Chrysler 300 - 2008

There's currently no category within the Most Wanted awards for "best returning-to-glory car." But if there were, the Chrysler 300 would certainly be a strong candidate to win. A proud and prestigious vehicle during the 1950s, the 300 fell into anonymity during the '60s and then pretty much disappeared from the automotive landscape for more than 30 years. Only with the current model has Chrysler revived the accolades and respect that once surrounded this proud nameplate.

Thanks to its distinctive styling, roomy interior and powerful performance capabilities, the latest Chrysler 300 has become a popular choice in the large sedan segment. The 300C trim level, in particular, is an impressive vehicle thanks to its powerful 5.7-liter V8 engine. It's bracketed by two affordable V6-equipped models on one end and the high-performance 300C SRT8 on the other. According to our editors, nearly all 300 models should serve consumers well.

Current Chrysler 300

The Chrysler 300 is a large five-passenger sedan with rear-wheel or all-wheel drive. It's been designed to appeal to consumers desiring something with a bit more personality than a regular family sedan or an alternative to popular Japanese or European entry-luxury sedans. Some of the 300's underlying mechanicals are derived from Mercedes-Benz technology, and it's a platform sibling to the Dodge Magnum and Charger.

The 300's styling is unmistakably American. The large chrome grille, double-lens headlights, high beltline, bulging fenders and large wheels give it a strong presence on the road. A long 120-inch wheelbase shortens up the front and rear overhangs and opens up plenty of occupant space on the inside. Cabin dimensions are generous in all directions, and the 300 offers more legroom than most of its competitors. Its overall interior design has been described as simple but elegant. The dash area effectively combines sporty, semi-retro and luxury motifs.

There are currently five styles of the Chrysler 300 to choose from: base, Touring, Limited, "C" (labeled the 300C) and the 300C SRT8. Though budget-oriented consumers might be attracted to the base model's low price, we suggest stepping up to either the Touring or the Limited, as these trim levels come with the type of standard features expected for this class of car. The 300C and SRT8 versions are the performance-oriented models. The main difference between the two is that the SRT8 version has been tuned and equipped for maximum performance. For rear-drive Touring and 300C models, Chrysler also offers the W.P. Chrysler Executive Series. This model rides on a 6-inch-longer wheelbase and provides additional legroom for rear-seat passengers.

For power, the base 300 relies on a 178-horsepower 2.7-liter V6 connected to a four-speed automatic transmission. Touring and Limited have a 3.5-liter, 250-hp V6 and a five-speed automatic. The top-shelf 300C and 300C SRT8 feature a V8 engine. The 300C's makes 340 hp and the SRT8 boasts 425 hp. The SRT8 also features a stiffer suspension setup, more powerful brakes and a larger wheel and tire package. Most 300s are rear-drive, but Chrysler does offer all-wheel-drive versions of the Limited and 300C.

In reviews of the Chrysler 300, the car has fared quite well. Our editors have commented favorably on its masculine good looks, powerful V8 engines, long list of safety features and value for the dollar. Negatives are few but focus on the meager output of the base model's V6 and the car's poor outward visibility. Those desiring maximum fun will no doubt be pleased with the 300C SRT8; it can hit 60 mph from a standstill in just 5.7 seconds.

The current 2008 model has been updated with some additional features and freshened exterior styling, but shoppers of used Chrysler 300s will still find the sedan quite appealing. The car debuted for the 2005 model year. Models built for 2007 received a few extra features as compared to earlier years; this was also the first year for the W.P. Chrysler Executive Series.

Past Chrysler 300s

Like fossil records, the Chrysler 300 has a long but patchy history. It came into being in the mid-1950s as a way to showcase Chrysler's new "Hemi" V8 engine. The first 300 was introduced for 1955 and was based on the New Yorker two-door hardtop. Its 5.4-liter V8 developed 300 hp. After that, Chrysler began affixing sequential letters at the end of "300" for each year as well as offering different body styles, including a convertible. The 1957 300-C is typically considered the most beautiful and desirable of these early cars. The Hemi engines were discontinued in the 300 after 1958, but Chrysler continued to use the letter designations up until the '65 300-L. After that it was the plain 300. In total, there were seven generations of this car before it was dropped after the 1971 model year.

The 300 name was briefly resurrected in 1979 for a special version of the rather awful Cordoba. It would then take another 20 years before Chrysler decided to roll out the 300 moniker again. This was the 1999 300M. Unlike previous 300s, this was a front-drive sedan only. Based on the second generation of Chrysler's "cab forward" LH platform, the 300M used a 3.5-liter V6, making 253 hp (that's net horsepower, a far more conservative standard than the "gross" rating used prior to 1972) and mounted longitudinally in the engine bay. It was built through the 2004 model year.
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