2013 Chrysler 300C V6 car review / road test
From 1957 to 2011, every Chrysler 300 letter car was distinguished by its big V8 engine. From 2005 to 2011, the Hemi was the only choice for performance in a Chrysler 300. Then Chrysler started using a state-of-the-art V6 and eight-speed automatic; suddenly, the V6 model could keep up with the 2004-2010 300C. In 2013, Chrysler took this as reason enough to build the 300C with a standard V6, and an optional V8.
While the base Chrysler 300 ($30,840) and the 300S are nicely trimmed, the Chrysler 300C goes above and beyond. Starting at $36,990, it includes real wood (including the upper half of the steering wheel), ventilated Nappa leather seats, and more doodads than you can shake a stick at. Outfitting a 300 this way is not just hard, it's impossible. It wasn't even possible in model-year 2012, when buyers could still buy a Limited with the Luxury Package.
The 300C Hemi V8 is still around; but while the V8 adds around 85 horsepower, it only cuts 0-60 times from 6.6 to around 5.8 seconds. The Hemi is more responsive, but gas mileage is far lower. With the V6, buyers can get 21/31 on the EPA schedule, or, more realistically, around 18 city, 29 highway. The Hemi drags down EPA ratings to 16/25, and that's on midgrade fuel; the EPA estimates that buyers will pay an extra $600 in gas per year for the Hemi (assuming $3.49 for regular and $3.65 for premium), and that's not even considering the higher insurance rates.
The 2013 300C looks like a luxury car inside and out: the lights are visibly more costly, with LEDs surrounding the headlights; the LED tail-lamps have more detail, with separate shapes for running lights and brakes/turn signals; and the entire tail-lamp assembly is encased in a plastic shell to avoid wear on chromed parts.
Inside, gauges are covered by a large leather-covered brow which matches the textured plastics; the tan interior has a two-tone scheme to prevent windshield reflections (while it looks like three colors in the photo below, that's an illusion. The darker color is the same dark brown seen on the steering wheel and dashboard sides.) Flat silver strips set off various elements without causing blinding reflections. Most “touch” surfaces have been softened, and being a 300C, our car had a wood steering-wheel top (it is amusing that critics demand soft plastic and hard wood). The 300C has real wood, while the old 300M had fake wood that looked very real — real wood is a relic these days, needed solely for credibility.
As with the Charger, the 300C is a full sized car, so there is no cramped cockpit or back seat; you can sit upright, and your head will not come near the roof; you can store things in the trunk; and you can put three people into the back seat. The engine is quiet at idle, and the va-VOOM when you hammer the throttle down is more restrained and muffled than with the Charger.
Visible stitching fits the current fashion; inserts, silver, and chrome on the doors, break up large areas. The leather seats were perforated for comfort in both front and back, and the back seats and doors were as detailed as the fronts.
300C power and ride
The 300C's ride is similar to that of the Dodge Charger, but more cushioned; the interior is quieter (the Chrysler has acoustic glass), and the powertrain is more luxury-tuned. We had Hemi versions of both cars back to back, and the 300C was clearly different. The Charger Hemi would snap your neck back with little provocation; the 300C Hemi seemed gentler. The 300C V6 is a step gentler than the 300C Hemi, partly because it has a more advanced transmission, and partly because of its far lower torque (260 lb-ft vs 394 with the Hemi).
The 300C had plenty of power for easy and quick acceleration around town and on the highway, but with a delay before a stomp on the accelerator brought a downshift and corresponding flood of power — regardless of engine. One rarely gets a hard shift, and there is a bit of a delay before anything happens. The delay is not as bad as on some cars that like to stay in high gear and don't like downshifting (hello, GM), but it is there. It must be part of the controller's software, because the transmission itself shifts with insane speed.
To maximize gas mileage, the eight-speed is (again, like GM transmissions) programmed to keep as high a gear as possible most of the time, a strategy eased by the Chrysler engines' low-end torque; the Pentastar V6 has dual-cam phasing which has much the same effect as Fiat's MultiAir system. Like any good variable valve timing (VVT) system, it optimizes power at all engine speeds. The result is that the eight-speed coasts more freely than the old five-speed or older four-speed automatics; it also shifts more quickly, and often it's impossible to tell when it's shifting unless you're really paying attention to the power and sound levels (or to the tachometer). The transmission can make upshifts and downshifts several-at-a-time, so flooring the gas pedal results in more power, more quickly, than if it had to go down one at a time.
The ride is well cushioned, and smoothes broken cement roads with no noise, but with some minor jiggling. It's a moderately firm but shock-absorbing ride, not big-Lexus-floating-sofa but not sports-coupe either. The impression of speed is reduced by the high level of sound insulation, effortless power, and steady feel.
The car feels heavy, but not ponderous, and not nearly as heavy as the previous version felt (it is, in fact, heavier now). Changes to the suspension improved feel and cornering; you can fly through curves at absurd speeds, and for good measure stomp on the gas halfway through. The 300C doesn't leap forward so much as it calmly gains speed, unless you floor the throttle; leaping is left to the Hemi Charger. (Charger police cars and SRT models take it one step further.)
It's an achievement for a car this big to ride this well and yet take turns as sharp, and as quickly, as it does, with nary a squeal from the tires. What's more, parking is made fairly easy by a tight turning radius.
Stability control is there to rescue you from wet pavement, patches of ice or sand, and extremely foolhardy decisions, but a typical driver will never feel it working. With the all wheel drive, most people will probably never encounter stability control; it takes a lot to make it kick in. Even with the rear wheel drive, stability control should normally just sit in the background most of the time.
The transmission was part of the background, shifting smoothly and quickly, kicking down rapidly when needed for passing power, and generally acting as we would in its place. The 300C, sadly, does not include any sort of range select, other than a low gear; the 300S and SRT8 both have up/down paddles, probably the best gear-bumping design out there. Fortunately, the transmission generally did exactly what it was supposed to. The only problem we had with it was the shifter, a fancy too-obviously-electronic piece that always went back to the same position, and required counting detents — not a big deal when going from P to D and back, but a pain when doing a K-turn, when it tended to prefer hitting Neutral. Yes, one gets used to it, and yes, one still slips up sometimes after a month of driving the car.
Interior: seats and such
Seat comfort was mixed — one driver liked them, one didn't; they are at least highly adjustable, even if they still have not gotten back to the “sink into support” of the 1999-2004 Chrysler 300M (which preceded the 2005 Chrysler 300C). For added storage, you can easily fold down the rear seats (in a 2/3 arrangement so you can still have one or two passengers with a single long object sticking out from the capacious trunk), though there is no “skis” pass-through in center. There is more storage in the two-level glove compartment, and those who want to leave the user's guide at home can do so, since Mopar now provides that information in app form, on the Web, and on CD and USB thumb drives. Of course, you'll need a computer or tablet or something to read it.
The gauge cluster is unusual, hearkening back to the electroluminiscent displays of Chryslers from long ago, and gorgeous, day or night. The speedometer on our test car went up to 140, unlike the 160 mph speedometer on our last 300C in 2011; that helps legibility of the legal range. The 7,000 rpm tachometer makes sense with a 6,500 rpm (or so) redline.
The newly redesigned center status display (“Vehicle Information Center,” or VIC) got color for 2013. By default, it shows status messages, the outside temperature, compass heading, and odometer. On a Hemi, it'll also show you when you're running on four cylinder mode by flashing the word “ECO.” With the V6, it shows “ECO” almost randomly, and should simply be turned off. To summarize, you're using less gas when you're coasting or barely ticking the engine over.
The VIC can show gas mileage, as pictured, with distance-to-empty and the average, with a bar for current mileage (no, we didn't photograph it while driving); or it can show data such as oil temperature, antifreeze temperature, transmission fluid temperature, and, if you have AWD, whether the car is in RWD or AWD. It would be nice if there was a “multiple info” mode which showed more than one of these at a time, since there's room for it; or if the system could alternate among several metrics; or if you could show all of it in the big center screen at once.
Backlighting is used on just about every control and button and dial, as if to castigate Daimler for taking away all the lights it could. Not only are both front and rear cupholders lit, but the light turns red when the cup heaters are on, dark blue when the coolers are on. Lights in the door handles and map pockets were dim enough to be ignored, but bright enough to be useful — and on a rheostat.
The headlight switch (in its traditional on-dash location) provides a choice of off, automatic, parking lights, and headlights, with push-for-fogs; the rheostats (one for the dashboard, one for the other interior accent lights) sit next to it. For the 300C with Lighting Package, which includes rear fog lights, pressing once gets the forward fogs, twice gets the rear and forward fogs, three times gets just the fronts again, and four shuts it all off. Rear fogs are handy in “extremely foggy” conditions (we're looking at you, Great Lakes) or blizzards, and when the guy behind you won't shut off his brights.
Climate controls are between the stereo knobs, underneath the large screen. There are buttons for temperature (driver and passenger sides), a/c, recirculate, automatic, and defrost, and a knob for the fan speed; if you want to change the vents or turn on the seat-warmers or steering wheel warmer, you'll need to use the touch screen.
The stereo has real knobs for both volume and tune/scroll, and steering wheel buttons for volume, tune, and mode. Between them, you can do most everything but change the bass/treble and balance — which would be handy, and we don't know why there's no “press to get audio controls” feature on the Tune knob (which does have a button), possibly because pressing the button is needed for the browse-and-select feature — often far easier than using the touch screen.
The cruise control is back on the steering wheel, on the right; the trip computer controls are on the left. If you have them, the voice command button is on the left, and the laser-based distance-sensitive cruise control is on the right.
Numerous little touches make life easier — like having the navigation system provide turn by turn directions in the status panel between the speedo and tach as well as on the big screen; and showing the park assist in the dash. The big screen also allows drivers to set numerous preferences, turning on or tuning safety and convenience features including the blind spot and cross path detection, automatic locking and lights, and such. It's easier to use this system than the past EVIC control, which was easier than turning the key three times while pressing unlock and whistling a show tune.
Keyless ignition and locks are standard. Press the underside of the driver's door, and if your keys are in your pocket, it will unlock; press the underside of the passenger door, and all the doors unlock. Once inside, a starter button takes the place of the ignition switch. Unlike most cars, the Chrysler both gives you directions (on the status display) and tells you what mode the car is in — off, accessory, and run — with lights above the switch.
The trunk has no physical key, but it does have a button now; push it, and the trunk pops all the way open. The driver can also open either the trunk or the gas cap from inside — a locking gas cap is new again for Chrysler, though the button to release it is carefully hidden from sight unless the door is open. There is no separate gas cap; the filler door has a cap integrated into it, saving valuable seconds and preventing drivers from leaving their cap behind.
Another minor but useful example of forethought is the cruise control. Most cars tell you when the system is on, or when a speed is locked in; the 300C has little icons for on, locked, and “distance sensitive,” and tells you what speed is locked in.
The center screen is handy for the rear camera, which provides a panoramic view of what's behind you, including a surprisingly clear color image at night. This is handy for backing into spaces, and you can also make sure you're not blocking a driveway when in tight spots.
The screen includes the heated seat and steering-wheel controls, which show up by default when the system is booted, on the screen that asks you to agree not to be distracted while driving. There are no physical heated-seat buttons, except for the rear seats.
The rear sunblock can be activated by the rear passengers (real button) or driver (touch screen); it is handy for protecting rear occupants from the sun, keeping the interior from baking, and supplementing the automatic day/night mirror when needed. When the car is put into reverse, the sunshade automatically comes down; you can also program the car to tilt the side mirrors down when reversing.
Above, the Charger had the usual panoply of dome and map lights, along with a drop-down sunglass/eyeglass holder and the universal garage door opener buttons. The overhead lights include both touch-to-activate dome lights and directed map lights with separate buttons.
2013 300C Options: SafetyTec system and Lighting Package
Our test car had two options: SafetyTec and the Lighting Group. SafetyTec was adds foldaway mirrors with integrated (forward-facing and rather pointless) turn signals, forward collision warning, rear parking assist, blind spot and cross path detection, and adaptive (distance sensitive) cruise.
Rear cross path detection and blind-spot detection, both of which can be shut off or silenced, alert the driver with yellow lights in the mirrors and audible alerts. While you can twist and turn to see around the blind spots, it only takes one prevented collision for them to pay off. The rear cross path, at least, can spot cars before the driver does, when backing up. Rear cross path detection is activated when you shift into reverse; it is supplemented on 300C with a rear-view camera and parking distance sensor.
Blind-spot detection works whenever you are moving, activating a yellow light in the mirror when a car is there, but it only sounds when you put on your turn signal.
The parking alerts in both front and back were cleverly designed, with visual warnings in the dashboard and audible alerts coming from whichever corner of the car was involved — rather than having a single alert. Unlike past cars with this system, there were no LEDs lighting above the rear window, but drivers will usually have their eyes up front anyway — glued to the backup camera, which is on every 300C that has the alerts. The rear alert does seem unnecessary, since the camera's already in play, but the front alert is handy for getting right to an obstacle without hitting it. Yes, we can live without it; no, we don't really want to do without it, now that we have it. (I personally used to navigate a Plymouth Fury into parking spaces without any frills, not to mention a couple of minivans, so it's not a matter of “not enough skill” so much as “hey, I have a better tool now.”)
The adaptive cruise control system uses radar to figure out how far away the car in front is; the radar also provides the forward collision warning. Chrysler's implementation allows the driver to choose the distance from the car in front, with three settings which we can call “metro highways,” “Midwestern highways,” and “long, mostly empty stretches between cities.” The shortest setting provided a safe distance but didn't invite people to cut in; the other settings were a bit long for areas where drivers are rude or impatient. The system worked well, allowing some “fudge factor” when the car in front slowed down, and providing for brisk but not jarring acceleration when the obstacle in front was cleared (by either the 300C or the other car changing lanes). The system worked predictably and well; as an aside, Forward Collision Warning and adaptive cruise are only allowed to apply the brakes up to 25%, so avoiding a crash is still the driver's job.
We experienced the Forward Collision Warning a few times when drivers cut into unreasonably tight gaps; the system flashed a large red light on the VIC and sounded a unique alarm. It was not necessary but might be handy for sleepy drivers, or unexpected hazards on long highway trips.
The rain-sensitive wipers had no clear setting for automatic mode, but they did their job well enough.
The Lighting Group, which used to be part of SafetyTec, adds rear fog lights and HID headlamps with automatic leveling and tightly focused beams. The standard SmartBeam headlamps, used with either halogens or HID headlights, adjust to ambient light and oncoming traffic. With the HIDs, every time the car is started, the headlights do a little dance, showing off the automatic leveling and slight turning capability. HID headlights are far brighter than standard units, their blueish light is fashionable, and at $795, they are almost a given.
Standard 300C features
The rear sunshade is handy both for keeping sun off the rear passengers, and for cutting some of the glare from drivers who leave their brights on (the rear fog lights might be handy for convincing them to move away). It automatically goes down when you put the car into reverse, and has controls both in front (touch-screen) and in back (real button).
Standard 300C luxury features are plentiful, and are a good reason for V6 buyers to be grateful for the new 300C V6 option. They include the information center, remote start, eight-way power front seats with four-way lumbar adjustment, heated and ventilated front seats, heated back seats, dual-zone automatic climate control (with a humidity sensor), large touch screen, SD port, remote USB and audio ports, 276-watt amp with six speakers and satellite radio, voice control and cell control, leather-wrap-and-wood heated steering wheel, power rear sunshade, capless fuel filler, rain-sensitive wipers, power pedals, and power tilt/telescope steering column.
In 2011, you could put all the windows down remotely; this disappeared in 2012 or 2013, along with instructions for programming your own extra key fob. Still, the two-driver memory system covers the seats, steering wheel, pedals, outside mirrors, and radio.
Chrysler 300C stereo and navigation system
The 300C includes three auxiliary jacks for the stereo: standard audio, USB, and SecureDigital. The SecureDigital (SD) card plugs directly into the dashboard, where it is handy but inconspicuous; we ended up using two cars, one with 32 GB (mine), and one with 8 GB (my wife). Unfortunately, the system reputedly maxes out at 32GB... though we could get around that by using USB thumb drives instead. The USB drive and auxiliary jack are both in the center console, away from sight, and are backlit, with a clear plastic cover to prevent rubbish from getting in. The console also has a removable change tray, with an indentation that has enough room for an iPod Classic and its docking cord.
Given how large and cheap SD cards are, that's probably the best option, since you don't need to risk your iPod in the car; second best is the thumb drive, since they are also relatively inexpensive, but they will be more subject to breaking in the console, and take up space. There are only a few gotchas to using cards or drives: the system can't play some high-resolution AAC files (we haven't quite figured out the rules yet), it certainly can't handle Apple Lossless, and, if you use a Mac, you have to use a utility (or a Terminal command, such as rm -rf */*/._*, though we really recommend a utility such as TinkerTool System) to get rid of all those empty resource-fork files. These are trivial problems for the overall convenience, especially given the flexibility of the menus.
We were surprised at how well the system took a bunch of tunes deliberately not stored in folders, and sorted them by artist and by album, with the GraceNote-powered cleanup option. The interface will use your folder names for the artist and album if it can't figure the music out.
Our car had a standard Alpine stereo unit (part of the 300C package), and it was excellent— we tried it with a range of music that is highly dependent on having a quality audio system, including Bachman & Turner and Devo's “Something for Everyone,” along with classical, pop, and regular ol' whatever's-on-satellite-radio. All came through with flying colors; clarity is unusually good, and a marked improvement from the 2010s. Clarity and stereo separation are excellent, though if we had any complaint, we'd say the sound is a little “cold.”
The iPod control worked well with our iPod Classic and but was much faster to catalog an iPod Nano and Touch. The iPod Classic experience was different from before: the system now immediately recognizes the 120-GB system, then starts playing the first album it finds — not the first alphabetically, just the first it finds. It then takes around five to twenty minutes to catalog everything else, and then you can browse. That remains better than the old way, which was doing nothing while it catalogued. Pressing Browse, during this “meantime,” brought up a message noting that it takes a long time to catalog all that music. (Oddly, it does not have this problem when you put in a 32GB memory card — though the memory card we used, a Class 4, is far slower than the iPod at retrieval.)
The system allows browsing of the iPod, USB drive, or SD card through the touch screen, showing the names of artists or albums, showing cover art where you have it. You can move to the next or prior song by using the physical tuning knob or a steering-wheel button, which is good for safe driving; however, you can't set the tone, balance, or fade without going through touch screen gyrations. That remains a fairly hefty shortfall, especially since it doesn't seem to have different settings for different sources or presets, as GM does.
By default, once music is playing, the stereo shows the audio screen with the map display inside; the screen is large enough to get away with that, and the map ends up about as big as the old Pacifica's display, or that of a portable nav system. Step-by-step instructions are also shown between the gauges.
The optional Garmin navigation system was a wonder — it was the fastest nav system we've ever used, taking input almost as fast as we could type, and adapting quickly when we ignored its advice. The “traffic ahead” warnings were sometimes helpful and accurate; the system seems to be improving over the early days, when heading for the traffic seemed to be the best strategy. We were pleasantly surprised now and then by the 3D system actually showing us some buildings as they look from the sky, making them easier to recognize. (In case you were wondering, you can choose the car that shows up in the map — the red minivan is not standard for the 300C.)
Words were large and easy to read, and most parts of the screen were “clickable” — putting our finger on the current speed and speed limit (available for most main roads, and turning our speed red when we went “too fast”), for example, gave us a full distance to destination in miles and minutes, along with the compass heading, elevation, maximum speed, etc. (We would have liked a preference for keeping the zoom setting tighter, and one for providing more latitude between the speed limit and the red print, though we can see that lawyers would have a field day with that.)
The center screen is used for more than reversing, music, climate control, and navigation; it also also used by the optional Garmin TravelLink services (fuel prices, traffic, weather, sports updates, and more), and to set preferences for the car's many systems. Doing it this way is far, far easier than the old series of odd behaviors (“turn the ignition key twice and then unlock the doors”). Those who do not want extra options can simply shut them off — or adjust them so there are fewer warnings.
The TravelLink services are nice but not essential; they are also cleverly designed. As one example, if you look up fuel prices, you can choose the fuel type (regular, midgrade, etc.) so stations that charge little for regular but jack up premium won't fool you. Showing distance and letting you navigate to the station is also handy, especially on highways that have “GASOLINE” signs that don't lead anywhere (Route 95 in southern Connecticut, we're looking at you.)
The system also provided voice integration, which worked well when an adult in the driver's seat was doing the ordering around. “Go Home” always worked; other commands were context-sensitive. We tried telling it to play music, dial the phone (our eleven year old set up the cell phone connection and chose the quick-dial buttons), and show the weather forecast; it sometimes took two tries, but the system seemed to be much better at figuring out commands than past voice controllers we've used. The commands also seemed to make more sense, though it will be a while before we memorize them all — and remember to use them. It was certainly nice to be able to say, “Cancel route,” and have the system obey. (Actually we accidentally said “Cancel guidance” and it was smart enough to do it anyway.) After a long breaking-in period — of the car owner — this should be a useful system. We have one serious complaint, though — you cannot change bass and treble, or go to the equalizer page, via voice command. Does Chrysler think nobody ever changes those settings?
Chrysler 300C V6 value
Overall, the Chrysler 300C is a strong package at a competitive price, expensive though it is compared with the 300 Limited (and for that matter, with the top end 200). The V6 provides strong acceleration, handled with velvet gloves.
On the highway, gas mileage is quite good if you don't kick down often, though we don't see 31 mpg as being realistic. City cycle is far worse, given the car's weight and its apparent thirst at idle; EPA rates the car at 21 city, 31 mpg highway, but we suspect average drivers will find it to be more like 17/28.
The 2013 Chrysler 300C started at $36,990. Standard safety features include the backup camera, SmartBeam headlamps, side curtain airbags for front and rear, front seat airbags, reactive head restraints, stability and traction control, rain-sensitive wipers, four wheel antilock disc brakes, hill-start hold, fog lamps, tire pressure monitoring, alarm, defrosting outside mirrors, and knee airbag.
Standard luxury features include the heated wood steering wheel, vehicle information center, remote start, eight-way power heated/ventilated front seats with four-way lumbar adjustment, heated rear seats, dual-zone automatic air conditioning, 8.4 inch touch screen, remote USB, SD-card, and audio ports, 276-watt amp six-speaker stereo, voice command, cell phone connection, auto-dimming rear view mirror (which does not move with the seats and outside mirrors), power rear sunshade, capless fuel filler, pedal adjusters, and power tilt/telescope steering column.
Our test car added just two packages, but they boosted the price to $39,870 (less the current $1,500 rebate). These were the Light Group (rear fog lights and HID headlamps with automatic high beam control and leveling) at a reasonable $795, and the SafetyTec package at around $2,000. SafetyTec includes blind spot and rear cross path protection; the front and rear parking assists; adaptive cruise control; forward collision warning; rain-sensitive wipers; courtesy lamps on the fold-away mirrors; and turn signals integrated into the front of the mirrors. There are other packages that will boost the price even further, if you wish, including two luxury packages and, of course, the V8 engine and all wheel drive.
The car has a five year, 100,000 mile powertrain warranty and a three year, 36,000 mile basic warranty; 24 hour towing is included. Our 300C was 59% American and Canadian, and was built in Ontario; the engine on ours hails from Mexico, the transmission from the United States. Once Chrysler finishes its expansion of Trenton Engine and its conversion of Mack Avenue, and possibly before then, the 300 series should be getting American-made engines, raising the American content.
We do have some minor gripes about the 300C package. The 300S gets a slightly more powerful engine (from 292 to 300 horsepower) and paddle shifters on the steering wheel, where the 300C has no way to manually choose gears; your choices are Drive and Low, period. Fortunately, there are rarely times when the paddle shifters would make sense anyway, and we do understand that Chrysler wants to reduce complexity, but there are times when their restrictions just seem silly. Why not add a Sport package to the 300C options — leaving out the big 300S wheels, but keeping the engine and shifter?
Other complaints are also generally minor. Visibility could be better in the 3/4 view where the large pillar gets in the way, gas mileage is limited by the car's weight (a stop-start system would be a huge boon), the paddle shifters would have been a nice standalone option, and the “too electronic” shifter is still annoying. That said, it was clear that the bean counters were kept far away from this car, and that Chrysler cherry-picked the best technologies they could find, and worked to integrate them intelligently. It is certainly solid, likeable, and, well, in our garage. That's as high a testimonial as we can give.