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2009 Chrysler 300 Review - Making a "Bold" Statement

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Topics:  Chrysler 300

2009 Chrysler 300 Review - Making a "Bold" Statement

James Flammang
August 5, 2009

James Flammang
http://www.autoMedia.com

There are a lot of ways to make a bold statement with an automobile, and the Chrysler 300 is certainly one. Standard rear-wheel drive with available all-wheel drive on Touring, Limited and 300C models, the series also offers a choice of four engines. This year the 5.7-liter HEMI produces more power and mileage, and the AWD models get Active Transfer Case and Front-Axle Disconnect. If you need your big even bigger, you can opt for the Walter P. Chrysler Executive Series for an extra half-foot in length.

Installed in 300C sedans, the Hemi has gained power for 2009, while improving fuel economy. Generating 360 horsepower and 389 pound-feet of torque, the 5.7-liter Hemi works with a five-speed automatic transmission. Multi-displacement System (MSD) technology turns off fuel consumption in four cylinders when V-8 power is not needed, boosting fuel economy up to 20 percent. "Eco" is now displayed when in four-cylinder mode. All-wheel-drive models now are equipped with an Active Transfer Case and Front-axle Disconnect. AWD engages automatically, or can be manually selected. Activating windshield wipers for an extended period also makes it happen.

Offered only with rear-drive, the 2.7-liter Touring model gets an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fuel-economy estimate of 18 mpg in city driving and 26 mpg on the highway. The 3.5-liter V-6 is rated 17/25 mpg with rear-drive, or 17/23 mpg with all-wheel drive. Estimates dip slightly to 16/25 mpg for the Hemi V-8 (16/23 with all-wheel drive). Limited and 300C models now have a comfort-tuned suspension, with 18-inch wheels. This year's Heritage edition gets a sport-tuned suspension, with the same performance steering, suspension and shocks as a Dodge Charger Daytona R/T.

Inside, "classic" styling cues from the Hemi 300C now cover the entire lineup. Cargo nets and grocery bag hooks are standard on 2009 models. A new reversible trunk mat goes into Limited and 300C models, which gain standard "uconnect tunes" with a 6-CD/DVD/MP3 radio. Antennas have moved into rear windows. A new grille and 20-inch chromed aluminum wheels go on the 300C Heritage. Available rear-seat DVD video entertainment features a 7-inch screen, and Sirius Backseat TV is optional. Safety features include Electronic Stability Program with Brake Assist, traction control, and antilock braking. Amazingly in this league, side-impact and curtain airbags are available only in option packages.

Particularly easy to drive, the 300 has plenty of front-seat space. Rear occupants enjoy fine knee room; good (if somewhat narrow) toe space, and adequate headroom. Rear side positions are quite comfortable, but the center occupant must straddle a floor hump. Long side windows ease visibility, and the driver faces a handsome instrument panel. Enthusiasts who demand something beyond a 300C again have an alternative: the super-performance 300C SRT8, with a 6.1-liter Hemi V-8 from Street and Racing Technology that generates 425 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque. In addition to a five-speed automatic with driver-selectable Auto Stick, this hottest-of-all sedan features SRT-tuned dampers, specially tailored spring rates and bushings, and thick anti-sway bars. Chrysler claims 0-60 mph acceleration in the low 5-second range, but gas mileage sinks to a dismal 13/19 mpg (city/highway). For 2009, the SRT8 gained a standard sunroof. Improved fuel economy reduces its "gas guzzler" tax.

Acceleration potential is the biggest bonus for owning a Hemi-powered 300C, with or without all-wheel drive. Hemi acceleration is without a doubt muscular, but in a somewhat old-fashioned manner. Automatic-transmission shifts are rather curt and lumpy, accompanied by considerable sound. That engine delivers a long whir when pushed hard. Though not troubling, it isn't quite the sound of strength. Many shoppers will be satisfied with a V-6 engine.

With its sport-tuned suspension, the Heritage edition yields markedly better road feel than its softer-sprung mates. Lack of refinement is still evident on bumps, because the suspension doesn't recover quite as smartly as it should. Steering is light, but there's no disconnected feel. On smooth roads, at least, the Heritage delivers an enticing ride. Now the entry-level model, the 300 Touring sedan starts at $27,665 (including destination charge) with the 2.7-liter engine. Picking the 3.5-liter V-6 ups the ante to $32,075. Stepping up to a Limited, which now looks similar to the 300C, increases the outlay to at least $36,285. A Hemi-powered 300C stickers for $37,885 ($39,925 with AWD). Extended-length Walter P. Chrysler Signature editions add six inches to the standard wheelbase.

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