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Chrysler’s flagship 300 sedan is next best thing

2012 Chrysler 300S RWD

petrina gentile The Globe and Mail

Overall Rating
A muscular, spacious sedan that’s not your regular, run-of-the-mill car on the road. You’ll love this car if: you want something Canadian-made with serious space for people and cargo.
Looks Rating
Distinct and muscular in its design, but I do miss the menacing front face on the original 300.
Interior Rating
Upscale interior with funky red leather seats that are comfy in the front and rear. Large cargo space, too.
Ride Rating
The V-6 is brawny and powerful, but it’s big to manoeuvre and park in crowded shopping malls.
Safety Rating
Safety features galore including side curtain airbags, a driver knee airbag, hill start assist, electronic stability control and traction control.
Green Rating

This year, Chrysler's flagship 300 sedan got a new faster, meaner and somewhat greener sibling – the SRT8, from Chrysler's Street and Racing Technology division.

Powering the 300 SRT8 is a new 6.4-litre, Hemi V-8 that pumps out 470 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque, delivered to its rear wheels via a five-speed automatic transmission. It's a powerful car, able to hit 0-100 km/h in less than five seconds.

But you don't need to cringe at the thought of the fuel economy. Thanks to Chrysler's Fuel Saver MDS Technology, a multi-displacement system shuts off half the cylinders to improve the fuel economy. On the highway, it averages only 8.7 litres/100 km; while in the city it gets 15.0 litres/100 km.

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The SRT8 gets exterior tweaks to show off its high-performance side and reassert it's no ordinary 300. It has a unique front valance with a blacked-out mesh grille, 20-inch forged aluminum SRT wheels, and dual exhaust pipes four inches in diameter. The price, however, is steep – starting at $49,095.

If that's too rich for your blood, there are other less expensive 300 models available like the base Touring RWD sedan. It starts at a reasonable $32,995 and includes new fog lamps, 17-inch aluminum wheels, a 12-way power driver's seat, keyless entry and a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with cruise and audio controls right at your fingertips.

A new S model is available for 2012 with either V-6 or V-8 engines. My tester is a 300S RWD V-6 that costs $35,995. All-wheel-drive is also available. Under the hood is a 3.6-litre V-6 engine that makes 292 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque.

A new eight-speed automatic is a big improvement over the five-speed it replaces. It's smooth and seamless with excellent shift response. A sport mode and steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters also give it a sportier ride. But I don't particularly like the look or feel of the console-mounted shifter – the electronic selector has slight indents that feel awkward in the hand.

The steering is direct and responsive. The acceleration is quick, yet the ride is quiet and comfortable. Even though it's a large heavy vehicle, the 300 handled curves in the roads beautifully and felt firmly planted to the ground.

Parking in crowded malls can be tricky, though – it's a big, wide vehicle. A rear back-up camera helps with manoeuvring the 300 into tight spots. All-around visibility has also improved significantly since its remodel last year – the windows are larger for a better view. The fuel economy is rated at 10.9 litres/100 km in the city and 6.4 litres/100 km on the highway.

The 300, which is built in Brampton, Ont., stands out on the road thanks to its iconic, distinctive design. It's not your run-of-the-mill boring, conservative sedan. But I miss the old grille. The original 300, which hit the streets in 2004 as a 2005 model, had a bold, menacing front grille. But now it's changed into a bland design – a similar face that graces the entire Chrysler lineup, including the Town & Country minivan. Personally, I think it's too tame for the 300, but I digress.

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In a bid to attract more buyers, Chrysler has dumped the bright chrome and wood on the new S models. In the case of my tester, the interior is bold – shocking at first with its radar red leather upholstery, piano black and matte carbon trim, which replaces the wood and bright chrome. If you don't like red you can chose black leather instead. My tester also gets body-coloured accents on the fascia and mirrors, a black-chrome grille, black headlight surrounds and polished 20-inch aluminum wheels with black accents.

The 300 is one of the more spacious sedans on the market. The front seats are plush and comfortable with excellent bolstering thanks to a 12-way power driver's seat with four-way power lumbar adjustments. The rear seats are equally spacious and comfy with plenty of room for three adults – even those with larger girths.

The cabin is upscale with high-quality materials and innovative technology such as adaptive bi-xenon HID headlamps, adaptive cruise control, rear fog lamps and power-adjustable pedals. My tester doesn't lack for anything – it comes with heated front seats, a Beats by Dr. Dre audio system with 10 speakers and a 552-watt amplifier, and an 8.4-inch touch screen infotainment system, which is intuitive and easy to use. An optional large, panoramic sunroof makes the cabin feel airy and light, especially if you're riding in the rear seats, but it does cost $1,495 extra.

The trunk is huge, too. With 462 litres of cargo space there's plenty of room for golf clubs.

So if you want the sheer power of an SRT8 but can't afford the price tag, the 300S is the next best thing.

Tech Specs: 2012 Chrysler 300S RWD

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Type: Five-passenger, full-size, four-door sedan

Base Price: $35,995; as tested, $44,490

Engine: 3.6-litre, DOHC, V-6

Horsepower/torque: 292 hp/260 lb-ft

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic

Drive: Rear-wheel

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 10.9 city/6.4 highway; regular gas

Alternatives: Cadillac CTS, Acura TL, Ford Taurus, Hyundai Genesis, Nissan Maxima, Lincoln MKS, Toyota Avalon, Buick LaCrosse

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About the Author

Petrina Gentile is an award-winning automotive journalist - one of the few women who cover cars in Canada. Her life revolves around wheels. She has been writing for the Drive section since 2004. Besides auto reviews, she also interviews celebrities like Norman Jewison, Patrick Dempsey, Rick Hansen, Dean McDermott, Russell Peters, and Ron MacLean for her My Car column. More


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