I remember thinking that when Chrysler introduced its new 300 sedan six years that at least you had to give the struggling company credit for trying something different.
The styling for its flagship sedan was either going to appeal to you, or it wasn’t. There wasn’t room for anything in between.
Though it didn’t appeal particularly to me, I gave it plaudits for standing out from the crowd.
And it was a success.
Not a big enough hit to keep Chrysler from going to the government with hat in hand to beg for a bailout a few years later, but a success nonetheless.
Now as the revitalized company goes about rebuilding its foundation under new ownership Fiat, the all-new 2011 300 looks to play a key role.
My earlier experiences with Chrysler products made me feel as if I was surrounded by cheap plastics, but not with this car. Oh, the dashboard could use a touch of padding to give it a more sophisticated touch than you get with its current hard surface, but that’s about my only complaint there, and a mild one at that.
The cabin is spacious, the seats comfortable, and the controls in the center stack simple enough to operate. I don’t particularly like the map presentation with the Garmin-based navigation system either, but I suppose one can get used to it. It’s easy enough to operate.
The steering wheel has a more sophisticated design than the clunky apparatus found in previous models, and the blue illumination around the tach and speedometer is a delight for the driver’s eyes.
It’s got good legroom in the backseat (40.1 inches) and a nice-sized trunk, too -- 16.3 cubic feet.
The exterior remains distinctive, but a bit less radical than the original. The side windows, which once seemed no more than slits, have been expanded a bit to eliminate the claustrophobic feeling one could easily get in previous models. The view out the back is a bit obstructed, but the more rakish windshield (by three inches) provides an expanded view out the front.
The 300 is offered with the choice of two engines -- a 3.6-liter V6 and the famed 5.7-liter V8 HEMI.
The latter is standard on the 300C, but to calm the wailings of any tree-hugger out there, the new Fuel Saver Technology puts the engine in four-cylinder mode when less power is needed, saving the full eight cylinders when more performance is desired.
The result is fuel economy rated at a respectable 16 miles-per-gallon city 25 highway (15/23 with all-wheel drive), but with a full 363 horsepower and 394 pound-feet of torque still available if desired.
That gives the 300C a zero-to-60 mph time in under six seconds, according to company timers. Mid-grade fuel (89 octane) is recommended for top performance, but regular (87 octane) is acceptable.
Pricing for the 2011 300 starts at just under $28,000 (including destination and delivery), but you’ll have to dig deeper and come up with another $10,000 for the top-of-the-line 300C.
That puts the 300 sort of in between your usual family full-size sedan and the entry level luxury segment, which may not be a bad place for Chrysler to be in the current market.
Oh. I need to mention something kind of offbeat here.
Chrysler’s current television ad campaign, launched for the Super Bowl, features rapper Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” and ends with the tagline “Imported from Detroit.”
Not to be picky or anything, but if you look closely at the Munroney (the window sticker you find on all new cars), you will learn that the 300 was assembled across the border in Brampton, Ontario, just outside of Toronto.