by David Zatz see 2015 Chrysler 300C
Chrysler’s flagship car was the 300 series, boasting optional Hemi V8 power, rear or all wheel drive, a big-American-car look, and, for its first years, a rather bare-bones interior. The car was in development when Daimler-Benz took over Chrysler Corporation, and the first generation was heralded as symbolic of their relationship. Chrysler was then sold/given to private equity firm Cerberus, put into bankruptcy, and brought back with Fiat as the dominant shareholder; so there was a great deal of concern over what the second generation would look like.
The 2011 Chrysler 300 and 300C appeared in due time, with its brash and bold front-end styling toned down somewhat; some hated the change, and others loved it. The interior gained almost universal plaudits, though, leaving the spartan plastics of the first generation far behind. The story goes that, when Daimler left, Cerberus leaders looked at the 300 and said, “Put another $150 into the interior.” Then, when Fiat took over, Sergio Marchionne said, again, “Put another $150 into the interior.” The story is likely apocryphal to a degree, but there’s no doubt that the cabin was dramatically upgraded.
The new looks, inside and out, also came with new V6 power; the old 3.5 liter V6, designed for the LH cars, had produced 250 hp and 250 lb-ft of torque. The new Pentastar engine produced 292 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque – a substantial upgrade — with somewhat better gas mileage. The change didn’t mean much to most buyers, until the 2012 Chrysler 300 was built; that added an optional eight-speed automatic transmission, replacing the five-speed.
It was a transformational change for the V6 (V8 buyers couldn’t get it), and 0-60 times dropped by around two seconds (to 6.6), while gas mileage shot up from 17/27 (with the 3.5) to 21 city, 31 highway (18/27 with AWD). What’s more, it ran on regular gas, rather than the 3.5’s midgrade fuel.
The 2012 model year also brought a new 300 SRT8 packing 465 horsepower, the Beat-equipped 300 S, and high-end Chrysler 300C Luxury Series (née Executive). Europeans got a higher-trim version of the same car, dubbed the Lancia Thema.
For better aerodynamics and visibility than the 2010 300s, the 2011-14 windshield was raked back 3 inches, while rolled-framed doors with thinner pillars improved outward visibility by 15%. A new dual-pane panoramic sunroof let in more daylight; the 300 also had chrome daylight openings, chrome front and rear fascia accents, and optional 20-inch polished-aluminum wheels. The 300S’ V6 was rated at 300 horsepower rather than 292, had faster shifts, and a “sport mode” on the transmission.
The five-speed automatic was the only automatic for the 2011s, and the base automatic for the 2012s — the only automatic for the 2011-14 300 with the V8 engine. It had the same gear ratios, with revised axle ratios; the power rating went up slightly, to 363 horsepower, and gas mileage increased a bit. Acceleration was rated at “under six seconds,” which made the 2011 300C faster than the 2007 300C.
*300 hp in 300S
Europeans had a 188 hp or 236 hp (their choice) VM diesel option, with better gas mileage, more power, quieter operation, and reportedly better durability than the Mercedes diesel used in 2010.
The rear had a more upscale look, with LEDs showing through “light pipes,” a chrome appliqué connecting the taillamp elements, and fascia-mounted 3.5-inch oval dual exhaust tips. Inside, the 2011-14 Chryslers had soft touch materials, optional Nappa leather seats, and real wood trim. (Nappa leather is a full-grain, unsplit leather which has a specific tanning process to increase softness without sacrificing durability.)
Even the base car had side-curtain and seat-mounted side air bags, a knee bag, stability control, hill start assist, rain brake support, ready alert braking, touch-control stereos with aux jack and USB input, wheel-mounted audio control, dual-zone automatic climate control with humidity sensors, front and rear vents, a cabin air filter, 12-way driver seat, express windows, leather-wrapped tilt/telescope steering wheel, trip computer, P215/65R17 tires, automatic headlights, LED tail-lamps, and a power release gas door (cap-free). That all came for $27,995 including destination (US).
The 2011-12 300 Limited cost another $4,000, which added leather, heated front seats, voice control, backup camera, alarm, six-speaker Alpine stereo, 18 inch chrome clad wheels (P225/60 tires; 19 inch on AWD), chromed mirrors and door handles, power folding and heated mirrors, and front fog lights.
2011 300C ($38,995) buyers got ventilated front seats, heated front and rear seats, wood/leather-wrapped, heated, power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, power rear sunshade, heated/cooled cup holders, an 8.4 inch telematics system, auto-dimming outside mirrors, some LED interior lighting, and driver memory for the seats, steering wheel, radio, and mirrors. SmartBeam HID headlamps with auto-leveling came in a safety package. The trimlevels were Touring (with V6), Limited (with V6, leather, heated front seats, fog lamps, backup camera, 18-inch chrome wheels, bright door handles, and more), 300C (standard V8), and 300C AWD.
The AWD system had a transfer case that disconnected the front axle entirely when it wasn’t needed, saving a bit of fuel; the system cost around $2,200 more than RWD).
The SafetyTec group added adaptive forward lighting, self-leveling HID headlamps, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, a blind spot monitor, rear cross path detection, front and rear park assist, rear fog lamps, and mirrors with turn signals and approach lamps.
See the Chrysler 300C Executive page...
The 2013 Chrysler 300C was the first to make the V6 standard, instead of the Hemi (and the eight-speed was now standard with the V6, though not with any V8). That meant buyers could get all the luxury goods without the extra power. Was it fair to the 300 letter-car heritage? Well, the original 300 was named after the gross horsepower of the engine; and the 292-hp (net) V6 certainly generated at least 300 hp, gross. Generally, though, the modern 300C and the original 300C were far apart in too many ways to count.
Other changes included standard leather, as the base model was dropped. That also meant that the Limited, now the base model, was no longer called the Limited. This move was mainly to get resale prices up — making the 300 a bit more exclusive, with any lost sales hopefully going to the Dodge Charger.
Other 2013 changes were letting buyers get HID headlamps without SafetyTec, and black painted roof options for the SRT and 300S. Beats sound was optional across the board (standard on S). A new Chrysler 300 Glacier combined AWD with various appearance features, and the 300 horsepower setup from the 300S. New colors included Granite Crystal, Billet Silver, Jazz Blue and Phantom Black Tri-Coat.
Safety-minded buyers were likely happier with the 2014 300, which had SafetyTec optional on every 300 model (not just the 300C and SRT). You could also get SafetyTec without HIDs. Starting late in 2013 and carrying into 2014, the 300S V8 did not require the Luxury Group.
The Lancia Thema, Europe’s version of the Chrysler 300, started at around $44,200 in Germany (plus 19% VAT) for the Gold version, with 3 liter diesel pushing out 188 horsepower or 236 hp through a five-speed automatic (see table above); the more powerful engine is available only in Platinum and Executive trim, with Platinum starting at around $51,000 before tax. An alternative, at the same price, to the higher end diesel is the V6 gasoline engine, coupled only with the eight-speed ZF automatic.
Lancia provided horsepower and kW figures. Converting from kW to horsepower yielded 188 and 236 horsepower for the diesels, but Lancia’s figures for horsepower were 190 and 239. Prices listed for Lancia are estimates based on Sept. 16, 2011 exchange rates and German prices as of the same date.
As for the hot SRT8, it was more comfortable and handled better than the first series did; but still, according to oh2o, sales (shown as a percentage of the total) fell each model year. He wrote, “The 2006 model year 300C SRT8 still holds the all-time record for most SRT8s built in a single model year — around 10,200. The 2014 Jeep could be close to that number (maybe even a little higher), but the 2014 Jeep model year ran 18 months.”
Beginning with the 2011 model year, Chrysler increased testing miles by 50%; the 300 series sedans were tested for more than 7 million miles in the company’s scientific labs, at the proving grounds, and on public roads in environmental extremes. (Somehow this did not stop the interiors from garnering many creak and rattle complaints.)
The Chrysler 300 had Fiat’s new roof laser braze process, allowing a seamless transition from the roof to the door opening. The laser braze process uses an intense laser beam to melt a piece of silicon wire, applied by four robots, between the aperture and roof panel.
Another major change occured on the trim line, where employees analyzed all the parts used and segregated them into unique kits; this allowed operators to spend less time getting parts, and cut the chances of using the wrong part. The long term plan was to dramatically cut the number of forklifts, instead delivering materials by train-like tuggers, in smaller containers, improving efficiency and safety while preventing errors.
Electro-hydraulic power steering increased efficiency. The 300 also used new wheel hubs with low-resistance, high roll-back brake calipers. Changes to the suspension geometries and hardware improved handling and driving feel dramatically; it included new lightweight front- and rear-suspension cradles with greater rigidity.
The suspension changes included new front shock absorbers, springs, and a repositioned lower-front shock-to-suspension-link bushing, expected to be more durable and comfortable than past systems. New front-suspension hydrobushings reduced harshness and improved brake feel.
The rear had new roll-steer geometry, for independent control of camber and toe suspension movement. New monotube shock-absorbers and springs, with premium urethane jounce bumpers and suspension links with rubber shock absorber bushings, reduced noise and improved ride, handling, and dynamics. New upper and lower spring-seat isolators provided additional dampening.
The 2011 Chrysler 300C AWD had a 0.5 inch (13 mm) tighter tire-to-fender fitment, a 0.15 inch (4 mm) lower ride height, and larger, wider wheels; it also had new upper- and lower-control arms and shock-absorber bushings, and redesigned half shafts.
Road-holding improved as a result of these changes; The new front camber (-1.0°) and rear camber (-1.75°) helped cornering by having tires leaning inboard at the top, relative to the body. Larger-diameter stabilizer bars, front and rear, cut body lean.
Suspension tunings were different depending on trim; the Touring, Limited, and 300C (17” and 18” wheels) were comfort tuned, while the Limited and 300C (20” wheels) could be ordered with touring tuning. The SRT was in a class of its own, and the 300S came with a sportier tune.
Hydraulic-boost brake compensation sensed failures in the hydraulic systems, and ran the ABS pump full time so brakes would perform normally for a time. “Ready Alert Braking,” unique for the class, applied a slight amount of brake pressure when the driver lifted off the gas suddenly, to get the brake pads and discs ready for a panic stop. Rain Brake Support applied slight brake pressure to remove water film from brake pads when the windshield wipers were used.
Braking systems had been improved both electronically and mechanically. The brake linings were revised, the brake booster replaced, and pedal travel and force adjusted. Performance linings on 300C (RWD) increased fade resistance and improved pedal feel. Parasitic-friction-reducing calipers with spreader springs were more efficient.
[See specifications, competitive comparisons, and our predictions from before the launch]
See JackRatchett’s eerily accurate rendering and other predictions we made, right and wrong.
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