PowerSteering: 2016 Chrysler 300 Review
When Chrysler introduced the full-size 300 sedan for the 2005 model year, the car was an instant sensation. With the new 300, Chrysler delivers classic luxury car styling combined with classic “Hemi engine” performance at a relatively affordable price. Despite its early sales success, certainly few people expected that more than a decade later the car would remain on sale in near-original form.
Chrysler has updated the 300 over the years. The car received a significant freshening for the 2011 model year, and a minor update followed for the 2015 model year. Over time, the Chrysler 300 has benefitted from exterior styling and interior design changes, new and improved drivetrains, advanced infotainment and driver-assistance technologies, and various special-edition and limited-production model series and variants.
For this review, our expert evaluated one of those special-edition variants: the Chrysler 300S Alloy Edition. It came with a V-8 engine upgrade, summer performance tires, and a navigation system, bringing the price to a reasonable $41,175, including the $995 destination charge.
What Owners Say
Before we discuss the results of our evaluation of the 2016 Chrysler 300, it is helpful to understand who buys this sedan and what they like most and least about it.
According to J.D. Power research data, owners are primarily men (69%) and older (median age of 62) with a median annual household income of $93,750. Just 28% of Chrysler 300 owners identify themselves as members of Gen X (born 1965-1976) or Gen Y (1977-1994).
Though the 300 is built in Canada by London-based Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, 65% of buyers strongly agree that they prefer to buy a car from a U.S. company, far higher than the Large Car segment average of 36%. Furthermore, 58% of Chrysler 300 buyers strongly agree that they like a vehicle that stands out from the crowd, compared with 49% of Large Car owners.
Buyers say their favorite things about the 300 are (in descending order) exterior styling, the engine and transmission, driving dynamics, interior, and the seats. Owners indicate their least favorite things about the 300 are (in descending order) fuel economy, the climate control system, infotainment system, storage and space, and visibility and safety.
What Our Expert Says
In the sections that follow, our expert provides his own assessment of how the new 2016 Chrysler 300 performs in each of the 10 categories that comprise the J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study.SM
Painted black, featuring a rear spoiler and subtle lower body sill detailing, and equipped with dark bronze, titanium, and gloss black accents, the 300S Alloy Edition has a custom appearance. This is almost certainly the reason the test vehicle attracted plenty of attention on Southern California roads, in spite of the Chrysler 300’s long production run and consumer familiarity with the model.
Especially true given the car’s blunt face and exaggerated fender swells, the 300 looks much better with larger wheels and tires, which come standard on the 300S and the 300C Platinum variants.
Inside, it’s not hard to identify evidence that the Chrysler 300 is built to an affordable price point. The bottom half of the cabin is lined in hard, glossy plastic with an inexpensive look and feel. Materials used for the upper half of the interior credibly impersonate a luxury car, though the texturing on the surface of the dashboard is somewhat coarse.
Black Nappa leather with caramel-color exposed stitching comes standard for the 300S Alloy Edition, along with Titanium and Piano Black interior trim pieces. Chrysler has also added a new clock for the car’s dashboard.
Instrumentation includes legible gauges separated by a multifunction driver information display screen. Soothing blue backlighting supplies a pleasing ambience. Controls are refreshingly simple, rendered in the form of knobs, buttons, and stalks that are located in logical places. The transmission’s rotary shift selector is a fine replacement for a traditional PRNDL lever.
Equipped with what Chrysler claims are “sport-contoured” front seats, the chairs are nevertheless large, wide, and exceptionally comfortable. Plus, large door openings and tall hip points mean it is very easy to get into and out of the Chrysler 300. The steering wheel is perfectly shaped and sized, too.
Unfortunately, a heat wave with temperatures near 100 degrees made the test car’s lack of seat ventilation particularly noticeable. They are unavailable for the 300S, but come standard on 300C and 300C Platinum models.
Given that the Chrysler 300 is a large car, the rear seat is equally roomy and comfortable, and air conditioning vents located on the back panel of the center console help to speed relief to passengers on hot days.
Climate Control System/Infotainment System
Climate Control System
Though ventilated seats would have been nice, rest assured that the Chrysler 300’s dual-zone climate control system supplies rapid cabin cooling in hot weather. The test car’s black leather interior quickly got comfortable in the near-triple-digit heat.
When the weather outside is frightfully cold, owners must use the Uconnect infotainment screen to access the heated seats and heated steering wheel. Despite a new drag-and-drop main menu bar programming function, the need to use the screen to activate these features remains less than ideal.
Chrysler makes regular updates to its Uconnect infotainment system, and for 2016 adds Siri Eyes Free compatibility as well as “do not disturb” and “reply by text” functions. While these enhancements are appreciated, Uconnect still is not offered with smartphone-projection technology in the form of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and the available Wi-Fi hotspot is 3G rather than 4G LTE.
Generally speaking, Uconnect is simple, easy, and intuitive to use, featuring pleasant graphics and responsive virtual buttons on a large 8.4-in. display screen. However, the system does sometimes require greater accuracy than is desirable, especially in a Chrysler 300 equipped with a sport-tuned suspension. Also, response time could be quicker.
In the test car, a Beats Audio sound system was standard, and sounded good when used to listen to popular music, alternative rock, and reggae.
Storage and Space
Chrysler supplies simple and effective storage within the 300 sedan. The glove box and center storage console provide competitive levels of storage space, as do bins located in the door panels. A slot to the right of the transmission selector securely holds a smartphone, though when taking sharp corners with speed a device easily winds up on the floor. Both the bin forward of the shifter and the cupholders feature covers for a cleaner appearance or to hide smaller valuables.
Trunk space measures 16.3 cu. ft., smaller than some direct competitors but as large as or bigger than all midsize sedans. An uneven load floor and the Beats Audio subwoofer force extra consideration and attention to detail when arranging cargo.
Visibility and Safety
Large roof pillars, short windows, and a driving position distant from the windshield combine to create visibility problems. Furthermore, the 300S Alloy Edition’s rear spoiler blocks a portion of the view to the rear when the driver looks at the rearview mirror.
Large side mirrors and an optional blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert help, as do the available reversing camera and the front and rear park-assist sensors. Also, the front corners of the car are visible to the driver, making it easier to judge distance when parking.
An optional SafetyTec Plus Group includes several driver-assistance technologies designed to help prevent accidents from occurring. Unfortunately, none of these features were included on the test car, precluding assessment of their performance and effectiveness.
Highlights of the SafetyTec Plus Group include an adaptive cruise control system with full stop capability, forward-collision warning system with automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning system with lane-keeping assist, and automatic high-beam headlights. Chrysler also offers its blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross-path detection and its front and rear park-assist sensors in the Premium Group package.
Structural age is evident in crash-test ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The NHTSA gives the Chrysler 300 an overall safety rating of 4 (out of 5) stars, citing 4-star performance in frontal-impact protection for the driver and front passenger combined with a 4-star rating for the driver in a side-impact collision.
In IIHS testing, the Chrysler 300 earns a “Marginal” rating in the small overlap frontal-impact test. In all other assessments, including for the car’s ability to avoid a collision in the first place, it gets “Good” or “Superior” ratings except for how easy it is to use the child seat LATCH anchors, for which the 300 receives an “Acceptable” rating.
For the record, the test driver had little trouble using the anchors to install a forward-facing child seat.
A 300-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 engine is standard equipment for the Chrysler 300S. The test car’s optional 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 engine costs an extra $3,000 and provides 363 horsepower and 394 lb.-ft. of torque. An 8-speed automatic transmission with a Sport driving mode and steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters transfer power to the test car’s rear wheels. All-wheel drive is an option.
Under light acceleration and while cruising on boulevards and highways, the V-8 emits a pleasing and always evident burble. Under hard acceleration, the beast awakens, producing an authoritative bellow and roar. There is no shortage of power, performance, or panache here.
When placed in Sport driving mode, the automatic transmission did on one occasion clunk inelegantly into gear when the car was driven with spirit on a twisting canyon road, but otherwise proved itself to be a model of refinement. Sport mode clearly enlivens the powertrain, and enthusiasts will delight in using the magnesium paddle shifters, listening to how the transmission matches revs on downshifts and aggressively burps the exhaust during upshifts.
Fuel economy is, by far, the least appealing thing about the Chrysler 300, according to the people who own this car. To help maximize gas mileage, the V-8 engine is equipped with cylinder-deactivation technology that operates the power plant on 4 of its 8 cylinders under certain driving conditions, such as when coasting down a hill or cruising at a steady rate of speed on the highway.
As a result, the 300S Alloy Edition returned 18.7 mpg on the official testing loop, nearly matching the official EPA estimate of 19 mpg in combined driving. Also, the cylinder-deactivation system operates unobtrusively, working in the background and calling no undue attention to the technology.
Chrysler 300 buyers seeking maximum fuel economy are encouraged to stick with the standard V-6, which has returned nearly 23 mpg on this same test loop.
For 2016, when it is equipped with the optional V-8 engine, the Chrysler 300 also gains a stiffer sport suspension and performance-tuned steering in addition to upgraded brakes and a revised rear axle. The 300S and 300C Platinum come with standard 20-in. aluminum wheels that can be optionally wrapped in Goodyear Eagle F1 summer performance tires.
The 300S Alloy Edition test car featured all of these components, and the result is impressive handling, especially given the size of the car. Of course, there is a trade-off in terms of a taut ride, added road rumble, and ever-present exhaust boom, but in what is a credibly muscular sports sedan these traits are enjoyable rather than dissatisfying.
Pavement aberrations do, however, reveal the 300’s structural age with excess wiggle and shudder. The 20-in. wheels widen the car’s turning circle, too, and though the steering feels natural and responds in a consistently linear fashion, it could also stand to be a little sharper and faster.
These amount to minor complaints, however. The brakes are stout and responsive, revealing no fade during mountain driving in blistering heat. The suspension successfully quells vertical and lateral body motion, quickly settling the car shortly after traversing bumps and dips. Despite the car’s size, body roll is barely detectable, and, as might be expected, the summer performance tires supply tenacious grip.
Around town, and in spite of its wider turning radius, the 300S proves relatively nimble and maneuverable, loafing along city streets and rumbling with potential menace. Get on the freeway and the car covers ground quickly, feeling solidly planted at all times. Notably, other motorists squatting in the left lane quickly moved to the right when the big, black Chrysler approached from behind.
Good looking, comfortable, powerful, and enjoyable to drive, the Chrysler 300 quickly and positively confirms those traits that owners cite as their favorite things about this large car.
As for the most frequently cited disappointment with the Chrysler 300, it should go without explanation that any big vehicle with a V-8 engine will return unimpressive fuel economy. Our testing does show that the 300’s Hemi V-8 comes close to hitting its EPA rating in combined driving. However, if maximizing efficiency is important, choose the standard V-6 engine.
Where Chrysler can best improve the 300 is with respect to its crash-test ratings and its Uconnect infotainment system. A complete redesign is likely necessary to achieve gains regarding safety, but as the automaker has demonstrated before, it can easily upgrade Uconnect to address the system’s current competitive shortcomings.
Whether or not you like the Chrysler 300 is up to you. It is impressive, though, that the car remains appealing and competitive after all of these years.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles supplied the vehicle used for this 2016 Chrysler 300 review.
For more information about our test driver and our methodology, please see our reviewer profile.