200 IS GONE, BUT CHRYSLER 300 CONTINUES TO THRIVE IN FULL-SIZE SEDAN SEGMENT
Chrysler may have pulled the plug on its midsize 200 sedan after the 2017 production run because of lagging sales, but the company’s full-size 300 sedan remains a viable competitor in its class.
Though sales of the 300 were off just under 14 percent for the first quarter of 2018 compared to a year earlier, March numbers showed a significant jump of 25 percent over the same month in 2017, making it only one of 10 in its segment to show an increase for the month.
With 6,223 sold, the 300 trailed only the Dodge Charger (8,504) and Chevrolet Impala (7,581) for the month.
Maybe it’s that history is on its side.
Use of “300” in Chrysler automotive nomenclature dates back to the 1950s and the company’s “letter series,” but the current rendition dates back just over a decade when automotive media bestowed North American Car of the Year honors on the 2005 Chrysler 300 that Ralph Gilles designed.
Now Head of Design for the company making him — according to the company releases — responsible for “shaping and directing design across the Company's entire brand portfolio,” Gilles was dubbed the “King of Bling” for the aggressive approach he took with the 300’s design.
Some corners considered its styling polarizing. You either loved it or hated it, but one thing was certain: You couldn’t ignore it.
“The 300 was one of Ralph’s great designs because it has almost an Africa-American, urban presence to it,” comedian and automotive enthusiast/collector Jay Leno says in a Netflix series, Abstract: The Art of Design, that delves into the art and science of design. “It’s got street cred. It looks cool.”
It also may have been a life saver for Chrysler or at least instrumental in helping navigate the company through some dark financial times.
In 2011, Chrysler modified the 300 but just a bit, cutting back on what a New York Times reviewer called the gangsta-chic styling elements with a more refined look with rounder lines and slightly bigger windows.
But come to this year, the 13th since its introduction, there is no mistaking the 2018 Chrysler 300 for any of its competitors. If the styling is a bit less polarizing, it still remains very much distinctive.
The 300 lineup for 2018 gets a new Touring model as the base, but I spent my week in the 300S, the sportier of the group that falls at the midpoint of the trim line between the Touring and Touring L models and the Limited and 300C.
It had the optional 5.8-liter HEMI V8 under the hood in place of the standard V6, which upped horsepower and torque to 363 hp and 395 pound-feet from the smaller engine’s 260/264, respectively. I’d have to say if you want to get the full benefits of the sportier performance the 300S offers over its stablemates, the V8 is the way to go, but it does cost $3,000 more.
The engine is mated with an 8-speed automatic transmission that features paddle shifters and sport mode to further enliven responses. With rear-wheel drive, fuel economy for the V8 is rated at 16 miles-per-gallon city, 25 highway using recommended mid-grade (89 octane) fuel. Figures are 19/30 for the V6 with RWD, 18/27 with AWD with regular 87 octane recommended.
Apparently, nobody at the company put a stop watch on the 300S to get a zero-to-60 time, but previous models had it in the six-second range and the website zeroto6-times.com caught the 300C SRT8 at 4.3 seconds a few years ago. Sad to say, the SRT8 model is no longer offered.
Considering you’re going to be spending most of your time inside, it’s worth noting that the interior of the 300S has kept up with the times. The seats are comfortable, the ride is quiet and fairly smooth, and the entire cabin has been opened up with the slightly larger windows from those of the first generation improving vision overall. It’s still slightly restricted out the back, though.
Features such as Keyless Go, remote start, ParkView rear backup camera, UConnect 4C with 8.4-inch display, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and integrate voice command with Bluetooth are included in the $35,795 base MSRP.
Adding optional features such as the 300S Premium Group (navigation, dual panel, panoramic sunroof, etc.), 300S Premium Group 2 (HID headlights, power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, memory for driver’s seat, radio, and mirrors, parking assist system, blind-spot warning, heated steering wheel and heated second-row seats, and ventilated front seats, among other features), Beats Premium sound system, the HEMI V8, and safety features like lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control can run the total to over $48,000 including the $1,095 destination and delivery charge.
Price range for the 300 lineup runs from under $30,000 to just under $41,000 before extras are added in.
What I liked about the 2018 Chrysler 300S: Like the car itself, the color grew on me. Chrysler called it “ceramic grey clear coat” but it looked a lot like “battleship gray” to me. It took me back to my Navy days and I felt like an admiral when I got in, though if I were an admiral, I probably would be in the back seat being chauffeured and not behind the wheel. I also find the UConnect system being one of the most user-friendly around, if not the most friendly, and the 8.4-inch screen is easy on the eyes. I also liked the V8’s power and throttle response.
What I didn’t like about the 2018 Chrysler 300S: The trunk is big enough at 16.3 cubic feet (typical for the class), but the rear wheel wells may impact how you can use that space.
Would I buy the 2018 Chrysler 300S? Yes, and I would go for the S over the other models if you want more in the way of driving fun.