The first time I saw Chrysler’s now-famed “Imported from Detroit” Super Bowl commercial, I immediately thought something was off. The passion about Detroit was exactly what it needed to be, but the use of the newly refreshed Chrysler 200 seemed to miss the mark. Just as this commercial was Chrysler’s announcement that it was back in the luxury car business, the 2011 Chrysler 300C was proof. For 2011, Chrysler kept the basic formula of the 300C the same with its big size, rear-wheel drive and Hemi power, and it fixed everything that needed to be fixed. The end result is a car that is not only all new but it now possesses the formula to compete with some of the best German, Japanese and American luxury sedans in its segment.
2011 Chrysler 300C Road Test and Review
2011 Chrysler 300C Road Test and Review
2011 Chrysler 300C: Pricing
Assembled in Brampton, Ontario, Canada alongside the Dodge Charger and Dodge Challenger, the 2011 Chrysler 300 is on sale now at your local Chrysler dealership with a starting MSRP of $27,170 while the Hemi-powered 300C starts $38,170. Adding optional luxury and technology features creates even more separation from the previous 300, but it also helps the bottom-line price jump up pretty quickly with this test vehicle having an as-tested price of $45,725 including destination. After spending a week test driving new 300 for this review, it was hard not to be impressed with the new model especially in regards to luxury, styling and technology, which is a hopeful sign of where the Chrysler brand is heading with its future cars.
2011 Chrysler 300C Review: Exterior
Although the 2011 Chrysler 300C resembles the outgoing model, this new design features completely different sheet metal and slightly different proportions all while keeping a similar overall look that made the 300 popular back in 2005. Instead of ditching the look which has certainly gained notoriety among consumers, Chrysler decided to soften the lines and give the new 300 a more upscale appearance. Like the overall shape of the car, the front end has a familiar look to the previous design starting with the centerpiece of the car, the upright chrome grille. This grille is smaller on the new car and features Chrysler’s new corporate logo, but the new headlights with the C-shaped LED daytime running lights (and parking lights) really help to give the 2011 300C its new upscale look. The only downside about the styling of the new 300 is that there is no longer a visual distinction between the 300 and the Hemi-powered 300C.
2011 Chrysler 300C Review: Visibility and Styling
One of the biggest complaints about the first-generation LX sedans was the tank-like window lines that lead to decreased visibility, but the design of the 2011 Chrysler 300C incorporates a shallower rake windshield angle and rolled door frames which Chrysler says helps to improve driver visibility by 15 percent. Not only are the side window openings larger, they now feature thicker chrome trim to accent the rest of the car’s shiny bits. There is no shortage of chrome on the 2011 Chrysler 300C from the accents under the headlights to the full-width strip that stretches across the rear fascia between the LED taillights. Finishing off the stylish new look of the 300C, this test vehicle came in the optional Ivory Tri-Coat Pearl exterior paint and replaced the standard 18-inch wheels with some larger 20-inch, ten split-spoke polished cast-aluminum wheels – each of these options cost an extra $995.
2011 Chrysler 300C Review: Interior and Safety
Once inside the all-new 2011 Chrysler 300C, it is easy to see where Chrysler spent the majority of its money in this redesign. Every touch point is covered with a soft material and even the non touch points have a good feel to them, but it’s the rich leather covering most of the 300C’s cabin that is the most impressive. The roomy, five-passenger cabin delivers plenty of added features on the 300C such as heated and cooled front seats and front cupholders, heated outboard rear seats and a heated steering wheel for the driver. The driver also benefits from stylish chrome instrument gauges with blue backlighting and an electronic vehicle information center (EVIC) while the rest of the instrument panel is finished in wood accent and metallic trim on the steering wheel, instrument panel, door panels and center console. As standard equipment on the 300C, Chrysler also tosses in the all-new Uconnect Touch infotainment system. Uconnect Touch features an 8.4-inch touch-screen display that provides controls for the navigation, audio and climate control systems as well as Sirius Travel Link, sports and weather updates and real-time fuel price listings.
More importantly than even the materials or styling, the new Chrysler 300C is also more refined from its smooth ride thanks to a totally reworked suspension system and a cabin that is as quiet as some of the top luxury cars on the market. To decrease the road noise transmitted to the cabin, Chrysler also added composite underbody panels, acoustic wheel well liners and dual-pane acoustic glass used on the windshield and front doors.
2011 Chrysler 300C Review: Trim Packages
Speaking of glass, this test vehicle also came equipped with the $1,295 dual-pane panoramic sunroof that provided a great view of the sky when desired and a power sunshade the sun’s a little too bright; the rear glass also features a power sunshade. Other options on our test car included the $650 Sound Group I package that upgrades to a nine-speaker audio system with a 506-watt amplifier and the $2,795 SafetyTec package. This pricey tech package adds Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Warning, Blind Spot and Cross Path Detection, automatic leveling, bi-Xenon adaptive headlights and dual rear fog lights.
The 2011 Chrysler 300C has yet to be crash tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), but the new design made huge improvements with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crash tests and was named a 2011 IIHS Top Safety Pick. Standard safety features for all 2011 Chrysler 300 models include seven airbags, active front head restraints, electronic brake-force distribution with brake assist, four-wheel anti-lock disc brake system, tire pressure monitoring system, traction control and Electronic Stability Control.
2011 Chrysler 300C Review: Performance
Just like the new Dodge Charger, the 2011 Chrysler 300 engine line-up replaces the aging pair of V-6s with the all-new 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6, but the 300C continues to use the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8. Like the 300C’s exterior, the Hemi has received minor upgrades for 2011 without changing too much but enough to give the engine slightly better output of 363 horsepower and 394 lb-ft of torque. This engine still uses Chrysler’s Fuel Saver cylinder deactivation technology to help return EPA fuel economy estimates of 16 miles per gallon in the city and 25 mpg on the highway on this rear-wheel drive model; opting for all-wheel drops these numbers to 15 mpg city and 23 mpg highway. One of the only carryover components is the Daimler-sourced five-speed automatic transmission that still warrants no complaints in normal driving and gives drivers a little more control in enthusiastic driving with the Auto Stick manual shift mode.
The suspension is still loosely derived from the mid-1990s Mercedes-Benz E-Class, but Chrysler has completely retuned the suspension and steering systems in the new 300C which not only gives the car a smoother ride, but it also feels more luxurious when compared to the new Charger. In addition the 20-inch wheels, the optional wheel package also includes slightly larger front and rear stabilizer bars, stronger shocks and all-season performance tires to help deliver more responsive handling. Surprisingly, even with its luxury car target and 4,270-pound curb weight, the 2011 Chrysler 300C is still a fun car to drive.
2011 Chrysler 300C Review: Summary
The LX-based Chrysler 300 became an instant sensation when it was introduced back in 2004, but while the visual appearance of the 2011 model isn’t that far removed from the 2005-2010 design, the improvements made to this car’s cabin and suspension make it look and feel like a completely different car altogether. Thanks to its plusher ride, more lavish interior and upgraded technology, the 2011 Chrysler 300 now has what it takes to compete against some of the biggest names in this segment. Unlike the original 300 that debuted almost seven years ago, the 2011 300C does not force buyers to sacrifice luxury or comfort for its one-of-a-kind look and the legendary Hemi V-8.
2011 Chrysler 300C Review: Pros and Cons
In base form, the new 300 will likely be cross shopped with similarly priced luxury cars like the Buick LaCrosse, Hyundai Genesis, Lincoln MKS and the Lexus ES, but the Hemi-powered Chrysler 300C finally gives the Chrysler Group a vehicle to take on some of the German competition like the Audi A6 and Mercedes-Benz E-Class. After years of lackluster, stagnant products, Chrysler is still looking at an arduous journey to become a mainstream luxury brand like Cadillac, Audi or Infiniti, but judging by the improvements made to its all-new flagship sedan, Chrysler has no plans to throw in the towel just yet. Unlike the negative perception that forced Chrysler to change the its mid-size sedan from the Sebring to the 200, the improvements made to the new 300C further solidifies the 300 nameplate as a serious luxury car and ensures its styling will continue to make it a recognizable icon on the road.
Pros – easy-to-use Uconnect Touch system; interior and exterior design increases 300’s presence in luxury sedan segment; improved suspension tuning delivers A6-like ride and handling
Cons – cabin design too similar to the new Charger; no visual distinction between the 300 and the 300C models;
Chrysler provided the vehicle this road test review
Photos by Jeffrey N. Ross