2012 Chrysler 300 Review

2012 Chrysler 300 - Hot-rod American sedan proves its mettle against the best.


Vehicle Tested
2012 Chrysler 300 SRT-8
Base Price: $47,170
As-Tested Price: $53,135
Built in Canada.

Customer Preferred Package
Premium Speaker Group
3-Season Performance Tires
Gas Guzzler Tax

Engine: 6.4-Liter V8
Transmission: 5-Speed Automatic

Drive Wheels: Rear-Wheel Drive
Chrysler's largest car carries on into 2012 with little change after getting significant improvements and a styling refresh for '11. The 300 is a full-size rear- or all-wheel drive sedan that comes with either a V6 or V8 engine. It competes with vehicles like the Ford Taurus, Lincoln MKS and Toyota Avalon. Like all of its competitors, the 300 seats five on twin front buckets and a three-place rear bench seat.

The 300 was first introduced in 2005 with much fanfare as a joint collaboration between Chrysler and then partner Mercedes-Benz. It was a dramatic departure from the cab-forward, front-drive Chrysler LHS and 300 it replaced. One thing that didn't change was a roomy cabin and huge trunk.

For 2012, the 300 comes in Base, Limited, 300S, 300C, and SRT-8 trim. The 300S and SRT-8 are new for this year. Rear-wheel drive is standard on all models. Available on all but the 300 and SRT-8 is all-wheel drive.

Two engines are offered. Standard on the Base, Limited, and 300S is a 292-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 engine that can run on gasoline and/or E85 ethanol-blended fuel. Optional on the 300S and standard on the 300C is a 363-horsepower 5.7-liter V8 with Chrysler's Multi-Displacement System cylinder deactivation. The new SRT8 model gets a 470-horsepower 6.4-liter V8. Except for the Base where it is optional, all V6 models use a standard 8-speed automatic transmission with manual-shift capability. The Base and all V8 models use a 5-speed automatic.

Standard safety features on all models includes Dual front airbags antilock four-wheel disc brakes with brake assist, stability control, tire-pressure monitor, front-seat active head restraints, emergency inside trunklid release, daytime running lights and dual-front, front-side, curtain-side and driver-knee airbags. Standard on the SRT-8 and optional on others is a front- and rear-obstacle-detection system. Blind-spot alert, cross-path detection and forward collision warning are part of a SafetyTec Group that's optional on all models except for the Base.

The base 300 lists for $27,170 and includes air conditioning with dual-zone automatic climate control, interior air filter, tilt/telescopic leather-wrapped steering wheel with radio controls, cruise control, cloth upholstery, front bucket seats, eight-way power driver seat with lumbar adjustment, center console, split-folding rear seat, heated power mirrors, power windows, power door locks, keyless entry, keyless access and starting, AM/FM/CD/MP3 player with satellite radio, digital-media player connection and USB port, trip computer, variable-intermittent wipers, automatic day/night rearview mirror, compass, outside-temperature indicator, illuminated visor mirrors, rear defogger, automatic headlights, floormats, theft-deterrent system, 215/65R17 tires and alloy wheels.

The Limited starts at $32,170 with rear-wheel drive and $34,320 with all-wheel drive. It adds to the Base leather upholstery, heated front seats, power passenger seat with lumbar adjustment, upgraded sound system, voice recognition, Bluetooth cell-phone connection, remote engine start, fog lights, 225/60R18 tires and chrome alloy wheels.

The new S model lists for $33,170 with V6 and rear-wheel drive and $35,320 with all-wheel drive. In addition to the equipment on the Base model it adds heated front seats, upgraded sound system, voice recognition, Bluetooth cell-phone connection, remote engine start, fog lights, sport suspension, 245/45R20 tires and polished alloy wheels.

Opting for the 300S with V8 will set you back $39,170 with rear-drive and $41,320 with all-wheel drive. In addition to the equipment included with the V6 300S, the V8 300S adds uprated brakes, leather upholstery, power passenger seat with lumbar adjustment, power-adjustable pedals, memory system (driver seat, mirrors, pedals), heated/cooled front cupholders, heated rear seats, rearview camera, tilt-down back-up aid mirrors with driver-side automatic day/night, rain-sensing wipers and self-dimming headlights.

The 300C lists for $38,170 with rear drive and $40,320 with all-wheel drive. It adds to the 300S navigation system with traffic information, heated power tilt/telescopic wood/leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated/ventilated front seats, universal garage door opener, power rear sunshade.
In addition to the 6.4-liter engine, the $47,170 SRT-8 adds to the 300C front- and rear-obstacle-detection system, leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather/suede upholstery, steering-linked adaptive HID headlights, rear spoiler, performance suspension, 245/45ZR20 tires and alloy wheels.

Options include navigation system, sunroof, Uconnect multimedia system, premium paint and summer-only performance tires on the SRT-8 model. The 300 is built in Canada along with the similar Dodge Charger and Challenger and has a destination charge of $825.

Get Up and Go  Pick you poison: Mild, spicy or smokin'. The 300's base 3.6-liter V6 provides adequate giddy up when called upon but can feel a bit sleepy off the line. Opt for the 5.7-liter V8 and acceleration ranks as impressive under any circumstance. It offers plenty of scoot off the line and great passing power. The limited-edition SRT-8 has outstanding acceleration and passing punch. It's easily the most powerful car in the class and one of the fastest large sedans sold in the United States, period.

The new smooth-shifting and economical eight-speed automatic. It provides seamless upshifts and prompt, positive downshifts at all times. Too bad it's only available with the V6. V8 models get the older five-speed automatic. It's plenty serviceable but doesn't have the refinement or subtle gear-radio spacing that makes the eight-speed so appealing.

EPA ratings for the new V6/eight-speed auto combo are an impressive 19 mpg city and 31 mpg highway. V8 300C comes in at a less impressive 16/25 mpg, while the thirsty SRT-8 gulps to the tune of 14/23 mpg. Chrysler says the V6 runs fine on regular-grade gas, while the V8 should be fed mid-grade and the SRT-8 motor premium.

Real-world economy averages really depend on the type of driving you do and how fast you like to go. The 300 is a heavy sedan and struggles to manage 20 mpg in city driving. Lighten up on the gas though and throw in a dose of gentile highway cruising and you're likely to net 25 mpg overall. Straight highway cruising will average close to 30 mpg.

On the Road  The 300 rides as smoothly or as firmly as you want. Opt for the Base of V6 models and you'll find a ride that's quite comfortable and soft with just a modest bit of float on the highway or bumpy roads. With larger wheels and tires and a firmer suspension, things tighten up considerably on the 300C. The ride is never hard or even harsh, but there's much better rebound control and the vehicle stays planted on bumpy roads. Stepping up to the SRT-8 means sacrificing some ride quality for ultimate road-holding grip. Still, even then the ride is tolerable when compared to some sport sedans.

As with the ride quality, road holding is also a mixed bag. The softer suspension on the V6 models can quickly be overwhelmed by the vehicle's weight and feels somewhat sloppy in quick maneuvers. The 300C stays nicely planted and has only modest body lean in quick turns. The SRT-8 handles like a large sports car and responds quickly to steering inputs. All models have brakes with good stopping power, but the SRT-8 with the Brembo binders stop astonishingly well for a large car.

The 300 is a quite car, unless you opt for the SRT-8 which has too much tire roar on the highway. Engines are refined and silent in cruising, SRT-8 howls with delight in hard acceleration.

Behind the Wheel  300 got an extensive interior makeover for 2011. That didn't change the layout, but certainly improved the materials and the fit and finish--both easily on par with the class if not better. Gauges are easy to read at a glance and most controls are right where they should be. The available 8.4-inch touch-screen display had vivid colors and is easy to read day or night.

With abundant leg room and good head room, front seats are quite accommodating. Opting for the available sunroof forces taller drivers to recline the seatback some. SRT-8 models sport seats that are firmer than most, but do an excellent job of coddling passengers in spirited driving. Visibility is good forward, somewhat limited to the rear because of the tall rear deck and thick roof pillars.

Back seat is commodious, plenty large for two adults and an occasional middle passenger. The seats are comfortable and head room is quite good. It's also easy to get in and out through the wide-opening doors.

Cargo space is quite good and the fold-down seats are a plus in the class. However, the trunklid hinges intrude on passenger space and that's disappointing. Interior storage is fine for the class with a large glove box and center-console bin. Map pockets are also reasonably useful.

Bottom Line  Chrysler's flagship, the 300, is a one of the last traditional American full-size luxury sedans. The fact that is comes in three distinct flavors is a huge advantage. For the average Joe, the Limited or 300S are a perfect fit: Roomy, comfortable, efficient and safe. Want a bit more punch? Opt for the 300C and get that powerful Hemi V8. Still wanting more? Get the SRT-8 and be the envy of your neighbors. Regardless of trim or engine, the 300 fills the bill for the traditional American family buyer.

Specifications, 2012 Chrysler 300 SRT-8
4-door sedan
Wheelbase, in.
Size, liters/cu. in.
6.4 / 392
Length, in.
Horsepower @ rpm
470 @ 6000
Width, in.
Torque (lb.-ft.)  @ rpm
470 @ 4300
Height, in.
5-Speed Automatic
Weight, lbs.
EPA Estimates, mpg
14 city / 23 highway
Cargo Capacity, cu. ft.

Fuel Capacity, gals.
Manufacturer's Warranty
Seating Capacity
3 years / 36,000 miles
Front Head Room, in.
5 years / 100,000 miles
Front Leg Room, in.
5 years / 100,000 miles
Second-Row Head Room, in.
Free Roadside Assistance
3 years / 36,000 miles
Second-Row Leg Room, in.
Free Scheduled Maintenance

Mark Bilek

Mark Bilek is the Senior Director of Communications and Technology for the Chicago Auto Trade Association and the General Manager for DriveChicago.com. He is also responsible for developing and maintaining the Chicago Auto Show Web site.

Mark has been reviewing vehicles for more than two decades. Previously, he was associate publisher at Consumer Guide, where he oversaw publication of Consumer Guide Car & Truck Test, Consumer Guide's Used Car Book, and ConsumerGuide.com. He was also responsible for publication of "Collectible Automobile" and various hardcover automotive titles. In 2001 and 2002 he served as president of a Midwest Automotive Media Association. Mark has appeared on NBC TV, ABC TV, Fox News, WGN and MotorTrend TV as an automotive consultant. He hosts the Drive Chicago radio show on WLS 890 AM and was a regular guest on WGN Radio's Steve & Johnnie show. Mark lives in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three sons.