2011 Chrysler 300C AWD Review

2011 Chrysler 300c AWD

The Chrysler 300 caused quite a stir when it was reintroduced for the 2005 model year. Wearing jaw-dropping sheet metal, the 300 pretty much carried the Chrysler division on its shoulders as the most interesting product in their lineup.

Six model years without any significant changes is a long period for a car, so the 300’s new skin for 2011 is most welcome. However, this time around the car’s gangster styling has been toned down a little.

It now exhibits a softer, more elegant presence with its flush but detailed headlights, additional chrome trim and slightly slimmer tail lamps. The car’s exterior has been thoroughly redesigned, but it’s still unmistakably a 300. With its gained notoriety, Chrysler's 300 is no longer in need of a more aggressive look. And they’re right.

Yeah, it’s still got a HEMI
A 300C obviously couldn’t be a 300C without a V8 engine. The 5.7L HEMI is back, producing 363 horsepower and 394 lb-ft of torque while connected to a 5-speed automatic with manual mode. Our test car also features optional all-wheel drive, which adds $2,000 to the MSRP.

From a standstill, the 300C AWD rips to 100 km/h in 6.0 seconds flat and covers the quarter-mile in 14.2 seconds at 160 km/h; that’s quick for a 4,500 lb sedan. The tranny works very well, downshifting quickly and keeping the engine simmering when you want it to.

2011 Chrysler 300c AWD

However, at a steady 100 clicks the HEMI spins at 1,900 rpm, which is a tad fast for a big V8 with lots of torque. On a round trip from Montreal to Monticello, New York, the 300C delivered a fuel economy average of 9.9L/100km. An 8-speed automatic will be added to the 300 for 2012, but for the time being it will only serve duty with the 3.6L V6. We assume it will eventually be bolted onto the V8, which should logically lower fuel consumption.

Handling-wise, the 300C is a bit of a head scratcher. Not that it can’t stay planted on the road, but when it enters a curve the big Chrysler seems reluctant to comply and understeers a little -- then it follows orders, cornering as you want it to. This all happens very quickly, and it’s not a big deal, really. We don’t expect the 300C to be a twisty country-road carver either.

Road presence
Me and my colleague, Matt, thoroughly enjoyed the 300C AWD on a recent trip to the IMPA Test Days in New York. The car was quiet at speed (except when we stabbed the gas pedal for a sample of that HEMI soundtrack), rock stable, and its presence in other driver's rearview mirrors kept slowpokes out of the left lane.

The 300C even got a surprising reaction from the customs officer at the NY border; the first thing he said to us after glancing back and forth at the car and frowning was: “Who does this car belong to?!” Apparently, saying hello before asking questions is futile.

After a 5-minute Q&A session about the Chrysler, the officer let us go through without even asking where we were going, how long we were going to stay in the U.S., or even if we were trying to smuggle guns and booze. We were convinced that border patrol was waiting for us a mile down the highway with rubber gloves. Gladly, they were nowhere to be seen.

Big improvement in the cockpit
Inside, the 2011 300C received Chrysler’s extreme makeover that almost every model in their product lineup benefited from this model year. There isn’t a single surface I can think of that doesn’t look richer and of better quality compared to the outgoing 2005-2010 generation.

OK, there’s still a generous amount of unconvincing woodgrain trim, but the dash gets a low-glare surface that feels substantial. The climate controls are straightforward and the touchscreen system reacts quickly to the faintest tap on it. The instrument cluster gets tasteful blue backlighting and chrome trim, while the steering wheel no longer looks like it was designed in 1988.

2011 Chrysler 300c AWD

The front doors open wide for easy entry and exit, maybe even a little too wide. At about 90 degrees fully open, you can’t reach them when you’re sitting straight in your seat. It’s slightly irritating, and slightly funny at the same time.

A good deal
The $41,995 300C AWD also gets a long list of standard features such as heated and ventilated front seats; heated rear seats; a power-adjustable and heated steering wheel; rain-sensing wipers; heated and cooled cupholders; power-adjustable pedals; a power rear window sunshade; rearview camera; and auto-adjusting high beams. Our test car also includes a $450 navigation system and a $2,000 Safetytec Package with adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitor, front- and rear-park sonar, as well as a front collision warning system.

So, for about 45 grand you get a very well equipped, comfortable, fast, and elegant luxury sedan that’s way cheaper than those German midsizers, namely the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and BMW 5 Series. It’s also about $15k cheaper than a similarly equipped Lincoln MKS EcoBoost AWD. The Chrysler division may still be searching for a true identity, but the 300C clearly is not.