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Chrysler 300 update signals new era

Chrysler unveils its 2011 300 model at the Detroit auto show.

Chrysler 300
The new 300 retains the bulk of the previous model, but gets new styling. Josh Miller/CNET

DETROIT--Chrysler's new beginning was probably most evidenced by the Italian accent of the gentleman introducing the new 300. Under Fiat's ownership, Chrysler updated the 300 with a look to engineering in more luxury. But it also may be telling that this update is a 2011 model, a late introduction compared with most automakers' schedules.

The new 300 seems to borrow a little bit of the Bentley Continental's simplicity in the front, and the stately C-pillars of the Rolls-Royce Phantom on the sides. Chrysler deemphasized the grille in the new model, which may be a sore point for 300 fans. But the company says the old-style grille is still available as an accessory.

The new 300 gets Chrysler's latest cabin tech under the UConnect brand name. This system relies on Garmin for an integrated navigation system, and uses Sirius Travel Link for external dat,a such as traffic, weather, and gas prices. A Wi-Fi hot-spot accessory is also available at dealers.

Chrysler's new Pentastar engine sits under the hood, a 3.6-liter variable-valve timed V-6 generating 292 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. The 300C version will still come with Chrysler's 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, churning out 363 horsepower.

A new all-wheel-drive system automatically defaults to rear-wheel-drive for fuel-efficient normal driving, but engages the front wheels as needed.