2009 Chrysler 300 Review and Prices
Past and Future Reviews
Since its debut in 2004 as an ’05 model, the Chrysler 300 has helped lead the rear-wheel-drive renaissance in the U.S., and brought big, bold American sedans back into vogue.
The base Chrysler 300 LX with its 2.7-liter V-6 is a loss-leader; even some midsized cars are better values. More power brings out the best in this platform. While Touring and Limited models with a more-potent 3.5-liter V-6 offer a nice blend of performance and handling, technological advances to the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 make the six-cylinder engines yesterday’s news.
Hemi-powered 300Cs have always offered impressive acceleration and reasonable highway fuel economy for a V-8, and in light of revisions to the 5.7-liter Hemi, the rear-wheel drive Chrysler 300C is the way to go.
Avoid the available all-wheel drive, it’s not necessary and comprises an insignificant percentage of production, which could possibly hurt parts and service availability in the long term. And consider the Chrysler 300C SRT8 model, with its 425-horsepower 6.1-liter Hemi V-8, only if you’re fond of muscle-car performance, and the fuel thirst that comes with it.
In August of 2007, Chrysler officially ended its merger with Germany’s Daimler, parent company of Mercedes-Benz. While the alliance was supposed to save the companies money through shared parts and technology, the Chrysler 300 emerges as one of the few survivors that actually benefited.
Two things are responsible for the 300’s fine handling. One is that its suspension components were derived from the luxury Mercedes-Benz E-Class models. This other is rear-wheel drive. While front-wheel drive provides good traction in snow due to having the weight of the engine over the drive wheels, rear-wheel drive more evenly distributes the weight of the drivetrain and is valued for its balanced handling characteristics.
Chrysler seems to think its hit a winning combination here, so while drivetrains will evolve over the coming years in the quest for better fuel economy, don’t expect the 300C’s basic engineering to change much.
2009 Chrysler 300 Changes back to top
Love or hate it, the Chrysler 300 was something of a styling sensation, so 2009 models won’t look much different. The 300 got mildly freshened styling for 2008, but Chrysler’s attitude was to not mess with success, so the 2008 updates are most noticeable on the tail end and in the passenger compartment, where Chrysler fights to shake a well-earned reputation for cheap materials.
No change to the 2009 Chrysler 300 will significantly alter its performance or passenger accommodations from those of the 2008 model. Statements in this review about performance and accommodations are based on detailed test drives of the 2008 Chrysler 300.
Big news for 2009 will be the next-generation 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 engine. Exact specifications haven’t been released, but the same 380-horsepower rating as found in the 2009 Dodge Ram pickup looks likely.
Like today’s 5.7 Hemi, it will save fuel by shutting off half of its cylinders while cruising, and bring in some other new technologies, including variable valve timing, which tailors the amount of fuel taken in by the engine under different conditions, to increase fuel efficiency.
In 5.7 Hemi-powered 300Cs, a “fuel saver mode” indicator has been added to the information display on the instrument panel to let the driver know when the cylinder deactivation feature is on, to potentially help modify driving habits for optimum fuel mileage.
2009 Chrysler 300 Test Drive back to top
Driving the Chrysler 300: Aside from more power from the revised 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, the 2009 Chrysler 300’s performance will be essentially unchanged from the 2008 model.
This big sedan feels solid and corners predictably with little body roll. While some criticize rear-wheel drive cars for less traction on wet or snowy roads, the excellent traction control and Electronic Stability Program (ESP) help negate these issues. ESP senses and corrects sideways sliding by applying brakes on individual wheels. The 300’s ESP may kick in sooner than expected in spirited driving, but the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.
All-wheel drive models have an even more-aggressive ESP setting, and are only an advantage over the rear-wheel drive in the snowiest climates. The exception is the 300C SRT8, which won’t do well on snow because of its performance tires.
Riding in the Chrysler 300: As one might expect, the suspension settings get stiffer as the trim levels go up and engine size increases. The 300C model crosses the line from soft luxury to a firm though not-objectionable ride. Think European-inspired sports sedan rather than cushy cruiser. The SRT8 rides hard, as would be expected for high performance suspension tuning and low profile tires.
Headroom and legroom is generous front and rear. Seating is on the firm side, with adequate support.
Chrysler 300 dashboard and controls: Chrysler 300s received a subtly refreshed dashboard for 2008. While the basic layout is unchanged, most noticeable is extra accent trim added above the glovebox and to the revised center console for a more elegant look.
Controls are easy to see, and generally straightforward and easy to use. Below an analog clock at the top center, the radio and navigation system has a 6.5-inch touch screen in the middle. Some audio controls are also on the steering wheel. Recently added soft touch surfaces on the interior help make it feel more luxurious.
2009 Chrysler 300 Prices back to top
Chrysler 300 prices start with the pretty bare bones 2.7-liter V-6 powered LX at about $25,000. This includes power windows, mirrors, and driver’s seat, as well as air conditioning, though notably no electronic aids like ABS, traction control or ESP come standard. However, it’ll be hard to find an LX on a dealer lot without these features included at extra cost.
Step up to a 3.5-liter V-6 and the Chrysler 300 Touring also adds leather seats and aluminum wheels for around $29,000. For closer to $32,000, the Chrysler 300 Limited includes more appearance and convenience features.
The 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 powered Chrysler 300C starts at or under $36,000, building on the features of the lower trim levels, and adding many more. All-wheel drive adds approximately $2,000 to both 3.5 and Hemi versions. An extended wheelbase Executive Series is available for the Limited and 300C for an extra $12,000 or so. The 300C SRT8 starts around $42,000, and includes a unique interior, suspension, brakes, wheels and tires.
2009 Chrysler 300 Fuel Economy back to top
Don’t expect more than one extra mile per gallon from the revised 5.7 Hemi. With a light foot, 24 mpg should be attainable on the highway at steady, reasonable speeds, where the cylinder deactivation system excels. Real-world mixed driving will probably come in at 13-15 mpg. Carried over V-6 mileage will be unchanged, averaging around 19 mpg.
2009 Chrysler 300 Safety and Reliability back to top
Chrysler 300s fare well in frontal crash tests, earning highest ratings from both Nation Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS.) These tests were done without side air bags, and the front passenger side crash rating is four out of five stars from NTSA and “poor” from IIHS. Side seat-mounted and side curtain airbags are optional and recommended on all trim levels.
J.D. Power and Associates, the leading customer-satisfaction ratings firm, report that Chrysler 300 initial quality has been above average and gradually rising, though it did take a dip in 2007. Study directors speculate this may be a temporary condition as Chrysler sorts out issues brought on by the transition to new ownership.
While it’s still too early for long-term reliability ratings on the current Chrysler 300, J.D. Power and Associates says reliability has increased on Chrysler vehicles, including the last generation 300M, by about 20% since 2003.
What's next for the 2009 Chrysler 300 back to top
Revisions to the Hemi V-8 promise more power and better fuel economy, but Chrysler 300s with a V-6 engine will have to wait at least another year – perhaps for the next generation of the car -- for the all-new Phoenix V-6 engines. These will use some of the same fuel-saving technologies as the 2009 Hemi.
If you like the looks of today’s 300, the 2009 model will be one of the last chances to pick one up with this design. A full redo is expected for the 2011 model year.
2009 Chrysler 300 Competition back to top
As a large American car, most of the Chrysler 300’s direct competitors are front-wheel-drive sedans. Foremost among these is the Buick Lucerne. But as a rear-wheel drive car with good driving dynamics, the 300 can also take on more-expensive luxury cars, as well as performance-oriented sedans, such as the Pontiac G8.
If size and comfort are the primary concerns, put Lucerne on your shopping list, but expect styling and the driving experience to be more conservative than with the Chrysler 300. Around $27,000 will get you into a base V-6 Lucerne. V-8 models start around $36,000. Lucerne launched in 2006 and is due to be redesigned around the 2011 model year.
More edgy is the rear-wheel-drive Pontiac G8. It’s similar in size to the 300 and has closely matched V-6 and V-8 engines. New to the U.S. as a 2008 model, the G8 comes from General Motors’ Australian subsidiary, Holden. It’s unclear how long it will be sold here in its current configuration. Around $28,000 gets you a V-6, some $30,000 lands a V-8 powered G8 GT. Aggressive styling and an available six-speed manual transmission, something the 300 doesn’t offer, helps the G8 appeal to driving enthusiasts.
If that sportier look appeals to you, consider the Chrysler 300’s sibling, the 2009 Dodge Charger. Basically the same under the skin, Charger has a very different look and style, inspired by the ‘60s muscle car of the same name. But Charger matches the 300’s level of performance for appreciably less money. Charger starts around $23,000, with the 3.5-liter V-6 SXT at $26,000, and the Hemi-powered Charger RT starting near $31,000.