2008 Chrysler 300 Review

2008 Chrysler 300 - Making a splash.


Chrysler's big splash was its 1955 C-300, which was the world's first mass-produced 300-horsepower car, thanks to the automaker's fairly new Hemi V-8. The Chrysler 300 continues the first 300's rich tradition, especially with the SRT8 model's 425-horsepower Hemi V-8.

The impressive-looking Chrysler C-300 coupe -- and other powerful big American coupes and sedans such as Chevrolet Impalas and Ford Galaxie 500s -- were the envy of foreign car producers for decades; they couldn't make anything like them because narrow roads, engine size limitations, high fuel taxes and low incomes of most folks provided no market for such autos. 

Small cars with fuel-miserly engines still are the top sellers in Europe and in Japan, although car buyers in those countries make more money. There are large, powerful European and Japanese autos, although most are built for export.

Other countries with huge car sales potential such as China lack the roads and service networks for big, powerful autos. Even the fairly large Chevrolet Corvette sports car is out of place on European and Japanese roads -- and strictly for the wealthy in China.

However, autos such as the Chrysler 300 have been comfortable in America since the 1950s. Like the 1955 Chrysler C-300, the current 300 is muscular looking, with Bentley-like styling. There are base, Touring, 300C and 300C SRT8 versions. List prices go from $24,445 for the base model to $40,545 for the 300C SRT8.

Higher fuel prices have led some 300 buyers to get the car's 2.7-liter 190-horsepower V-6 or 3.5-liter 250-horsepower V-6, although the 300 really shines with either of its two "Hemi" V-8s, with their power-producing hemispherical combustion chambers.

The 5.7-liter Hemi has 340 horsepower and a cylinder-deactivation feature for better economy. The 6.1-liter Hemi in the 300C SRT8 is from Chrysler's Street and Racing Technology team and produces 425-horsepower. It best suits the 300's macho nature.

The base 300 with its 2.7 V-6 model is pretty well-equipped with air conditioning and other comfort and convenience features, while the Touring adds the 3.5 V-6 and such items as leather upholstery. The 300C adds features such as dual-zone automatic climate control, heated seats, power front passenger seat, power tilt/telescopic wheel and power adjustable pedals.

The 2.7 V-6 makes the 300 best suited for in-town driving, although it delivers the best 2007 estimated fuel economy: 21 mpg in the city and 28 on highways. It works with a four-speed automatic transmission, while the other 300 engines are hooked to a more efficient five-speed automatic.

The 3.5-liter, 250-horsepower V-6 provides lively performance if you don't want a Hemi V-8. It delivers 19 city, 27 highway. Estimated economy with the 5.7 Hemi is 17 and 25. It's 14 and 20 with the mighty 6.1-liter Hemi, which leads to a $2,163 gas guzzler tax. However, a 20 mpg highway rating isn't bad for a big, heavy high-performance sedan.

Only regular-grade fuel is needed for the 2.7, while 89-octane gas is recommended for the 3.5 and 5.7, with 91-octane required for the 6.1.

The 425-horsepower SRT8 really isn't a "commuter car," although it's quiet and refined. Rather, it's best used as a second or third auto for weekend pleasure drives -- or for long-distance trips. Acceleration is remarkable. The SRT8 does 0-60 mph in 4.7 seconds and hits 100 mph in 11.2 seconds.

The 300C and Touring come with rear-wheel drive or extra-cost all-wheel drive, while the base and 300 SRT8 come with only rear-drive, although you can get a traction control and anti-skid systems for the base model for $1,515. They're standard on the Touring, 300C and SRT8.

Traction and anti-skid systems eliminate the need for all-wheel drive during winter here, although winter tires are a good idea for the SRT8 if owners don't live near salted roads after heavy snowfalls.

The 425-horsepower SRT8 has the best-equipped 300 model, with major features from other 300s, besides a lowered body and uprated anti-lock disc brakes, performance suspension, extra-wide tires on specially designed 20-inch wheels and discreet rear spoiler. It also has leather/suede upholstery, a higher-line sound system and rear-obstacle detection system.

There are many expensive option packages. Individual options include a $950 power sunroof for the Touring, 300C and SRT8.

Steering is quick, without excessive power assist.

The ride is smooth, and handling is sharp, although a driver always can feel the weight of this car. Brakes are powerful, controlled by a pedal that allows consist- ently smooth stops from various speeds.

The quiet, upscale interior provides plenty of room for four to five tall occupants, with an especially roomy back seat. Both front and outboard rear seats are nicely contoured for comfort and support during spirited driving.

Climate controls are large, and radio controls are easily worked. The ornate gauges can be read quickly. But driver window switches are too far forward on the door, causing a driver to activate a rear window instead of a front one. All doors have usefully sized storage pockets.

The deep trunk is large but has a rather high opening. Its lid raises smoothly on hydraulic struts. Engine compartment fluid filler areas can be reached without getting clothes dirty.

Economy cars have a place in today's increasingly fuel-conscious U.S. vehicle market. But so does the 300C SRT8, which is the type of car still envied by foreign automakers. 

2007 CHRYSLER 300 

PRICE: $24,445-$40,545.

LIKES: Goes like the wind. John Dillinger styling. Good handling. Roomy. Available all-wheel drive.

DISLIKES: Mediocre fuel economy. High trunk opening. Window controls not ideally located.

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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