It seems odd that something so large and ungainly should have the temerity to call itself “sport.” But such is the case with the larger-than-life Chrysler 300 S, a full-size sedan available with rear-wheel or four-wheel drive.
Blame it on marketing — that syrupy mixture of fact and fantasy administered in heavy doses to take the “hard” out of “hard sell.” Consider, for example, the Chrysler 300 without the “S.”
It is a large car in the tradition of big Detroit automobiles. It has a bold, brash, in-your-face demeanor. Yet, despite its pugnaciousness, there is something undeniably attractive about it. It is a boat so loaded with standard amenities that you almost don’t care if it stays docked.
In fact, you might even prefer it. The Chrysler 300 — 16 feet, 7 inches long — consumes lots of real estate. It is not city-friendly, especially not in hyper-congested places such as New York, where every inch of road space is fiercely contested.
And the base Chrysler 300, equipped with Chrysler’s standard 3.6-liter, V-6 gasoline engine (292 horsepower, 260 pound-feet of torque) is a boat with barely adequate power. It offers almost respectable fuel economy, 19 miles per gallon in the city and 31 miles per gallon on the highway, using regular or E85 (85 percent ethanol) gasoline.
But you feel the full weight of the car, easily 5,100 pounds with two passengers and cargo, with that V-6 engine. In something as large as the Chrysler 300, it is better to move up the model line and get the available 5.7-liter gasoline V-8 (363 horsepower, 399 pound-feet of torque) and enjoy the power behind the car’s tough-dude mask. You also can up the power ante and get the Chrysler 300 SRT8 equipped with a 6.4-liter gasoline V-8 (470 horsepower, 470 pound-feet of torque).
But the higher you move up the 300 line, the more money you spend, hitting a base price of nearly $50,000 for the 300 SRT8, about $20,000 above the base sticker of a standard-equipped Chrysler 300.
So, what to do? You want the swagger and power of a Chrysler 300 SRT8, but you can’t afford the cost of that car. In come Chrysler’s marketing people with the 300 S package — the “S” indicating “sport.”
It is mostly an appearance and equipment thing that does not really make the big sedan move any faster or handle any better than the base Chrysler 300. You get the same 3.6-liter, V-6 gasoline engine with a slight boost in horsepower — eight more horsepower, increasing maximum output to 300 hp. You get 20-inch diameter wheels instead of the 17-inch wheels sold as standard equipment on the base car. And you get a wonderfully menacing, blacked-out, bad-boy grille and, oh, yes, a big black “S” emblazoned on the face of the front seats of the car.
What you don’t get is the 300 SRT8’s power and grunt. But, considering the higher price of that model and the cost of the gasoline needed to satisfy its thirst, it is probably best to go with the “S” appearance package and the available SafetyTec and Uconnect advanced safety technology and navigation packages, which are highly recommended by this column.
And don’t fret. Unless you live near a racetrack, have the money to pay for using that facility and have the extra insurance cash to cover the cost of driving a 6.4-liter Chrysler 300 SRT8 the way it was engineered to be driven, you can do without that big engine.
Enjoy the Chrysler 300 S. It is a big, comfortable automobile, perfect for driving long stretches of highway that don’t curve much. The SafetyTec package will keep you from swerving into the wrong lane or cutting in front of a vehicle fast approaching on your blind side. It also will automatically adjust your speed and distance while approaching the vehicle in front of you. And the optional Uconnect navigation system, with a standard, easy-to-use 8.4-inch touch screen, is one of the best in the business.
Just remember that your 300 S, with a base 3.6-liter V-6, is mostly an equipment package. Don’t try to take on a 300 SRT8, or anything with similar horsepower.
Bottom line: Know what you are buying and why you are buying it, especially when shopping for a multilayered car line such as the Chrysler 300. If you simply want or need a big sedan with reasonable fuel economy, be happy with the base 300. If you just want to look tough, get the 300 S and, maybe, a shrink to help you deal with anger-management issues. If all you want is traditional Detroit big-car luxury, get the exceptionally well-equipped 300 C John Varvatos Luxury edition. If you live near a racetrack and you have the time and money to play there, check out the 300 SRT8 with the 6.4-liter V-8.
Ride, acceleration and handling in the 300S 3.6 V-6: It gets acceptable/good marks in all three.
Head-turning quotient: The car is more “get out of my way” than “hello.” Put another way: It is more Putin than Obama.
Body style/layout: The Chrysler 300 is a front-engine, full-size sedan available with rear-wheel or with four-wheel-drive. It is offered with six equipment levels—300, 300 S, 300 C, 300 C John Varvatos Luxury Edition, 300 SRT8 Core, and the 300 SRT8.
Engine/transmission: The car comes standard with a 3.6-liter, gasoline, 24-valve V-6 with variable timing linked to an eight-speed automatic transmission that also can be shifted manually. A 5.7-liter gasoline V-8 is optional for this model.
Capacities: Seating is for five people. Long-legged types with tall hairdos report moderately comfortable rear seating. Cargo capacity with all seats in place is 16.3 cubic feet. The fuel tank holds 19.1 gallons of gasoline. Regular grade is okay. E85 (85 percent ethanol) is recommended for lower tailpipe emissions.
Mileage: I averaged 27 miles per gallon in mostly highway driving.
Safety: Standard equipment includes four-wheel disc brakes (ventilated front/solid rear); four-wheel antilock brake protection; emergency braking assistance; electronic brake-force distribution; electronic stability and traction control; high-intensity discharge headlamps; side and head air bags.
Recommended optional safety equipment: Chrysler SafetyTec and Uconnect packages.
Pricing: The 2014 Chrysler 300 S comes with a base price of $34,230 and a dealer’s invoice price of $32,756. Price as tested is $45,690 including $10,465 in options (the “S” appearance, SafetyTec and Uconnect packages) and a $995 shipping charge. Dealer’s price as tested is $43,690.