by David Zatz in June 2015 (4.5)
The Chrysler 300C Platinum has premium trim (quilted door fabric, matte wood, two-tone leather — perforated on the seats — and visible stitching), heated and vented front seats, heated rear seats, and a heated steering wheel. HID headlights, the blind spot detector, and other features are all optional, as is the Hemi V8.
The Platinum will not be not common, and it is unique inside; though the exterior requires knowledge of the 300 lineup to tell from other 300Cs (there’s no Platinum badging, but chrome trim is replaced by brushed aluminum).
Chrysler made the V8 optional on 300Cs when the new V6 was coupled to an eight-speed automatic, making the car as fast as the first-generation 300C Hemi. The V6 is a good mix of highway economy and speed, but only the Hemi provides truly effortless acceleration. 60-70 comes very quickly and quietly, with a mere touch of the pedal.
A good introduction to the 2015 Chrysler 300C may come with a look at what’s changed since the 2011-2014 cars, remembering that this is mainly a refresh while completely new cars are being developed; you can lease a 2015 and turn it in well before the new ones hit the street, so there’s no point in waiting.
The eight-speed automatic is now standard on both engines, greatly increasing responsiveness, mildly cutting 0-60 times, and making 28 mpg highway possible (we did it). The Hemi reacts instantly at all times, thanks both to its own power and to the transmission’s ability to drop gears faster than a human can sense it.
The electronics have been updated, with UConnect 2 adding some features for those with unlimited mobile phone data plans; it still has the USB and SD card slots, but they’ve been moved within the center console so the USB slot is much easier to reach and a plugged-in USB card is less likely to get in the way. The SD card moved from the dash to the console.
The Curse-O-Matic shifter was thrown out — this is the one where the stick always went back to the same place, and the gears were close to each other, making shifting a gamble and a nuisance. Now we have a mechanical-feeling knob shifter, which has a good large space between gears; it takes little time to get used to and build up “muscle memory” for quick shifts without thought. The lettering is larger and easier to read, too.
You can even go directly from Park to Sport by pushing it as you turn — the old one required going into Drive, then pulling it back again (on cars without Sport mode, they use the space for low gear in both versions). When you press the Sport button on the dash, a green flag shows on the gauge cluster; but not when you use the knob instead.
Sport mode shifts as fast as 250 milliseconds, down from 400 ms, and changes the steering, pedal response, engine response, and shifting; on cars with all wheel drive (AWD), it keeps the AWD system on full time, with a rear torque balance.
There have been minor changes to the center controls. Overhead, a huge twin-pane sunroof is optional, with an auto-open, auto-close, and vent setting; the shade also has auto-open and close. We’d bet the old seat structures sit underneath the snazzy Platinum seat covers.
The most obvious interior change is the gauge cluster (followed closely by the new shifter). The physical gauges are less elegant, still in bright blue; the graphics are neat and well done. The analog gauges look cheaper and the 160 mph speedometer is both harder to read and pointless in a car that almost certainly can’t break 140, and in any case has a digital speedometer so if you want to (and can) go 160, you still don’t need the speedometer to tell you that’s how fast you’re going.
The bottom has a temperature and fuel display (which can show the range in teeny tiny print, as in the picture — can you read it? It’s easier when you drop below a third of a tank and it’s white on black).
You can use the center screen to show stereo data, trip information, fuel economy, messages, or car data — antifreeze, oil, and transmission fluid temperature (on separate screens), tire pressure, oil pressure, or oil life. You can also use the big display in the middle to show the speed digitally, perhaps to easily switch units to metric or English; and the data in the top three spots is easy to customize, though you can’t put the car data (e.g. oil temperature) up there. Some of the options, such as the compass and outside temperature, show up on the center screen anyway. It would be nice to have a screen with multiple temperatures (oil, antifreeze, and transmission fluid), but — not yet.
Here’s the 2011-2014 gauge cluster. The 2015 200 is nearly identical to the 2015 above, except for gauge labels in the large blank spots. The old physical gauges were much easier for us to read and seemed for “fitting” for a top of the line Chrysler but the digital display on the 2015 is much clearer and fancier.
Another welcome change is the paddle shifters on the steering wheel, which, in 2014, were only used on the cheaper 300S model. These make it easy to shift manually, though you may never need them, since the automatic tends to shift perfectly.
We thought the car was quieter than our own 2013 model, and the ride seemed smoother despite having the powerful Hemi engine which normally comes with a stiffer suspension. It was easier to go much faster than we wanted to, without realizing it. On the highway, one learns to keep a closer eye on the speedometer or to use the “over speed” warning system.
Oddly, the stereo took much longer (8 seconds) to recognize our USB thumb drive on each restart than our 2013 car did — the same physical drive — and there is no longer a setting to adjust how long the power stays on after the engine is shut off. As time went on, the stereo seemed to get slower and slower, so that changing the volume didn’t take effect for minutes, and there was a long delay between the volume being lowered and travel directions being issued. Pressing buttons started to interrupt the music, which never happens on our 2013.
Taking out the USB drive — the same one we use on our 2013 300C — fixed the problem, which got worse and worse until pressing the on/off button took 30 seconds. We tried shutting off GraceNote first to see if that was the problem, but the option seems to have gone away. 16GB USB drives and SD cards might be a solution unless Chrysler issues a firmware update.
The stereo sounded the same, and that’s a compliment; it’s well balanced and clear. Voice control seems better.
Those are the “what’s new” highlights. There were other changes, but the car is still quite familiar and recognizable to a 2013 owner. If you want to know what our favorite changes are, it’s the shifter upgrade, the big center display, maybe moving the USB port, and definitely the eight-speed.
The Hemi V8 adds around 85 horsepower, and cuts 0-60 times by around a second versus the V6. The Hemi is much more responsive, some of which is due to the transmission programming, but gas mileage is far lower — 16 city, 25 highway, versus the V6’s 21/31 (yes, that’s around six miles per gallon). Oh, and it uses midgrade fuel. Add on higher insurance rates and a $3,000 surcharge for the Hemi (it comes with enhanced brakes and the 160 mph speedometer, which sacrifices readability for an impractical top speed).
Fuel economy ratings are unchanged from the 2014 five-speed Hemi, but drivers are more likely to beat that 25 mpg highway number now (we easily approached 28, admittedly in highway-only setting; under similar conditions the V6 is good for 32), and the car is faster and more responsive.
Steering is fully electric, and has little resistance under normal settings. There is an even easier Comfort setting, for those who like to drive with their pinky, and a Sport setting, which is close to the feel of the electrohydraulic 2014 setup and our choice.
You can set up the display to show you what gear you’re in, even in Drive; the gear number shows up as a superscript. Around town, at legal speeds, expect to be in fourth gear; on the highway, even at passing lane speeds, it’ll keep to eighth most of the time, barely ticking over at idle, dropping down to seventh on light acceleration and to third or fourth for all out blasts. The car is tuned to keep the tachometer at or below 1,500 most of the time, and yet there is plenty of power on tap. In Sport mode, it’s boosted but still aimed at under 2,000 rpm.
The 300C currently has two engine options, the V6 and the V8 — the Pentastar and the Hemi. A third option already available in export markets, the 392 Hemi (6.4 liter), is allegedly due for the 2016 model or calendar year, but there hasn’t been much demand for it.
Looking at the two engines, it’s clear there are differences. Getting the Hemi, you gain around a second in 0-60 time in return for losing 3-4 miles per gallon both in EPA ratings and in our experience. It’s not as simple as that, though. The V6 is a good strong engine, but it has to work harder for the same results. You can do 40-60, say, or 55-75, quite rapidly with either engine, but the V6 will have to bump down more gears and rev higher to get there — we drove the two back to back to compare them (admittedly our V6 was a 2013, but the powertrain and car weight should be the same as the 2015).
When it comes to smoothness and ease of acceleration, the Hemi wins every time. If you most drive in the city, you may not notice a difference, but on the highway and on rural roads, there’s no doubting the Hemi is the smoother and easier engine for rapid acceleration or hill climbing. Likewise, if you want to be jolted and have the seat rush up to meet your back when you floor it, regardless of speed, the Hemi is the only choice; the V6 also has more of a transmission delay built in, which doesn’t help.
But keep in mind that the V6 does 0-60 as quickly as the 2006 300C Hemi did, while getting EPA ratings of 18 city, 31 highway, and real-life mileage two or three miles per gallon ahead of the Hemi — on regular gas — for $3,000 less up front, and whatever your insurance company chooses to claim every year afterwards.
The 2015 300C looks like a luxury car inside and out, but perhaps just a bit less than in did in 2014. Outside, the grille is a bit less fancy and more 2010-Volkswagen; and the tail-lamp is far less detailed, now appearing as a slab of red with no chrome. The rear LEDs are combined in a “light pipe” rather than shown separately.
The Platinum’s door trim stitching adds to the luxury look, as does the two-tone-plus-brushed-aluminum, stitched leather-covered steering wheel. There is less chrome and more brushed aluminum, to avoid glare, and the screens have been upgraded with a fancier, more modern look.
The matte wood is real, but reminded me of the fake wood interiors of the 1970s. (The old 300M had fake wood that looked quite real, even to our lumber-industry insider. The normal 300C has real wood trim, but it’s glossy. We’ve also driven a high-end Lexus with wood dyed so dark it looked like black plastic.) Overall, the matte wood does look more dignified and has no chance of sun glare, but it make take some getting used to.
Gauges are covered by a large leather-covered brow, and the entire top of the dashboard is black to prevent windshield reflections. Flat silver strips set off elements without causing blinding reflections, and leather stitching is visible throughout.
The 300C is a full sized car, with plenty of headroom, a large trunk, and a three-person back seat with generous legroom; both rear seatbacks fold down to carry anything longer than the trunk. 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, but still impressive.
The back seats and doors were as detailed as the fronts, and were generally similar except in the coverings to the 2014s. Rear passengers get a fold-down covered console with two primitive cupholders.
The 300C’s ride is somewhat firm but still well cushioned on most surfaces. Compared with our 2013 V6, the ride seems smoother and less busy, dealing with cement and such well. Sharp bumps are still felt and road feel isn’t totally filtered out, but the 300C has a large-car feel (which makes sense given that it’s a large car).
The Hemi is a pussycat when you want it to be, but it roars as needed, providing instant and easy acceleration. Rushing up from, say, 50 to 75 mph takes a touch on the gas pedal, not flooring it, just pushing down maybe half an inch — and you’re there. No fuss, with eight speeds to choose from; the car doesn’t overdo it (unless you’re in sport mode).
The Hemi had practically no delay before a stomp on the accelerator brought a downshift and corresponding flood of power. One rarely gets a hard shift. Again, just a half inch tap on the gas usually gets you to whatever speed you want, very quickly.
The eight-speed is programmed to keep engine revs low, prolonging engine life, reducing noise, and cutting fuel use, a strategy eased by the Chrysler engines’ low-end torque. The eight-speed shifts far more quickly than past automatics, and 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 Chrysler deceleration fuel cutoff shuts off all fuel to the engine when conditions are right, so that when coasting down a hill, it can suddenly feel like you've downshifted or moved to a manual-transmission car. We’ve been told this is because the valves close (which increases engine braking) for instant restarts, but the system still saves fuel.
The impression of speed is reduced by the high level of sound insulation, effortless power, and a steady feel. It’s easy to go very fast, and that’s why Chrysler now builds in a speed limit warning system. You can choose just how much faster than the limit to go before getting the warning, but you can’t choose 5 mph over in a 25 zone and 15 over in a 55 zone. When it kicks in, a voice simply says, “The speed limit is [say] 40 miles per hour.” It’s supposed to be immediate, but in our car it often was not.
The car feels heavy, though not ponderous. You can fly through curves at absurd speeds, and if you lose control for a moment, letting off the gas lets it come back instantly, in our experience — as it did in the related Hellcat Charger we drove.
Steering is precise in any mode, but in Sport mode, one barely gets enough feedback while it is perhaps too precise on the highway. It’s easier to drive in normal or comfort mode, but then you get a steering wheel that requires almost no effort at all. It’s a matter of personal preference, but the Dodge Charger and Challenger seem to be better tuned wtih regard to the steering settings, as does the 2014 and earlier 300, with its electrohydraulic steering system (versus the 2015’s pure-electric).
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.
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 just sit in the background most of the time, for most people.
The transmission also 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 now includes a paddle-shift (up and down paddles on the steering wheel) gear override, probably the best gear-bumping design out there. Again, we were happy with The Knob, a knob shifter that felt quite “physical” and was far better designed than the prior electronic shifter or, for that matter, the Hemi five-speed shifter.
Seat comfort was mixed — one driver liked them, one didn’t; they are firm and provide good lateral support. The seats are also highly adjustable, even if they still have not gotten back to the “sink into support” of the 1999-2004 Chrysler 300M.
The glove compartment is huge inside, with two levels; and those who want to leave the thick 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.
The gauge cluster has two physical gauges, somewhat cheaper looking than in past cars, and a large, lavish information screen, with neat graphics. Nearly the same cluster is used in the lower-end Chrysler 200.
Speedometers go up to 140 on V6 cars and 160 on V8s, making the digital speedometer almost necessary when combined with the clumsy graphics physical-gauge graphics. The 7,000 rpm tachometer makes sense with the stated redline. More is covered in the “what’s new” section. Here’s a video of the same system on the 200...
Backlighting is used on just about every control and button and dial. 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 separate rheostat.
The on-dash headlight switch provides a choice of off, automatic, parking lights, and headlights, with push-for-fogs. An optional Lighting Package includes rear fog lights and front HID lights.
Physical climate controls have been switched around so the defrosters are right next to the driver; there are physical controls for temperature, a/c, recirculate, automatic climate control, off, and defrost (front and rear), and a knob for the fan speed. If you want to change the vents or turn on the front seat-warmers or vents or the steering wheel warmer, you'll need to use the touch screen.
The stereo has physical 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. You can browse songs on a USB drive using the Tune knob.
The cruise control, voice buttons, and trip computer controls are on the front of the steering wheel.
Numerous little touches make life easier — like having the navigation system provide clear, readable turn-by-turn directions in the gauge cluster, and showing the park assist in the dash. The big screen allows drivers to set numerous preferences, turning on or tuning safety and convenience features.
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 a button instead of a physical lock, as well as buttons on the key fobs. The driver can also open either the trunk or the gas cap from inside. There is no separate gas cap; the filler door has a cap built into it, preventing drivers from leaving their cap behind.
The cruise control has little icons for on, locked, and (if you get the safety package) “distance sensitive,” and tells you what speed is locked in.
The rear camera provides surprisingly clear color image at night. It’s both a parking aid and a safety feature — most children killed in car crashes are the victims of people backing up. It’s almost a requirement for a car with a high trunk, such as the 300. It now has curvy lines that alter to show your path when the wheel is turned.
The front seat heat/vent and steering-wheel heat controls are only on the touch screen. There are no physical heated-seat buttons, except for the rear seats.
The rear sunshade can be activated by the rear passengers (physical button) or driver (touch screen); it is handy for protecting rear occupants from the sun, keeping the interior from baking, and supplementing the day/night mirror. When the car is put into reverse, the sunshade automatically comes down.
Above, the 300C had the usual dome (push-to-switch) and map lights (separate buttons), along with a drop-down sunglass/eyeglass holder and the universal garage door opener buttons, and the panaromic sunroof controls. One sunroof control opens the shade, and it has two auto stops: one to open or close to the middle, one to open or close all the way. The sunroof itself has a vent and auto-open; both have (different) airblocks for better aerodynamics.
See our 2013 review for a look at SafetyTec and the Lighting Package. The main difference is that the 2015 cars’ adaptive cruise and forward collision alert can now fully stop the car.
The 300C includes three auxiliary jacks for the stereo: standard audio, USB, and SecureDigital, all of which now are in the back of the center console. The system reputedly maxes out at 32GB, but you can use both an SD and USB card at once, and switch between them on the Mode screen. The console also has a removable change tray, with an indentation that has enough room for an iPod Classic and its docking cord. But why risk an iPod when you can use a $10 memory card?
The system can’t handle Apple Lossless, and, if you use a Mac, you have to use a utility such as TinkerTool (or a Terminal command, such as rm -rf */*/._*) to get rid of all those empty resource-fork files. If you don’t use folders, you can use the GraceNote-powered cleanup option; otherwise, it uses your folder names for the artist and album.
Sound was fine and clear, with good stereo separation — unusually good, in fact, and better than in some cars costing much more.
The system allows browsing of an iPod, USB drive, or SD card through the touch screen, showing the names of folders, artists, or albums. You can move to the next or prior song by using the physical tuning knob or a steering-wheel button, but you can't set the tone, balance, or fade without going through the touch screen.
The optional Garmin navigation system was graphically upgraded from the prior system, with more 3D but a harder to find “info panel” (elevation, longitude, etc). You can choose the car that shows up in the map, though not its color, with Dodge, Jeep, Ram, and Chrysler options. Words were large and easy to read.
The center screen is 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.
TravelLink services are not essential, but they are nice and cleverly designed. As one example, if you look up fuel prices, you can choose the fuel type (regular, midgrade, etc). 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.)
Voice integration worked relatively well. 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, and suggestions can be made to appear on the screen. Still, you cannot change bass and treble, or go to the equalizer page, via voice command. Does Chrysler think nobody ever changes those settings?
The Chrysler 300C is competitive with similarly outfitted cars, expensive though it is compared with the 300 Limited. The Platinum is not for everyone, and not just because it starts at $43,390, including destination. Our test car had a white-and-tan interior. All 300s come with eight-speed automatics.
Safety is handled by side-curtain front and rear airbags, driver’s knee airbag, front seat-mounted side airbags, stability and roll control, four-wheel antilock disc brakes, a rear backup camera, and alarm. There is also a tire pressure display for each individual tire, on demand, and a warning if any go too low; and you can set a warning to go off if you exceed the speed limit (based on what’s in the navigation system’s maps) by a pre-set amount of your choice.
Standard luxury and convenience features range from the pedestrian (garage door openers and change tray) to a power rear sunshade. There is also automatic dual-zone temperature control, a navigation system with the USB and SD ports, satellite radio, a five-year subscription to satellite traffic and extras, the heated and vented front seats with heated rear seats (perforated leather for both rows), two-way memory for the radio, driver’s seat, and mirrors, and illuminated heated and cooled front cupholders (the rings turn red or bright blue depending on whether they are being heated or cooled).
Also standard on the Platinum are real matte wood accents, the dual-pane panoramic sunroof, halogen headlamps, LED fog lamps and tail lamps, dual exhaust, a compact spare, and 245/45R20 all-season performance tires.
The Platinum package takes away the glossy heated wood steering wheel, but our car still had remote start, eight-way power front seats with four-way lumbar adjustment, an 8.4 inch touch screen, voice command, cell phone connection, auto-dimming rear view mirror, capless fuel filler, pedal adjusters, and power tilt/telescope steering column.
Our test car added just two packages, but they boosted the price to $46,890: the $500 “phantom black tri-coat pearl exterior paint” (metallic black) and the Hemi engine, which comes with performance brakes and a 160 mph speedometer, and costs $3,000. Our test car had LED daytime running lights but not the Light Group (rear fog lights and HID headlamps with automatic high beam control and leveling) or the SafetyTec package (blind spot and rear cross path protection, front parking assists, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, rain-sensitive wipers, and courtesy lamps and turn signals on the fold-away mirrors, and turn signals integrated into the front of the mirrors).
The car has a five year, 100,000 mile powertrain warranty (2016s drop down to 60,000 miles) and a three year, 36,000 mile basic warranty; 24 hour towing is included during the full powertrain warranty period. Our particular 300C was 67% American and Canadian (up from 59% on our ’13), and was built in Ontario; the Hemi engine hails from Mexico, the transmission from the US.
Our test drive of the 300C shows why it’s one of the most popular full size cars on the market today. It has a good balance of ride and handling, effortless acceleration, good highway fuel economy (average with the Hemi), a reasonable price, quiet interior, well done electronics, a clearly upscale appearance inside and out, and proven reliability.
Our complaints were mostly minor. Visibility could be better where the large rear pillar gets in the way, city mileage is limited by the car’s weight (and Hemi highway mileage should be higher) — and a stop-start system would be a huge boon for city driving. The seats are too firm for some, and the stereo has actually fallen in usability since the prior generation.
That said, it was clear that the beancounters were kept far away from this car, and that Chrysler worked to integrate technology intelligently. It is certainly solid, likeable, and, well, the 2013 is in our garage. That’s as high a testimonial as we can give.
Also see 2013 Chryselr 300C V6, first generation 300C, 2011 Chrysler 300C Hemi
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