2018 Chrysler 300S Review

2018 Chrysler 300S - Chrysler flagship sedan brings attitude


The sculpted 300 full-size sedan rates as one half of two vehicles currently offered within the 2018 Chrysler brand.   The other donning the pentastar logo: the well-received-and-crafted Pacifica minivan, debuting in 2017.  While Pacifica also offers a gas-electric hybrid powertrain option (the first for a minivan), 300 goes all-in with traditional internal combustion engines.

Reintroduced in the 2005 model year, the urbanly-hip 300 lifted Chrysler's profile in the large sedan segment thanks to the vision of its young, up-and-coming designer Ralph Gilles.  After a dozen years on the road, 300 continues exhibiting a striking silhouette while Gilles' noted talents and approachable persona propelled him to head of design for the entire Fiat Chrysler Automobile (FCA) empire.

Gilles remains a shining constant since his 1992 arrival in Auburn Hills, Michigan at an establishment undergoing its share of logo roulette during the past quarter century. In 1998, then Chrysler Corp. joined forces with German-centric Mercedes-Benz. After a decade, the strained Daimler-Chrysler marriage ended and American private equity firm Cerberus came courting. By 2009, Italian automaker Fiat swooped in during the Great Recession and by 2014, the conglomerate was renamed Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

The 300's high belt line mingles with narrow side windows, a thick rear C pillar and a prominent rear.  Neon-like tail light housing  mimics a capital D to the right with a mirrored D image planted on the left, diminutive inside LED bulbs fill in the D with turn-signal blinking duties.  Rather than a traditional narrow vertical grille, 300 makes way for a prominent trapezoid-like nose with Chrysler's winged logo an a honeycomb pattern inside.

The Chrysler and Dodge divisions of FCA triggered an industry-wide downsizing trend of four-door sedans here in the States when shutting down production of the Belvidere-Illinois-built compact Dodge Dart sedan in September of 2016.  Three months later, the mid-size Chrysler 200 sedan bid, 'adios.'  Ford Motor Company joined the 'me too' movement this year, announcing end-dates for its mid-size Fusion, larger four-door Taurus and compact Fiesta and Focus sedans.

Chrysler introduced a second-generation 300 in the 2011 model year with a mid-cycle refresh in 2015. Our tester remains part of the Gen Two platform with 2018 updates minimal. Tepid sedan sales throughout the industry have slowed the pace of major refreshes compared with brisker-selling crossovers.

For 2018 300 offers five trims: the entry-level Touring, Touring L, 300C, Limited and our tester this week, the power-potent, 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 300S.  Most offer the choice between performance-inspired rear-wheel drive or grippier all-wheel drive; the exception being the performance-inspired 300S V-8 with standard rear-wheel drive. Both engines mate with a well-engineered torque-flight eight-speed automatic transmission.

The 300S's 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 delivers 363 horsepower with a straight-line zero-to 60 mpg projected in less than six seconds.  All other trims include the smoothly pedestrian 3.6-liter, 24-valve 292 horsepower V-6. Both engines accept 87-octane regular fuel with the Hemispheric V-8 recommending mid-grade 89 octane. Dodge Charger sedans and Challenger coupes also offer these two powertrains.

One FCA fire-breathing eight-banger yet to land 300's way; the SRT Hellcat's 6.2-liter supercharged Hemi delivering a whopping 707 horses and a top speed of 204 miles per hour.  Once privy only in Chargers and Challengers, FCA's Jeep Division stuffed this power package inside the 2018 Grand Cherokee crossover, with a 'Trackhawk' designate.  When does 300 get to play?

Whether or not Chrysler 300 extends  a Hellcat V-8, under hood, its mere mortal 5.7-liter V-8 provides excellent excitement along with effortless pedal power since full-size mainstream competitors including Toyota's Avalon and the outgoing Ford Taurus suffice solely with V-6 motives.

Through October, 300 calendar year sales totaled 38,541, lagging behind the Pacifica minivan's 100,872.

Rear-wheel drive V-6 models register the best fuel economy, reaching the respectable 30 mile-per-gallon highway plateau with an accompanying 19 mpg city.  All-wheel drive models offer 18 mpg city and 27 mpg highway.  Rear-wheel drive V-8s, opting for fast and furious capabilities, deliver 16 mpg city and 25 mpg highway.  A self-sealing cap-less fuel lead negates the need for a tethered twist-type plastic covering.

Our 300S tester started at $36,295 with a $48,815 bottom line after adding the $1,345 destination charge. The V-8 engine rates as a $3,000 upgrade and radar-based safety nuances (lane departure warning, forward collision warning and active cruise control, automatically speeding and slowing the vehicle based on vehicle distance ahead) add an additional $1,695.

Front-rear park assist with blind spot detection, also radar centric, bundles with a power tilt and telescoping steering column, heated steering wheel and exterior mirror turn signal indicators in a $1,895 premium group. An entry 300 Touring trim starts at $28,995.

The pinnacle 300S includes exclusive deep quilted perforated Nappa leather seats and door panels standard with a Superman-like S donning front buckets.

Inside, all trims feature a sizeable in-dash, 8.4-inch multi-function color screen.  Above the square monitor resides a handsome, chic analog clock. Ease of interface best describes this intuitive touch-sensitive screen with large, well-marked icons teamed with old-school words. LARGE, tactile twist dials return, commanding volume and station preset respectively, working with FCA's 'best-in-the-Biz' secondary volume select design.

Fingertip controls locate on the steering wheels back side rather than its face, providing digits a natural resting place when maneuvering left-and-right-side horizontal tactile toggle buttons for volume (right side) and station select (left side). The design works so well, General Motors started offering their own version of 'back-side buttons' on newly released or redesigned models including the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado.  

A large center tactile twist dial controls HVAC fan speed while push panels monitor dual interior temperature settings.

Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility come standard, allowing for popular Smartphone interaction with Fiat Chryslers 'Uconnect 4' infotainment system and center screen.

Considering the full-size dimensions, back seat leg room remains a bit sparse in-part due to a prominent vertical transmission floor hump down the center.  However, the 300S includes heated second row seats within the premium option package.  Rear two seatbacks fold forward with a 60/40 split.

Rather than a mechanical gear shift, 300 opts for a twist. Between supportive buckets an electronic chrome dial selects and illuminates the chosen PRNDL gear via a twist. The ignition system also employees an electronic edge, via a circular push-start/stop button framed with 'Run' and 'Off amber lights, gentle reminders which state the engine currently resides.

The easily digestible three-dimensional instrument panel features two circular dials (left-side tachometer, right-side speedometer) with concaved inward analog graphics along with a multi-panel digital window controlled via buttons on the 9 o'clock portion of the steering wheel face.  Range to empty and outside temperature digital displays are constant reminders atop the center brim.

The trunk release button conveniently resides on the dash left of the steering column.  A push of the button reveals full-sized trunk dimensions sporting a cavernous design and padded goose-neck styled housing preventing box crunch.

2018 Chrysler 300S

Price as tested: $48,815

Engine:  5.7-liter V-8

Horsepower: 363

Wheelbase:  120.2 inches

Overall Length: 198.6 inches

Overall Width: 75 inches

Fuel economy:  16 mpg city/25 mpg highway

Curb weight: 4,380 pounds

Powertrain warranty: Five years/60,000 miles

Assembly: Brampton Ontario, Canada

Dave Boe

Dave Boe, a lifetime Chicago area resident, worked at the Daily Herald, Illinois' third-largest daily newspaper, for 24 years. In 1989, the Daily Herald began a weekly Saturday Auto Section and he was shortly appointed editor. The product quickly grew into one of the largest weekend sections in the paper thanks to his locally-written auto reviews, the introduction of a local automotive question-and-answer column, a new colorful format and news happenings from Chicago area new-car dealerships.

Five years later, a second weekly auto section debuted on Mondays with Boe adding an industry insight column and introducing a "Love Affair with Your Car" column where readers sent in their own automotive memories for publication. During the next 10 years, the number of weekly auto sections Boe edited and coordinated grew to five and featured expanded NASCAR racing coverage, a dealer spotlight/profile feature and a Car Club Calendar where grass-roots automobile clubs could publish upcoming events for free. Boe also introduced more local automotive columnists into the pages of the sections, all of whom were seasoned members of the well respected Midwest Automotive Media Association. In 1997, Boe earned the Employee of the Year award from the Daily Herald.

Boe is a founding member and current president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. He has degrees in Journalism and Business Administration from Northern Illinois University.