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2011 Chrysler 300C

By Cars.com,

As a parent, I get nervous whenever my kids' progress reports come out. I have to believe Chrysler knows how I feel, because the 300C hasn't seen an update since 2004. The automaker will be happy to know I was impressed with the 2011 Chrysler 300C's progress.

The foundation starts with a solid full-size sedan with no squeaks, rattles and little road noise; add all-wheel drive and a ton of features, and the 2011 300C is easily at grade level.

I enjoyed the way the 300C drove. It was a large, long car, but it didn't feel that way. I'm not saying it was nimble, but it was easy to drive and park. The acceleration from its standard Hemi V-8 was amazing, but even more impressive was the braking. It was tight and smooth without being herky-jerky.

The interior looks sophisticated, and the fit and finish is well-executed, with no exposed pieces of hardware or seams that didn't match up. Seeing as my test car, a 300C with all-wheel drive, rang up at $45,235 that's terrific progress. The 2011 300C has a starting MSRP of $38,170. I found only a couple areas of improvement for the 300C and then this student can own a valedictorian status.

EXTERIOR

The 300C aces its course in design. It really hasn't watered down its original retro-gangster design look. The grille has changed from wire mesh to horizontal slats, but rest assured, this car will stand out at all kid functions, though people may worry it will steal their lunch money because of its menacing, angled LED running lights.

Make no mistake, the 300C is big. It's wider and longer than its predecessor, and it fit in my garage with not much room to spare.

Getting into the car requires some attention. Both the front and rear doors open so wide that kids opening them may ding the car next to them in a parking lot. They're a little heavy, too, especially for younger kids. The biggest problem both my kids, ages 7 and 9, and I had was closing the door when seated in the car. At the first door stop, the door is reachable. If I opened the door to the second and last stop, I couldn't reach the handle without scooting to the seat's edge and holding on to the steering wheel to pull myself back in. My 6-foot-2 neighbor also struggled to reach the handle.

For those putting kids in the car, the roofline was not too low. The 300C's squared-off roof (as opposed to the low rooflines that many sedans are going for these days) allowed a little more room for getting smaller kids in without head-bonking.

The trunk was big, yet the back of the space, toward the backseat, was tapered. I didn't need to worry about fitting groceries, but it could prove difficult to fit a double stroller in it.

My kids would give the 300C its highest marks in the speed category. That's no surprise with the 300C's 363-horsepower, 5.7-liter Hemi V-8. It earns low marks at the gas pump, though. My test car got an EPA-estimated 15/23 mpg city/highway and used regular gas. A rear-wheel-drive 300C gets 16/25 mpg. The V-6-equipped 300 gets 18/27 mpg.

Where the 300C got high marks from me was in the all-wheel-drive department. I drove the 300C at night in a blizzard with slippery roads and low visibility. The 300C was a champ — never once losing its grip on the road.

SENSE AND STYLE

Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Great

Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Good Times

INTERIOR

The 2011 300C's interior is a huge improvement over the outgoing sedan. The interior looked refined with its real wood and metal trim, and there was an attention to detail that impressed me over and over.

In the front row there were so many features that I couldn't believe the majority of them were standard. The standard features include a heated steering wheel, heated and cooled cupholders, heated and ventilated leather seats, power-adjustable front seats and pedals, Bluetooth streaming audio, Uconnect voice-activated multimedia system, a backup camera and even a Garmin navigation system. There was even more like push-button start and remote start included in the 300C's price.

The Uconnect system was so easy to use that I want to give it advanced marks. There were handy tabs at the touch-screen's bottom that would take me to any category — climate, controls, radio, CD player, phone and nav — I needed. A detail that was overlooked, however, was how much the screen and the metal accent trim reflected sunlight right into my eyes. The screen didn't tilt to adjust for this occurrence. It was only corrected by turning the car in the opposite direction of the sun. The instrument cluster looked refined with some chrome around the gauges and cool blue backlighting. There were no issues with reflected light there.

The high-quality vibe continued for the kids, as the rear seats were heated. They couldn't get enough of that. Another source of constant enjoyment was the optional panoramic moonroof. They also loved the standard rear sunshade they could raise and lower on their own. The seat benches were very deep, but the legroom was weird. For such a long car, there were times that the kids felt cramped in the backseat. My husband had to move his seat forward more than he liked to silence the complaints. I found this odd for a car that barely fit in my garage.

IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT

Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair-Ample

Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair-Ample

SAFETY

The 2011 300C has been named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. For a car to earn this safety nod, it must receive the highest score of Good in frontal-offset, side-impact, rear and roof-strength crash tests. It also must have an electronic stability system, which is standard on the 300C. It hasn't been crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The 300C has three sets of lower Latch anchors in the backseat, and three child-safety seats can fit across the second row. Both forward- and rear-facing child-safety seats fit in the 300C, but the Latch anchors can be difficult to use because the seat cushions are pushed against them. My daughter's booster seat fit in the 300C, but the floppy seat belt buckles were hard for her to grasp and she needed my help buckling up.

In addition to its electronic stability system, the 300C has standard rear-wheel drive, all-disc antilock brakes, traction control and seven airbags, including side curtains and a driver's knee airbag.

The optional features include all-wheel drive, forward collision warning system, front and rear parking sensors, Blind Spot and Cross Path Detection, and adaptive cruise control. All these systems worked flawlessly, though the parking sensors were really sensitive.

Snapshot:

Starting MSRP $38,170–$40,320

MPG

City: 15 – 16

Highway: 23 – 25

Available Engines

363-hp, 5.7-liter V-8 (flexible; E85)

Transmissions

5-speed automatic w/OD and auto-manual

New or Notable

• Redesigned for 2011

• New V-6 (300) or Hemi V-8 (300C)

• Available all-wheel-drive (300C)

• Related to Dodge Charger

• Standard touch-screen multimedia system

What We Like

• Handsome interior

• Much-improved crash-test ratings

• Handling with Touring suspension

• Brake-pedal feel

• Well-appointed base model

What We Don't

• So-so gas mileage

• Lazy five-speed automatic

© The Washington Post Company