2005 Chrysler 300 Review

2005 Chrysler 300 - Hot 300 gives a boost.


The first Chrysler 300 was introduced for 1955 as America's first mass-produced 300-horsepower car with its Hemi V-8, which was a big deal because it meant you no longer had to be wealthy to get a car with such high horsepower. A 1930s Duesenberg had 300 horsepower, but was for millionaires.

The 1955 C300 -- as it was officially designated -- was a big, luxurious auto, as was the Duesenberg. It thus came only with an automatic transmission and such standard items as leather upholstery and was Chrysler's flagship model.

The bold, brassy new 300 sedan also is large and luxurious -- and Chrysler's flagship auto. The top-line $32,370 300C version has leather upholstery, an automatic transmission and a 340-horsepower version of Chrysler's now-legendary Hemi V-8, with its power-producing hemispherical combustion changes.

As with other 300 models, the 300C has audacious styling, with a grille reminiscent of the 1957 Chrysler 300C and 1958 300D. It also has the "chopped'' (lowered) roof look of the fast, posh rear-drive 1950s Chrysler 300 models.

The slick look of the new rear-drive 300 -- a break from Chrysler's front-drive auto layout -- is making it one of the most popular early 2005 models. That delights Chrysler; it's mostly known for trucks and wants more auto sales.

The last rear-drive 300 was the 1965 300L. Chrysler is transferring the 300 model designation from its front-drive 300M sedan, which was introduced a few years ago and only has come with a V-6.

"The 300 is one of those instantly popular cars that comes along once in a blue moon. It's the hot car at the moment and is a great fortune for Chrysler,'' said Michael Flynn, director of the Office for the Study of Automotive Transportation at the University of Michigan.

The 300C is a favorite of young music industry stars. Similar reaction among such folks helped make the big Cadillac Escalade sport-utility an instantly hot vehicle several years ago.

But the Escalade is a truck. The new 300 is a big, powerful rear-drive V-8 sedan -- the type of American car that was the envy of the world's automakers from the 1950s through the 1960s. It's the sort of car that domestic automakers built before they lost their way during the fuel crisis of the 1970s and began building imitation foreign autos.

"An automaker never definitely knows if a new car such as the 300 will be an instant hit, but the major test will be if this car will have staying power over a four- to five-year period,'' said David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Michigan.

"The Volkswagen New Beetle and Ford Thunderbird two-seater were hot to start with, but have faded. However, the 300 looks like it might have more legs than those cars. It's got a contemporary look, despite retro touches, and Chrysler has done a terrific job marketing its Hemi V-8.''

The Hemi V-8 enhances popularity of the 300, accounting for 40 percent of 300 engine installations, although it's in the costliest 300 version.

"One thing many overlook is that the 300C is a big sedan with lots of power and torque that can tow such things as large boats. Many Americans tow, but such sedans disappeared years ago -- replaced by gas-guzzling sport-utility vehicles many folks no longer want,'' said Florida auto analyst Robert Halpern.

While the 300C's 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 is a potent engine with an impressive 390 pound-feet of torque, it has Chrysler's seamless Multi-Displacement System. The system deactivates four cylinders when V-8 power isn't needed to save fuel. (Nothing can be heard or felt when the engine switches between four and eight cylinders.)

The Hemi V-8 delivers an estimated 17 mpg in the city and 25 on the highway -- figures a sport-utility with good towing abilities can't match.

The $22,970 Base 300 has a 190-horsepower V-6, and the mid-range $26,770 Touring and $29,265 Limited versions have a lively 250-horsepower V-6.

The 190-horsepower V-6 provides an estimated 21 mpg in the city and 28 on highways. The 250-horsepower V-6 provides 19 and 27 -- not all that much more than the Hemi V-8. Neither V-6 has Chrysler's cylinder deactivation system.

The V-6 engines come with a four-speed automatic transmission, while the Hemi V-8 is hooked to a Mercedes-designed five-speed automatic with a manual shift feature.

Anti-lock brakes, traction control and an anti-skid system are standard on the Touring, Limited and 300C and optional for the Base version. The 300C has big 18-inch wheels and wide 60-series tires, while the V-6 versions have 17-inch wheels and narrower 65-series tires.

All 300 models have a tilt-telescopic steering wheel and power driver's seat, along with lots of comfort and convenience features. The Touring adds such items as leather upholstery, while the Limited adds chrome aluminum wheels and power front passenger seat, besides heated front seats. The 300C adds a sportier suspension, larger brakes, tortoise shell style interior accents, dual-zone automatic climate control and dual exhausts.

Options include power adjustable pedals and California walnut wood interior accents. Safety extras include front and rear side curtain air bags and a rear object detection system.

The 3,721-pound 300C is very fast, especially for a big guy, doing 0-60 mph in 5.9 seconds. As with all Chrysler Hemi V-8s, the engine feels as if it has an endless reserve of power. The 250-horsepower V-6 should be fine for most folks, with the 190-horsepower engine best suited for in-town driving.

Steering is quick, with good road feel. Handling is sharp -- thanks partly to a Mercedes E-Class suspension. The ride is a bit firm, but supple. Stopping power is good, and the brake pedal has a reassuring linear feel.

Big chromed door handles and large door openings allow easy entry and exit. The upscale, quiet interior easily accommodates four tall adults. The large front bucket seats offer good side support and rear seats are comfortable for long trips, with good thigh support.

The classic-style gauges are easy to read, and the analog dashboard clock is a classy touch. Climate controls are large, but sound system controls are rather small. There's a big center console storage area and decent cupholders. Thick roof pillars hamper rear visibility, which otherwise is good despite high door tops. Rear windows roll all the way down.

The spacious trunk has a low, wide opening, flat floor and a lid that smoothly raises on struts that don't rob cargo space. Neither does the compact rear suspension. The 60/40 split-folding rear seats allow even more cargo room.

The hood also raises on struts, and fluid filler areas are easily reached.

The new 300 -- especially the 300C -- is reminiscent of the grand old full-size V-8 American cars, but is a lot better than they were.

The 300C costs more than many people would expect to pay for a Chrysler sedan, but it looks more costly than it is and is a good value for the money.

2005 CHRYSLER 300


Bold styling. Hot Hemi V-8. Posh. Roomy. Sharp handling.

Marginal base V-6. Thick rear roof pillars hamper visibility. Small radio controls.

Dan Jedlicka

Dan Jedlicka's Website

Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times--far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008.

Jedlicka remained auto editor at the Sun-Times until October, 2008, and continued writing for the newspaper's AutoTimes section, which he started in 1992, until February, 2009. While continuing his auto writings at the Sun-Times, he served as assistant financial editor of that newspaper from 1970 to 1973, when he began his automotive column.

He has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including NBC's "Today," ABC's "20/20" and "The CBS Evening News." He was a host, consultant and writer for Fox-TV Channel 32's 1991 New Car Preview show and that Chicago-based station's 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 Chicago Auto Show Previews.

Jedlicka's auto articles have been printed in national magazines, including Esquire and Harper's. His auto columns have been reprinted in U.S. government publications and economic textbooks and he is profiled in the "World's Greatest Auto Show" history book about the Chicago Auto Show. In late 1975, Jedlicka was host and technical advisor for three one-hour television specials, "Auto Test 76," which aired nationally on PBS and were the first nationally televised auto road test shows.

In 1995, Jedlicka was the recipient of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois Inc.'s Consumer Education Award, given annually to a person who has gained distinction in the field of consumer education. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Media category and inducted into the Legends of Motorsports Guild at the Carquest World of wheels custom car show in Chicago in January, 2006.

Jedlicka was a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury, composed of a select number of auto journalists from throughout the country, from 1995 until 2009. From 2010 to 2012, he was a member of Consumer Digest magazine's auto experts panel that gave Best Buy new vehicle recommendations.

He is a 1987 graduate of the Bob Bondurant Race Drivers School and later of the BMW "M" and Skip Barber Advanced Driving schools. He was a member of the U.S. team that participated in the 1987 1,000-mile Mille Miglia race/rally in Italy and has been a race winner at the Chicago area's Santa Fe Speedway.

Jedlicka has owned 25 classic cars, including 1950s and 1960s Ferraris and 1950s and 1960s Porsches, a 1965 Corvette, a 1967 Maserati and a 1957 Studebaker supercharged Golden Hawk. Jedlicka resides with his wife, Suzanne, in the Frank Lloyd Wright historic district of Oak Park. They have two children, James and Michele.

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