First Look

First Look: 2011 Chrysler 300

When I first saw the previous generation Chrysler 300 back in 2004, I decided right then and there that it was the perfect getaway car for a bank robbery. Not only did it have an optional V8 engine and plenty of trunk space to stash my cash, but it looked like something John Dillinger would choose if he were still in business and alive today. There were a few typical old Chrysler era quality flaws and the tall doors with the narrow windows made visibility difficult at times.

Dillinger may have had trouble finding proper window space to sit and fire his tommy-gun, but he would have looked good trying. So when it was time for a redesign, Chrysler clearly knew not to mess too much with a good thing. And to our good fortune, Chrysler upheld the best traits, enhanced them further and have fixed the negatives where they needed to be. As a result, the 2011 Chrysler 300 not only maintains its hard-charging V8 power, but it has also become a more competitive and better car.

The general appearance is undeniably recognizable. Chrysler has added their new corporate logo (now minus the golden crest) up front and have replaced the egg-crate grille with horizontal slots, which evokes a bit of Bentley influence. Some like it and others don't, but it's not offensive in any way. There are now more evolved project-beam headlights and daytime running LEDs. Chrysler has redesigned the windshield angle, but the familiar upright proportions such as the boxy roofline and strong wheel arches remain.

The rear also has new LEDs that adorn the taillights along with a reshaped trunk lid and a new bumper with integrated chrome-tipped dual exhausts. Overall, designers have chosen to, shall we say, slightly soften the lines by toning down the comic book-ish appearance. As we previously reported, Chrysler invested an insane $1 billion for the redesign. Judging by the familiar exterior, it's quite clear that a large chunk of that money went into the new interior. And like every new Chrysler for 2011, interior quality has jumped by leaps and bounds.

A combination of luxury and sportiness, the cabin is now adorned in soft-touch materials that reflect the automaker's newly found appreciation for the finer details. We especially like the aura emanating from the blue black gauge lighting. Like its corporate cousin, the Dodge Charger, the 300 has an optional Garmin-based 8.4 inch nav screen/infotainment unit. Since Chrysler is meant to be the more elegant brand, the 300 features some wood trim and that classy analog clock. Other options include 20-inch wheels, heated and cooled seats and cupholders, and a dual-pane sunroof.

The seats are nicely sculpted and rear visibility has improved. Based off the same platform as the first generation, Chrysler has now added two composite underbody panels that provide increased acoustic isolation and smoother low airflow. Rear-wheel drive remains standard along with optional all-wheel drive. Another carry-over for the 300C is the 5.7-liter HEMI V8 with Fuel-Saver Technology that will deliver 360 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque. Rest assured, a 6.4-liter 300C SRT8 is reportedly on the way for 2012.

Perhaps even more important is the new 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 with 292 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque that's now standard on the Touring and Limited models. A five-speed automatic remains for all trims, but a new ZF eight-speed automatic is set to take its place next year. Pricing starts at $27,995 and ranges up to $41,145 for a 300C AWD. Few cars in recent years have made such a strong impression as the Chrysler 300 in terms of unique and unforgettable styling and V8 power. And thanks to Chrysler rediscovering its long-neglected potential, the new model is everything the original was and so much more.

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Chrysler 300
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