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), a 2005 Chrysler 300 without them earns a Poor rating for side-impact occupant protection. With them, the car improves, but not by much. It gets a Marginal rating.

By National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) standards, the 300 fares better. Tested with the side airbags, the car got a mix of 4-star and 5-star ratings for occupant protection.


10/ 10

With prices ranging from $23,500 for the base car to more than $42,000 for the SRT8, Chrysler is able to simultaneously dip down into mainstream family sedan and reach up into luxury performance sedan territories with its new 300. That’s a neat trick, and either way, it represents value.

Updated by Christian Wardlaw

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2005 Chrysler 300 Top Comparisons

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