The front of the Chrysler 300 looks like a large sedan version of the Chrysler 200 midsize sedan and Town & Country minivan, with many of the same visual cues in the grille, headlamps, air intakes and front bumper. It's much sleeker and more rounded at the nose, but carries a much lower aerodynamic drag coefficient because of the rounded elements and the very laid-back windshield angle. Neither the windshield nor the rear window carries any bright moldings at all, unusual for a luxury car, but it works on the 300.
On the S and SRT versions a gloss-black grille and headlight housings framed against monochrome bodywork; it's hard to imagine understated and menacing applied to the same car but that's how it looks. Think of an S as what you needed a customizer for previously but can now get with factory fit, finish and warranty. Add in big dark wheels and the S and SRT versions deliver the aggressiveness of an AMG E-Class or Cadillac CTS-V with more elegant machinery like a Bentley GT. We have mixed feelings about the styling, especially that of the 300 SRT8. It looks like an upscale hot rod, but we're not sure it quite pulls it off. If you're going for the hot rod look, a Dodge Challenger seems more appropriate. The styling seems to work best on the standard models.
The profile of the Chrysler 300 shows pronounced wheel lips front and rear, and they are connected by a sharp body line that starts at the trailing edge of the front wheel well and rises continuously to finish at the side of the tail lamps. That line, coupled with the larger side windows, narrower pillars, and another sculpted line at the bottom of the doors, does wonders to slim down and muscle up the look of the 300.
At the rear, there's a chrome bar running across the bottom edge of the decklid between the new vertical LED taillamps and a tall, flat rear bumper between the exhaust outlets that widens the look of the car at the rear. The execution of the LED daytime running lights at the front and the LED rear lamps is excellent. The S and SRT have deeper panels and a lip spoiler for stability. If it were ours we'd peel off the SRT8 emblem and keep people guessing.
The Chrysler 300 instrument panel, seat trims, center stack, switches and controls, door panels and door pockets were all redesigned for 2011. The largest changes you'll notice for 2012 are the 8-speed shifter, two upper-echelon sound systems and the SRT8's more distinguished interior.
This is a big car, and the interior roominess and dimensions front and rear are suitably generous. One of the more pleasant surprises in the Chrysler 300 is the amount of light entering the car.
The interior environment is classy without being fussy, and the LED lighting and instrumentation are spot-on. Upholstery can be cloth, leather, or suede and leather on SRT8 and trim is faux wood, real wood, carbon-fiber or piano black lacquer style; interior adornment is generally matte-finish chrome so annoying reflections are minimal.
The instrument panel contains a bright gauge package, with crisp graphics and ice-blue accent lighting that is brilliantly legible day or night.
The center stack is dominated by a large (8.4-inch) touch-screen control system, with audio and climate functions. Optional is a brilliantly colorful, large-icon Garmin navigation system. This system, because of its size, graphics, and capabilities, may be the best all-around nav system currently available, easy to read, easy to use, and often readable from the back seat. We highly recommend it. Turn onto Beaver Brook Road and in big type at the top of the screen it says, "Driving on Beaver Brook Road." We love it.
The 300's new four-spoke padded steering wheel has a nice, thick leather-wrapped rim and a thickly padded hub flanked by redundant switches for the voice-activated telephone, cruise control, sound system, and driver information center. On S and SRT models magnesium paddle shifters rise behind the horizontal spokes. They work well except several times we'd bump one of the paddles when making a tight turn, such as turning left at a stop sign; this manually selected first gear, which we wouldn't notice until when the car didn't automatically shift into second while accelerating away from the intersection. It's a minor annoyance but worth mentioning.
All the materials in the seats, door trim panels, headliner and instrument panel are appropriate, yielding either the classic warm luxury environment in the 300 Limited or a more youthful, efficient style in the S and SRT. Either way the cabin is a quiet, calming place where miles are put away with ease; and a fuel tank can last 500 miles on the open road.
Two new audio systems are available. The Beats By Dr. Dre package features 10 speakers, one trunk-mounted subwoofer and a 552-watt 12-channel amplifier. Lest that's not enough, the Harman-Kardon system uses 19 speakers with subwoofer and a 900-watt 12-channel amplifier for 7.1 surround sound.
SRT8 models get a unique steering wheel with flattened bottom, sport seats that fit even big guys, carbon-fiber look trim and dark accents, and the touch-screen adds choices like steering angle, additional instrumentation and sport-mode switching for suspension, engine and transmission.
The trunk capacity of the Chrysler 300 is 16.3 cubic feet. Plus, every Chrysler 300 has a split-fold 60/40 rear seat for longer items.