Bias can be a hell of a drug, and many are guilty of it. I grew up loathing Chrysler Fifth Avenues, K-cars and faux-wood-paneled minivans. This is the first big Chrysler-branded car I’ve driven in over twenty-five years. Is it possible to be fair – and not simply reignite my confirmation bias – many years later?
In HEMI parlance, “Yer ’bout to find out!”
The Chrysler 300 S I tested was big, mean, and nasty when I wanted it to be. Ride? Sumptuous without being floaty. Creature comforts? A loud stereo supplied by the Beats by Dr. Dre brand, multi-adjustable memory leather seats, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping, blind spot monitoring – it is very much a vehicle of 2016.
Of note, the 300S dips both side view mirrors when reversing. Thank you, lab coat guys, for getting this right. No one wants to curb their wheels on either side of the car.
Where it differs from the current, and mostly dull masses is in the classic driveline: A honkin’ big engine with rear-wheel-drive. The car has some heft to it, but it never feels encumbered. There’s enough technology here to keep a neophyte driver going in a straight line if they decide that screeching tire noises are a birthright, and if they do get into trouble, the brakes do a decent job of bringing all that mass to a stop. However, it’s not the kind of car I’d want to hoof on a racetrack, it’s a different sort of character.
The 5.7-litre HEMI makes fantastic noises, I do wish it was a wee a bit louder, but that would take away from the cruiser status. The eight-speed transmission is, frankly, absolutely perfect. Someone lost a lot of sleep programming this and it shows. It was never hunting around and it was always ready to go.
Of the many vehicles I’ve been in, this one would be near the top for a long road trip; the trunk is massive, and the front of this car has that “I mean business” look to it. People tend to get out of the way.
I managed 9 litres per 100 km in my time with the car; this included some full-throttle application, because V8 noises, but mostly – I attempted to hyper-mile this car on the highway just to see what kind of result I could achieve. Setting the Adaptive Cruise at 100km/k on two separate trips out to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, the interesting thing was watching how often the vehicle dipped into its fuel saving mode, aka, ‘4 CYL’.
At highway speed with the radio on, other than a cluster indicator lighting up, this change was imperceptible. However, at lower speeds, with no radio, there was a distinct low-frequency rumbling while engaged. There is also an eco-meter on the cluster, giving you an idea of how much fuel you’re using instantaneously; I noted that I never went down to zero like in a small turbo car when lifting completely off the pedal – I assume that too much engine braking here would be disruptive to the ride.
It’s fun, big, and the kind of car I would certainly consider buying myself if I were a road trip aficionado, mainly because the ride is outstanding. I would choose this in a heartbeat versus what many consider to be its competition – the somnambulistic Toyota Avalon.
There are still bad cars out there, but not in the classical more time in the shop than on the road type. The new bad is boring. This 300S? Not bad, not even a little bit.
2016 Chrysler 300S
Base Price: $42,695
As Tested: $52,820
Notable Options: 5.7-litre HEMI V8, $2,950; panoramic sunroof, $1,595; black painted roof, $1,395
Drivetrain: 5.7-litre V8 engine, 8-speed automatic transmission, rear wheel drive
Performance: 9 litres per 100 km in mixed driving
VVUZZ Recommended: A brilliant road trip car for four and the alt rock executive sedan.
Images courtesy of the author.