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Review: 2014 Chrysler 300C

by Drew Johnson

It may be getting on in years, but the 300 still has style and sophistication in spades.

It's hard to believe, but the modern interpretation of the Chrysler 300 has now been with us for nearly a decade.

Many changes have taken place over those years, including all-new styling for 2011 and a more efficient eight-speed automatic transmission in 2012. At this point the 300 certainly qualifies as an oldie, but is it still a goodie? Come with us as we find out.

What is it?

Born from German parents but raised in America, the 300 is a carryover from the days of the DaimlerChrysler experiment. Now in its second generation, the 300 still rides on a rear-wheel drive chassis derived from the 2003-2009 Mercedes-Benz E-Class.

Though priced like an entry-level luxury sedan, the 300 offers full-size space and an impressive list of features. Styling is also a strong suit for the 300, combining up-scale Bentley cues with an overall look sinister enough for Al Capone and his cronies.

What's it up against?

The large, near-luxury sedan segment has seen something of a resurgence in recent years, so the 300 has plenty of competition.

On the domestic front, the 300 goes up against the Ford Taurus, Buick LaCrosse and Chevrolet's athletic SS sedan. Buyers looking to purchase from a foreign automaker can cross-shop the 300 with the Hyundai Azera, Hyundai Genesis, Kia Cadenza and Toyota Avalon.

It should be noted that the SS and Genesis are the only rear-drivers of the bunch. The SS is also V8-only.

What does it look like?

Refined but not muted, the 2014 300 features many of the same bold styling cues that made the original a smash hit.

Up front, the design starts with a large, egg crate grille, plenty of chrome accents and wide headlights with integrated LEDs. The 300's nose is fairly blunt by today's standards, adding to its signature look.

Like the first-generation car, the 300's flanks remain a slab-sided affair, but flared wheel arches help break things up at the front and the rear of the car. Whereas a number of sedans have adopted a sleeker, four-door coupe silhouette, the 300 sticks to a traditional three-box design.

The haunches of the 300 feature almost mini tail fins that integrate nicely with the car's vertical taillights. A stylized bumper includes a chrome accent bar and dual exhaust cutouts.

When done up right, the 300 is one of the meanest-looking rides out there, but our particular test car was a little, well, geriatric. Between its smallish 18-inch wheels, gobs of chrome and blue over beige color scheme, we almost felt obligated to find the nearest early bird special every time we went for a drive.

And the inside?

No longer a penalty box, the 300's interior now boasts loads of high-tech gadgets and high-quality materials.

The 300's technology story starts with Chrysler's typically fantastic Uconnect infotainment system. We say typically because we did encounter a few bugs, but more on that later.

Accessed via an 8.4-inch touchscreen located atop the 300's center stack, Uconnect controls everything from the vehicle's power rear sunshade to audio functions to navigation. Unlike other infotainment systems on the market, Uconnect is easy to use and easy to customize. For example, with just a few simple clicks we were able to set up the 300 to automatically turn on its heated seats and steering wheel whenever the vehicle was started, which was a warm welcome during our frigid week of testing.

Operating the vehicle's audio system and navigation proved to be just as breezy. Even pairing our phone with Uconnect was a snap, which (surprisingly) isn't always the case.

However, we did encounter one glitch during our testing. While connected to Uconnect's Bluetooth, one of our phone calls was suddenly interrupted by the radio turning on as if the call had ended. However, the radio turned back off just as quickly and we were able to finish our conversation. Once that call ended the radio refused to work, requiring a system restart. We're not sure what caused the problem, but it seemed to be an isolated incident as we didn't experience it again.

Luckily, you'll never be too hot or too cold if Uconnect decides to go on the fritz - physical controls for the HVAC system are located just below the infotainment screen.

On the luxury front, the 300C delivers with a long list of standard equipment and up-scale materials.

Both front seats are power-operated, as are the 300's pedals and wood and leather steering wheel. The 300's front leather thrones are about as comfortable as they come, and the same can be said for the car's rear bench. Rear seat passengers will also appreciate the 300C's standard rear seat heaters.

Behind the 300's thick-rimmed steering wheel resides a twin-pod gauge cluster. Illuminated in Chrysler's now signature blue glow, the 300's dials are equal parts easy to read and interesting to look at. The same can't be said for the gauge cluster's integrated LCD screen, which is a little too small for the modern era.

The materials used throughout the 300's interior are generally quite good, but we did come across some fit and finish issues. Not all seams lined up in our tester and things like the door cover on the center stack didn't operate as smoothly as they should in a car with luxury pretensions.

Overall we like the straightforward design of the 300's cabin although, as we mentioned before, our test car's beige and light wood color scheme wouldn't be our first choice.

But does it go?

Not to be confused with the tire-shredding SRT model, the 300C is best suited for boulevard cruising.

In fact, a "Comfort Suspension” is the second item listed under the 300C's standard equipment. However, that doesn't mean the 300 is some floaty barge from a bygone era.

We found the 300's suspension setup to be a near ideal compromise between comfortable and capable. The 300C absorbs bumps nicely and isolates jolts from the cabin, but also lets the driver have a bit of fun. Don't get us wrong -- the 300 is no canyon carver, but it certainly doesn't fall all over itself like its comfort designation might suggest.

The 300's steering is a similar story - there is little feedback from the tiller, but it's direct and quick enough to at least keep things interesting.

The 300C can be optioned with Chrysler's sensational HEMI V8, but we found our tester's 292 horsepower, 260 lb-ft of torque 3.6L V6 to be perfectly acceptable for around town duties. Despite being saddled with a somewhat portly 4,000 pound curb weight, the V6 never felt underpowered and even performed well during highway passing maneuvers. If we were spending our own money we'd probably spring for the HEMI, but the six is a fine choice that won't disappoint most buyers.

The V6 also comes with the benefit of Chrysler's eight-speed automatic transmission . Around town the eight-cog unit won't save you much fuel, but the gearbox has long enough legs to net 31mpg on the highway.

Despite having three extra gears compared to the five-speed automatic used in 300 V8 models, we never experienced any offensive "hunting” from the transmission. Moreover, the unit did a good job of sensing our driving mood and would often hold gears longer during spirited jaunts.

Our only real complaint was not with the transmission itself but rather with the unit's gear lever. Chrysler's redesigned shifter can be a bit finicky, sometimes requiring the side button to be pushed to engage a gear while other times it can just be moved forward or backward. Needless to say, there were a few times transitioning from reverse to drive (or vice versa) that we ended up in neutral.

Our tester was equipped with rear-wheel drive, but all-wheel drive is available. If polar vortexes are a common occurrence in your neck of the woods, you'll probably want the added surefootedness of the AWD option.

MG's bottom line

Though not without faults, the Chrysler 300C is a solid option for those that want full-size luxury without a full-size price.

The 300 would benefit from a little more attention to details, but it's hard to argue against a vehicle that offers this much size, style, comfort and technology for under 40 grand.

2014 Chrysler 300C base price, $36,695. As tested, $39,285.

Dual-Pane Panoramic Sunroof, $1,595; Destination, $995.

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