Sometimes bigger isn’t necessarily better, and that is especially true with the 2012 Chrysler 300. The smaller V-6 engine seems to be a better all-around choice than the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 for several reasons, chief among them are a lower price and better fuel economy.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s generally true that if you enjoy driving, then more power is preferable, but the 292-horsepower engine in the 300S is such a sweetheart that I would easily prefer it over the V-8.
The eight-speed automatic has a nice spread of gear ratios that gives the car good acceleration yet relaxed cruising, and that aids fuel economy.
The 300 comes in base, Limited, S V-6, C, S V-8, C Luxury and SRT8 models. The S series is new this year, and Chrysler touts the car as having “world-class ride and handling,” and I agree. The 20-inch wheels not only give it a great stance, but they also contribute to sharp reflexes and agility in turns.
I drove the test car on back-to-back 250-mile trips, and it was extremely comfortable. The all-new cabin is a lovely place to be, in part because noise levels have been reduced significantly. Materials and textures are easily as nice as those of many more expensive vehicles, and the contoured leather seats hold you like a giant hand. My wife wasn’t crazy about the test car’s red leather seats, but I thought they were colourful without being gaudy.
The backseat has generous legroom. The trunk is quite spacious.
The 3.6-litre engine seems to give the car a better balance because it is lighter than the bigger V-8. Fuel economy is rated at 19 miles per gallon in the city and 31 on the highway, but I was not able to record a highway average any better than 26 in spite of driving very carefully.
Since 2005, the 300’s low roof, angular body and square-shouldered grille have been keys to its success in the marketplace. Some say it looks like an American Bentley, and that comparison is more apt with the 2012 than ever before. The low roof makes rear visibility a bit of a challenge, but the blind-spot monitor really helps.
Chrysler interiors are now world-class. The test car’s 8.4-inch touch screen in the centre of the dash is used for the Garmin navigation system, climate control and rearview camera. The system also uses Sirius travel link that has real-time fuel prices, movie listings, sports updates and weather.
The instrument panel is covered with a cast skin whose pebbled, low-gloss surface looks extremely rich. Brushed silver accents and blue-rimmed instruments were the crowning touches.
Electronic aids include a blind-spot monitor, rear parking sensors, a collision warning system, adaptive cruise control, cross-path detection and adaptive forward lighting.
Safety items include anti-lock brakes and vehicle stability control. In addition to the front and side-curtain air bags, there is one for the driver’s knees.