It started instantly in brutally cold weather. I was grateful for that. It moved confidently through heavy snowfalls, which relieved the stress of driving when I shouldn’t have been on the road anyway. The 2015 Chrysler 300 Limited all-wheel-drive sedan is a good car, a full-size American sedan in the long tradition of Detroit metal. But I was happy to be done with it when my time behind its wheel was over.
It is a big, broad-shouldered automobile with a wide, aggressive stance — perfect for long highway cruises in good weather replete with dry roads and fair winds. It is a weighty affair, a bit over 5,100 pounds in the tested all-wheel-drive format. But its weight is a cipher in fierce crosswinds. And in that violent air, the wide-bodied architecture turns the car into a flighty albatross, controllable only with the utmost attention and effort.
Driving the Chrysler 300 Limited under such windblown circumstances turns a road trip into a chore. You are whipped and worn, despite the considerable comfort of the 300’s interior, the material quality of which has improved greatly since the car’s introduction a decade ago.
On the 300-mile run from our oldest daughter’s home in Cornwall, N.Y., to our residence in Northern Virginia, I found myself wishing for something smaller, sleeker, less prone to being caught and cupped by the wind. I marveled at the superiority of Mother Nature, pushing the big, heavy sedan around as if it were a paper bag.
Rest stops were welcome on this drive, if only to give the winds a chance to calm down. That was a marginally successful strategy. The winds quieted when I stopped and rested, but they began blowing and roaring again when I started to drive.
Argh! Was God trying to tell me something? Does heaven not like the Chrysler 300 Limited?
The wind diminished, happily, as I reached the Delaware Memorial Bridge. Crossing that bridge in high winds in a boxy vehicle body is neither a fun nor a wise thing to do. Had the winds remained strong at that point, I would have found a safe, convenient place to park — a much better alternative to being blown off the bridge or blown into someone else trying to cross it.
Snow showers and salt spray greeted me in Delaware. The 300 Limited with all-wheel drive easily handled that stuff. I was happy that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the current parent company of all things Chrysler, chose to send this one instead of a 300 with standard rear-wheel drive.
The 300 has been around for a decade because it is a big, affordable, reasonably well-built sedan that satisfies a variety of family transportation needs. It runs on regular gasoline with a standard 3.6-liter V-6 engine. For 2015, all Chrysler 300 models have been equipped with an eight-speed automatic transmission that can also be operated manually. But despite that laudable technical advance, actually made to help fuel economy, the rear-wheel-drive V-6 300 still gets a relatively unimpressive 24 miles per gallon in the city and 31 mpg on the highway.
The all-wheel-drive model gets about two miles per gallon less in each category. But I would stick with that one. Mileage isn’t everything. Besides, the traction that all-wheel drive provides in wet, snowy weather well compensates for anything extra you will spend on gasoline.
Fierce crosswinds, however, constitute another story with its own script. The bigger and boxier you are, the easier you are to push around. You might feel all powerful in your broad-shouldered, wide-stance, heavy, aggressive-looking ride. But Mother Nature is laughing at you. And just to make her point, she’ll hit you with a crosswind at 40 or 50 mph just to unsettle you. I’ve never felt so humbled on the road. I should have listened to my wife, Mary Anne — who does intelligent things such as paying attention to weather reports — and delayed my drive from Cornwall to Northern Virginia. But no. “It’s a big, heavy car,” I said. “It has all-wheel drive. I’ll be fine.”
Right. Maybe God was trying to tell me something. Next time, I’ll listen.
Bottom line: This is a full-size family sedan offered in myriad iterations. The 450-horsepower Chrysler 300 SRT8 is not in the lineup for 2015, but here’s betting it won’t be missed. Drivers desirous of more power than they will ever be able to use without incurring a traffic fine can get it in a Chrysler 300 equipped with a 5.7-liter V-8 gasoline engine delivering a maximum 363 horsepower and 394 pound-feet of torque. For most of us, the standard 3.6-liter V-6 (292 horsepower, 260 pound-feet of torque) will be sufficient.
Ride, acceleration and handling: In fair weather, the Chrysler 300 Limited AWD gets good marks in all three. It even does incredibly well in heavy rain and snow. But this car behaves badly in crosswinds.
Head-turning quotient: Big, broad-shouldered, aggressive, what one of my suburban Virginia friends calls “a very urban appearance.” Hmm . . .
Body style/layout: The Chrysler 300 is a full-size, front-engine four-door sedan with a traditional notchback trunk. It is available with rear-wheel or all-wheel drive. There are four basic trim levels:
S, C, C Platinum and Limited.
Engine/transmission: It comes standard with a 3.6-liter, 24-valve V-6 gasoline engine (292 horsepower, 260 pound-feet of torque). The engine is linked to an eight-speed automatic transmission that can also be operated manually.
Capacities: Seating is for five people. Cargo capacity is 16.3 cubic feet. The fuel tank holds 19.1 gallons of gasoline (regular grade is okay).
Mileage: I averaged 26 miles per gallon in mostly wind-crossed highway travel.
Safety: Standard equipment includes four-wheel disc brakes (ventilated front, solid rear); four-wheel anti-lock brake protection; automatic brake drying; emergency braking preparation and assistance; and stability and traction control.
Price: The 2015 Chrysler 300 Limited AWD sedan starts at $33,895, with a dealer invoice price of $32,818. Price as tested is $40,280, including $5,390 in options (onboard navigation with rearview backup camera, Chrysler Uconnect emergency communications system and other items) and a $995 factory-to-dealer shipment charge.