How do you define “Premium?”
Amongst automotive people, it is a term that is thrown about in various directions. Does “premium” denote a separate level of vehicle brands defined by luxury, performance and snob appeal? Or, is it defined by a certain class of automobile that is larger than most cars, equipped lavishly, but priced at a discount below the so-called “premium” brands? Or, it is a word simply thrown about anything perceived to be simply luxurious.
This opens up plenty of cans of worms. We might as well define “luxury” in the process. Rather, define other terms from the thesaurus equaling or considered close to “luxury” and “premium.”
If we agree that there are many definitions of these terms in the industry, perhaps there is another definition that would work. One look at the Chrysler 300 and you may agree that the word “premium” is apt as a definition.
Why the Chrysler 300? In its third year of the second generation LX platform, the Chrysler 300 continues to be an iconic piece of vehicular art. Once riding with a chopped roof, an upright grille and tall shoulders, the 300 ruled the streets like no other sedan in a very long time. It still does.
Now that there is some new competition around, is the Chrysler 300 still relevant in the under-$40,000 premium sedan field?
Like it predecessor, its design polarizes those of come near it. You either love it…or not. The latest 300 made some visual improvements a few years back to elevate the car into its premium class status. The chromed textured grille and new winged badge is the centerpiece of the car, flanked by two LED and projector beam headlamp clusters. The roof seems taller than its predecessor with a larger glass area all around, while the side profile appears to be less slab-like with sculpted lines breaking up the profile. The rear deck got an upgrade with new taillights and profiled decklid.
This particular tester adds a bit more style to the 300. The S model already featured a blacked-out grille and badge inserts. The Glacier Edition completes the package with a black roof insert, black side mirror caps, exclusive 19-inch alloy wheels on Michelin Pilot tires and a choice of only three colors.
The Glacier package continues inside with some sporty seats wrapped in black leather with a woven insert. These seats are shared across the LX platform, which are both nicely bolstered and somewhat comfortable. Power adjustments for rake, height, recline and lumbar support is available to the driver. The seats get used to the driver over long periods of time, but it does take some getting used to in the center of the backrest. Few adjustments to the lumbar will counterbalance this feeling. Room is great up front, while back seat occupants enjoy a nice cabin for people just above six-feet tall.
The quality is up on the instrument panel, with a focus on ice blue mood lighting for the instrumentation and the huge 8.4-inch TFT center screen. For the 300S, you get piano black accents where satin trim would be used in the regular 300. The overall affect is very monochromatic, but the ice blue lighting offsets it nicely. Two large dials flank a small TFT screen for trip, fuel economy and vehicle readouts. Climate control blows cold or hot – and works quite well front and back.
The audio system is filtered through nine Beats by Dr. Dre speakers by Harman International, including a trunk-mounted subwoofer. Amongst speakers these days, you cannot find a much clearer sound amongst mainstream automotive brands – with the right adjustments to the equalizer screen. You get the requisite SiriusXM channels, along with auxiliary, USB and Bluetooth connection for your mobile devices.
There is no question how good the 3.6litre Pentastar V6 is in other Chrysler Group vehicles. Having it breathe under the 300’s hood confirms this notion. On tap, the Pentastar V6 has 292 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque available from the accelerator pedal. It is not blistering fast, but it offers a good roar when needed. Otherwise, it is a quiet engine that is willing and able to rocket down the highway.
If there is one piece to the 300S Glacier Edition that is outstanding – it is the ZF 8-speed automatic transmission. The shifts are smooth and unobtrusive, but it does a bit for first gear to kick down. After that, all other shifts are quicker. All wheel drive is part of the Glacier package, which senses wet surfaces to send power to all corners.
The overall driving experience is not bad. The 300S package offers a stiffer ride than the rest of the line, where the suspension will react to bumps and uneven road surfaces. There is also some lean and roll through the turns. Otherwise, the 300 has a “big” feel to it when roads are smooth and straight. Braking is sharp once the pedal is tapped in both normal and panic situations.
When driving the 300, understand that its size and mainly upright haunches can truly create some interesting moments while maneuvering around corners and tight areas. The steering system is the culprit since its vague road feel and turning action makes the 300 tough to rudder in these situations.
Though the Pentastar V6 promises better fuel efficiency, the reality is a bit down to earth. The 300S Glacier Edition averaged 19.3MPG in combined urban and highway driving. You may also be interested that the Pentastar V6 also takes E85 ethanol in the tank through a capless filler.
Chrysler starts off pricing for the 300 at $30,145 for a base model with rear wheel drive. Once you start ticking through the trim levels and the driveline choices all the way to the 300S Glacier Edition, your sticker price has reached over $40,000 – $40,335, to be exact. There are plenty of choices within the 300 line running all the way through to a full-on SRT model – one that will get you well over $50,000.
To answer the main question, the 300 is still relevant. Yet it is showing it age in the face of new competition in its class. However, Chrysler’s most loyal customers will not go elsewhere for their big premium sedan fix. This is why the 300 remains a sustainable piece in Chrysler’s lineup.
Perhaps this is why the 300 still rules the streets.