Big, imposing and impressive. That’s the vibe you get when you see the 2016 Chrysler 300 smoothly gliding down the road.
Given its relatively affordable price, this is a sedan that offers a fair amount of gravitas to its driver — more than you might expect of a contemporary Chrysler.
Following a 2015 refresh, the 300’s sales were slightly down compared to 2014 — and sales are less than half of the 140,000+ units the 300 moved in its mid-2000s heyday. Does that mean the 300 is less relevant? Or does it mean that the competition is simply better than ever. I believe the latter is true, but it’s still easy to find five good reasons to drive the 2016 Chrysler 300.
Reason #1: Up to 363 horsepower
Most 300 buyers will happily select the 3.6-liter V6 to motivate this big sedan. That mill is matched to an 8-speed automatic transmission that sends power to the rear wheels and makes 292 horsepower — unless you choose the 300S, which is specially tuned to make 300 horsepower. Think of it as the sporty version of the 300.
An 8-speed automatic transmission is standard and you use a rotary shift knob to select gears. If you’re looking for a more powerful engine, you’ll want to select the 5.7-liter V8 that makes 363 horsepower and 394 pound-feet of torque. It also uses the 8-speed transmission and that improves fuel economy. Add the fuel-saving cylinder deactivation technology to the mix and the V8 model should return 16 mpg in city driving and 25 mpg on the highway. That pales in comparison to the V6 models that average 19 mpg around town and 31 mpg on the highway. I averaged a disappointing 20 mpg driving the V6 model during my week behind the wheel.
Reason #2: Class-exclusive available all-wheel drive
When it comes to large sedans, Chrysler offers something none of its competitors do: all-wheel drive. That’s a big deal if you happen to live in places, like I do, where winter storms fill the roadways with snow and stability drops as quickly as the temperature. I’ve tested all-wheel-drive versions of the 300 in snowy and rainy conditions and always been grateful to have a little extra security, stability and traction when conditions turned treacherous.
The extra-good news is that all-wheel drive is available at all times. You don’t need to push a button to engage the system. Instead, the system monitors your need for traction assistance as you go and adjusts where necessary. That’s a good thing.
Reason #3: A comfortable and spacious interior
One of the best parts of the 300 is the spacious, comfortable interior. The seats of my tester were wrapped in a supple, white leather. The seats were comfortable, though they’re best enjoyed by a larger driver since the bolstering is minimal and I found myself sliding from side to side when I cornered aggressively.
Rear-seat space is generous and my kids immediately asked if we could buy the 300 for our next car. That’s saying something since they’re familiar with lots of cars and they were impressed by the ride of this luxury sedan. And that’s the surprising thing. The 300 isn’t as expensive as many luxury sedans, yet it feels expensive. Perhaps that explains the ongoing success of the 300. It delivers a lot of value and sense of luxury for not a lot of money.
Reason #4: 2016 Chrysler 300 offers improved tech features
Virtually every vehicle has some form of infotainment system and, frankly, many of them are frustratingly difficult to use. Not so with the Uconnect system in the 2016 Chrysler 300. The large screen displays information in a manner that is easy to understand and use the very first time you encounter it. Click “Radio” and you see the radio display. Click “Media” and it’s apparent you’re streaming audio via Bluetooth from your phone. Click “Climate” and you have easy access to seat heaters and other climate controls. This all sounds incredibly obvious, yet no other infotainment system is as easy to use or operate.
New for 2016 in the 300 is Apple CarPlay and Android Audio. The two systems make it easier than ever to pair a smartphone and use your phone’s voice-recognition system to search for information, compose text messages, ask about your daily schedule and any of the thousands of other ways you use Siri or your Android’s Google Now functions today.
Uconnect can also turn your 300 into a roving Wi-Fi hotspot. Your passengers will appreciate their ability to post status updates and comment on Instagram photos while you glide through town.
Reason #5: Affordable luxury
The 2016 Chrysler 300 lineup includes five models and all are available with rear-wheel or front-wheel drive. The 300 Limited starts at $32,015 and is well equipped at that price. The new-for-2016 Anniversary Edition starts at $35,010 and features a number of anniversary features that celebrate Chrysler’s 90th anniversary such as monotone paint, an Anniversary Edition splash screen on the infotainment system and Anniversary Edition floor mats. You also gain the 8.4-inch touchscreen infotaintment system, satellite radio, a power sunroof, leather-wrapped steering wheel, eight-way driver’s seat and more. Is that anniversary stuff essential? Probably not. But it may slightly increase the resale value of these 300 models in the future.
The 300S builds on the Limited model’s standard features, adds 8 additional horsepower, 20-inch wheels and a sport-tuned suspension and an optional performance-focused suspension that will likely go unnoticed by most drivers. That one starts at $35,470 and is a good middle ground for 300 drivers.
I last tested a 300C model in 2015 and that one ups the ante with more features like remote start, chrome accents, a heated steering wheel, heated and cooled front seats and heated rear seats (always popular with passengers) and more. You’ll spend $38,420 to start the conversation at your local Chrysler dealership.
The high end of the 300 world is the 300C Platinum that starts at $42,565 and includes virtually everything you could ever want or need in a large sedan, including 20-inch wheels, adaptive headlights, supple leather upholstery and a 19-speaker Harmon Kardon stereo that sounds fantastic and, remarkably, adds 13 more speakers than you’ll find in the 300C model. If you’re into great audio, this is the place to start your test drive.
A word of caution
There is a lot to like in the 2016 Chrysler 300. It’s spacious, comfortable, stylish and earns good safety scores. But here’s a big red flag: the reliability ratings for this vehicle are awful. Even after the latest update, Consumer Reports expects the 300’s reliability to be “much worse than average.” Reliability has long been a sore spot for Chrysler vehicles and the 300 is unfortunately maintaining a reputation for poor reliability. That’s a shame, because this is a good car in every other way.
2016 Chrysler 300 photo copyright Waterdog Media, Inc.