Auto review: 2012 Chrysler 300C

The 2012 Chrysler 300C offers a surprising level of comfort, and good dynamics for its size and weight. The interior is both roomy and handsome, and the car comes with lots of standard equipment.
The 2012 Chrysler 300C offers a surprising level of comfort, and good dynamics for its size and weight. The interior is both roomy and handsome, and the car comes with lots of standard equipment.
Posted: May 14, 2012

As it turns out, the title character in the film The Three Faces of Eve had a relatively minor multiple-personality problem compared with the Chrysler 300. It has 13 faces.

There are 13 versions of this large sedan, and the prices of that baker’s dozen range from $27,470 for a sub-luxury V-6 base model to $47,470 for a fire-breathing, full-blown luxury car called the SRT8.

Planted in between these sub-luxury and luxury models is the entry-level luxury car that I just tested: a $38,470 critter called the 300C.

The various price tags reflect various kinds of equipment, utility, and personality. There are models with an emphasis on comfort (the Luxury Series) and on power (the 465-horsepower SRT8). There are 300s with rear drive and all-wheel drive, five-?and eight-speed automatic transmissions, relatively economical 3.6-liter V-6s, and the thirsty 6.4-liter V-8 found in the SRT8.

The rear-drive 300C I tested falls somewhere near the middle in most categories, including price, performance, and fuel economy.

The tester had EPAs of 16 and 25 miles per gallon, which is about what you’d expect from a 4,326-pound car powered by a 5.7-liter Hemi V-8. It is better than the 6.4-liter SRT8 (14 and 23) and not as good as the V-6 model’s 18 and 27.

Performance is also middle ground. The 300C’s 363 horsepower make it faster than the 292-horsepower V-6 and slower than the 465-horse SRT8 beastie boy. But getting from zero to 60 in about 5.5 seconds is still a quick transaction for a heavyweight.

And the test car’s dynamics were surprisingly good for its size and weight, thanks in part to an optional handling package that included a firmer, sport-tuned suspension and 20-inch performance rubber. The bite this big guy took when pushed hard into a corner and the composure it exhibited were more than I expected.

Braking is another plus, while the steering is a mixed bag. It is precise and responsive, but, like so many electric power-steering systems, it’s not too generous with road feel.

What also surprised was the comfort level. Even with the sporty suspension, the car rode well. It was also exceptionally quiet, reflecting the solidity of the car’s structure and appearance. Even at highway velocities, it managed to keep its voice down.

I don’t know that the 300C is the most beautiful big car I’ve ever been around, but it has a presence. The sculpting gives the 300 a certain formality and dignity I find attractive. And the design keeps its own counsel. There is nothing generic about it.

You could also argue that the design of both the exterior and interior of this car, which debuted as a 2011 model, is considerably more civil and mature than that of its predecessor.

The interior of this latest descendant of the original 1955 300, in fact, represents a quantum leap past the previous model. It benefits from more aesthetic design and higher-quality materials. The surfaces are devoid of hard plastic, the speedometer and tachometer are as attractive as they are readable, and the heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning controls are smooth and precise.

The interior proved as roomy as it was handsome. That 122 cubic feet of cabin volume allows a lot of knee and elbow room.

The 300C contains a ton of standard equipment. There’s a touch entertainment/navigation screen. The wood and leather-covered steering wheel is heated, as are the leather-trimmed front and rear seats. (The front seats are also ventilated and powered.) The power adjustable pedals have memories.

Given the amount of gear on the 300C, you’d have to say it’s a good value. But personally, I think I’d opt for the 300 Limited V-6 that I tested last year. It is $6,000 cheaper than the 300C and gets better mileage. It wasn’t as fast as this car, but it was fast enough. And equipped with the same handling package, it cornered as well.

Also, you can get it with a slick, new, eight-speed German automatic. The V-8s come only with a dated five-speed.

Contact Al Haas at alhaasauto@aol.com.

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