2011 Chrysler 300 Review and Prices
Past and Future Reviews
The 2011 Chrysler 300 is the best car for you if you’re a rear-wheel-drive traditionalist with faith in an Italian-American alliance.
The 2011 Chrysler 300 reboots the sedan that was among the brightest American success stories of the 2000s. Fresh styling, more sophisticated running gear, and opulent interiors are in store as Chrysler seeks its footing under the corporate stewardship of Italy’s Fiat. The 2011 Chrysler 300 was largely developed before Fiat assumed control of the bankrupt carmaker in early 2009. But how successfully Fiat manages the launch and marketing of Chrysler’s signature vehicle will say a lot about the Italians’ ability to tap into American tastes.
Should you wait for the 2011 Chrysler 300 or buy a 2010 Chrysler 300? The outgoing 300 remains a surprisingly competitive entry-luxury sedan. It’s exceptionally spacious, the looks have aged well, and great close-out deals will be available on remaining 2010s. But the 2011 Chrysler 300 promises a host of improvements that will make waiting worthwhile.
2011 Chrysler 300 Changes back to top
Styling: The 2011 Chrysler 300 won’t turn its back on the bold styling that made its predecessor a sensation from its model-year 2005 debut. Expect the same squared-up forms and jumbo grille, but softened somewhat to improve aerodynamics and re-emphasize elegance. The 2011 Chrysler 300 will remain a four-door sedan with a formal roofline that provides generous head room, a trunk that holds a foursome’s golf kit, and generous wheel openings that show it takes handling seriously. The windshield may angle a few additional degrees but the cabin greenhouse will remain sufficiently set back to visually confirm this sedan is based on a rear-wheel-drive platform. The 2011 Chrysler 300 will again be among the bigger cars on the road. Overall length probably won’t grow, but wheelbase could stretch slightly as part of a scheme to set the 300 further apart from the 2011 Dodge Charger, which shares its basic engineering. Wheelbase, the distance between the front and rear axles, is key to how much space a car can devote to passenger room. The 120-inch wheelbase shared by the outgoing Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger was among the longest on the market; these cars also form the basis of the 2011 Dodge Challenger coupe. That relationship will remain, but design differences between the 300 and Charger are likely to become more pronounced under Fiat. And some reports say Fiat will use this platform for new models from its Alfa Romeo and Lancia brands.
Mechanical: The 2011 Chrysler 300 will continue with V-6 and V-8 engines and with rear-wheel drive -- though optional all-wheel drive (AWD) almost certainly will return. The 2005-2010 Chrysler 300 rejected front-wheel drive for rear-drive and gained instant credibility among serious drivers. Rear-wheel drive is preferred for optimal handling because it balances the weight of the drivetrain over the length of the car and frees the front tires to concentrate on steering. Front-wheel drive gathers the weight over the tires that also propel the car; that can be a disadvantage for handling but an advantage for traction in snow. Chrysler’s AWD compensates by automatically powering the 300’s front wheels as necessary. Also important to the outgoing 300 were sophisticated chassis and suspension elements derived from the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. The 2005-2010 Chrysler 300 platform, code-named LX, was developed while the Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep brands were owned by Germany’s Daimler. That arrangement ended in 2007, but what of the Mercedes-influenced LX platform bleeds into the 2011 300/Charger “LY” platform is under debate. Chrysler management insists the LY platform is all-new. More certain is that the basic 2011 Chrysler 300 engine will be a version of the company’s promising new V-6. Dubbed the Pentastar, this advanced V-6 is confirmed for the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee, where it displaces 3.6 liters and generates 280 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. In the 2011 Chrysler 300, a Pentastar V-6 will supplant a serviceable but aging 3.5-liter V-6 (250 horsepower/250 pound-feet) and also the weakling 2.7-liter V-6 (178/190). A Hemi V-8 is central to the identity of the Chrysler flagship and one will return in the 2011 Chrysler 300C model. Expect it to again be a 5.7-liter and furnish a similar 360 horsepower and 389 pound-feet of torque. The Hemi should also retain multi-displacement ability to save gas by running on four cylinders at idle and in low-demand cruising. Some reports speculate the 2011 Chrysler 300 will get an eight-speed automatic transmission versus the outgoing model’s four- and five-speed automatics. Additional gears to aid acceleration and reduce fuel consumption would be a significant leap forward but may not come on line before model-year 2012.
Features: The 2011 Chrysler 300 must focus on cabin design and interior-materials quality if it’s to interest entry-luxury buyers spoiled by Lexus and tempted by a rejuvenated Cadillac. Leather upholstery and genuine wood trim probably won’t be standard but leather will be available and real wood certainly would elevate the proceedings. So would aluminum trim instead of plastic plating. Instrumentation apparently will take cues from the faces of pricey timepieces, but the 300 isn’t likely to mimic high-end cars by electronically projecting its gauges onto a panel before the driver. However, an early Chrysler rendering shows a conservatively upright dashboard with a large LCD screen high in its central panel. This supports speculation that Chrysler’s next-generation unconnect interface will feature as a 300 selling point. The system integrates voice-activated navigation with real-time traffic and weather, iPod USB interface, Bluetooth cell-phone connection, hard-drive music storage, even satellite TV. The early rendering does not show a mouse-type central control knob similar to those in such premium brands as BMW, Audi, and Lexus. Blind-spot monitoring to warn of vehicles in adjacent lanes, and rear radar to signal the presence of cars approaching in parking lots are likely accessories. Power heated seats, moonroof, and of course several trim levels are also in the cards.
2011 Chrysler 300 Prices back to top
Prices for the 2011 Chrysler 300 had not been released in time for this review, but Chrysler is likely to pitch the car somewhat upmarket of the outgoing model. That means leaving behind base prices that started around $28,000 for stickers that begin around $33,000. The climb would be justified by the 2011 model’s expected higher level of content, starting with the Pentastar V-6 powertrain.
Figure 2011 Chrysler 300 pricing for various V-6 trim levels spanning $33,000-$40,000, before options. Envision 300C Hemi models priced around $40,000-$45,000, depending on equipment. AWD should again be available with either engine and add roughly $2,000 to the base price.
(Estimated base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s destination fee; Chrysler’s fee for the 2010 300 was $750.)
2011 Chrysler 300 Fuel Economy back to top
EPA mileage estimates for 2011 models had not been released in time for this review but Chrysler has high expectations for the fuel efficiency of its Pentastar V-6. It says the new engine will improve gas mileage by 8 percent over other Chrysler V-6 engines. And some reports say the company’s goal is to make the 2011 Chrysler 300 some 19 percent more fuel-efficient overall than the 2010 model.
Achieving such a goal demands an approach that combines more efficient engines, carefully selected gear ratios, and aerodynamic body design. Lower weight also would be beneficial. However, even though the outgoing Chrysler 300 tipped the scales at around 3,800 pounds with the V-6 and around 4,100 with the V-8, it wasn’t really overweight given its size. And the 2011 300 isn’t likely to be much lighter.
All this is to suggest 2011 Chrysler 300 fuel-economy ratings of perhaps 18/29 mpg (city/highway) with the V-6 and 17/28 with the V-8 for rear drive models. The added weight of AWD could shave maybe 1-2 mpg city/highway. Chrysler had recommended midgrade 89-octane gas for best performance with both the 3.5-liter V-6 and the Hemi V-8. It recommends less-expensive 87-octane for the Pentastar V-6 in the 2011 Grand Cherokee, but seems likely to continue to recommend 89-octane for the Hemi V-8.
2011 Chrysler 300 Release Date back to top
The 2011 Chrysler 300 is set to go on sale in later 2010.
What's next for the 2011 Chrysler 300 back to top
The Pentastar V-6 could eventually adopt cylinder deactivation that rests three cylinders in low-demand conditions. And some reports say it will gain Fiat’s Multiair technology. Multiair allows an engine to breathe more efficiently and achieve maximum horsepower across a broader rev band, improving power and cutting emissions. Achieving similar results through the addition of direct fuel injection and turbocharging also are possible.
Gas/electric hybrid power seems reserved for smaller Chrysler cars for the time being, but performance enthusiasts surely would welcome the return of a 300C SRT8 model. The outgoing 300C SRT8 employed a 6.1-liter Hemi V-8 rated at 425 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque, plus special handling-tuned suspension and tires and upgraded seats and trim. Chrysler’s has a 6.4-liter Hemi in the wings; it’s estimated at 475-525 horsepower.
Finally, it’ll be fascinating to see how Fiat might translate the Chrysler 300 for flagship models of its upscale European brands. Look for the Italian automaker to use the Pentastar V-6 in some of its cars and in those from its premium Alfa Romeo and Lancia brands. Alfa and Lancia may also make use of the LY platform itself. Fiat seems intent on reinstating the Alfa Romeo brand in the U.S. after a long absence, though Lancia is not likely to return to the American market.
2011 Chrysler 300 Competition back to top
Lincoln MKS: To the Ford Taurus what the Chrysler 300 is to the Dodge Charger, this upscale sedan relies on a choice of front- or all-wheel drive and loads of cutting-edge infotainment courtesy of Ford’s Microsoft-developed Sync navigation/communications system. The MKS is V-6 only, but supplements the passable 275-horsepower base engine with Ford’s truly impressive 355-horsepower EcoBoost V-6. Styling is clean and exterior dimensions exceed those of the 300, but passenger space is actually tighter. Still, ride control is outstanding and fuel-economy ratings range from about 16/23 mpg to 17/25 – the high number with EcoBoost and AWD. Base price range is roughly $42,000-$49,000. No changes expected for several years.
Buick LaCrosse: A tick behind the Chrysler for exterior bulk but smart packaging makes it a challenger for interior spaciousness. There’s even a bit of bling to the design inside and out. Cabin appointments are impressive, too. Front- and all-wheel drive are offered and engine choices range from a 182-horsepower four-cylinder to GM’s smooth 280-horse V-6. The current LaCrosse bowed for model-year 2010 and no major changes are expected soon. Fuel economy ranges from around 20/30 to 16/26, depending on powertrain. Base-price range is roughly $28,000-$34,000.
Hyundai Genesis: One you may not have considered, but ought to. This flagship sedan from South Korea’s Hyundai was introduced for model-year 2009 and aims to do to Lexus what Lexus did to Mercedes-Benz: steal buyers with high quality and value for the dollar. Genesis is roomy and packed with luxury – leather’s standard – and starts at a tempting $34,000 or so with a 290-horsepower V-8 (18/27 mpg) and around $41,000 with a 375-horsepower V-8 (17/25). Rear-wheel drive is all you get, but this is a solid and nicely sorted platform. Expect some model-year 2011 tweaks to styling, but nothing to disturb the clean, if generic, lines. A switch from a six-speed automatic transmission to an eight-speed may also be on tap.