New Car Review: 2011 Chrysler 300

Front 3/4 view of black 2011 Chrysler 300 driving on mountain road
The 2011 Chrysler 300.

This is the second 2011 Chrysler 300 the press fleet folks have sent our way in the past few months. I wrote about the first one for High Gear Media's Carnewser.com a couple of weeks back.  That first car came option-free...sporting a price tag $7590 less than the 2011 Dodge Charger reviewed here on TireKicker in late September.

The Carnewser.com piece focused on my trying (and failing) to understand why Chrysler, working to set itself apart as an upscale brand would build and sell such reasonably priced examples of their flagship, the 300.

Since then, though, word has come that Chrysler's dropping the ax on the Dodge Grand Caravan. Come 2013, they'll only be selling the Chrysler Town and Country, setting off speculation that once Fiats, Alfa Romeos and Lancia-sourced Chryslers begin appearing in showrooms, the product mix between those brands, Dodge and Jeep may be very different from what we see now.

So let's assume a plan is in the works and assess the 300 on its own merits, absent percieved price crowding with its cousin, the Dodge Charger.

The 2011 Chrysler 300 rear view.

First of all, even in base form. the 2011 Chrysler 300 is drop-dead gorgeous. It's a completely different design from the last generation, relying on subtle cues to tie the two together. The details are superb and the effect sets the 300 apart as the only big American sedan of its kind.

The new Chrysler Pentastar V6 is a revelation...strong, smooth and economical. Even with a five-speed automatic (an 8-speed is on tap for 2012), the EPA says 18 city, 27 highway, and we saw a rock-steady 20 miles per gallon in a week of nothing but city streets.

The 2011 Chrysler 300 interior.

Like example number one, this 300 was the base model, with a base price of $27,170. Unlike the first car, this one had options...but just two. $295 for Deep Cherry Red Crystal Pearl Coat exterior paint, and another $295 for Customer Preferred Package 27E...Chrysler's Uconnect voice command with Bluetooth.

Fold that in with the standard equipment (4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, stability and traction control, brake assist, hill start assist, all the airbags a car can hold, power locks, keyless entry and pushbutton start, 8-way power driver's seat, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, an AM/FM/Sirius/CD/mp3 audio system with 6 speakers and USB and auxilary connections, and dual-zone climate control and while you don't have the pinnacle in luxury, you do have a remarkably equipped, very quiet, comfortable and reasonably quick big sedan for $28,585 with destination charges.

I've decided to stop worrying about why Chrysler offers this car for so little money. There are people who will be very glad they do.

2011 Chrysler 300

Base price: $27,170.

As tested: $28,585.

Likes: Room, quiet, fuel economy for its class.

Dislikes: Pairing and connecting phones with the Bluetooth system is a lengthy, hit-and-miss proposition.

EPA estimate: 18 mpg city/27 mpg highway.