SAN DIEGO--The Chrysler 300, introduced in 2004, enjoyed a swagger that stood out in a large-car segment dominated by bland Japanese designs and pricey European sedans. Buyers loved its custom mesh grilles and bold chrome wheels.
The redesigned 2011 300 is more refined--quieter, smoother riding, more powerful and nimble. But Chrysler Group hopes the car still commands the enthusiasm that made the brash original the most successful vehicle of the ill-fated DaimlerChrysler alliance.
To capture that interest, Chrysler will offer more custom accessories. Buyers can choose from six grilles, including the egg-crate version that was available on the original model and now is a Mopar option. The redesigned Chrysler 300 goes on sale this month.
The basics: The 300 is built in Chrysler's Brampton, Ontario, factory on an updated version of Chrysler's LX rear-drive platform, which also supports the Dodge Charger and Challenger.
Chrysler engineers tried to match or beat luxury competitors in key areas: the Lexus LS 460 for road and wind noise, the Hyundai Genesis for power train noise from a V-6, and the Mercedes-Benz E class for ride and handling, according to Mitch Clauw, chief engineer of the Chrysler 300.
The 300 gets a new interior and Chrysler's 292-hp Pentastar V-6 or an optional 5.7-liter, 363-horsepower Hemi V-8.
Marketing targets: Chrysler is taking aim at a broad sweep of the market. With the entry 300 at $27,995 including destination and the 300 Limited at $31,995, Chrysler hopes to woo customers also shopping standard full-size sedans such as the Ford Taurus, Buick LaCrosse, or Toyota Avalon, according to Bruce Velisek, the 300's marketing manager.
With the uplevel 300C at $38,995 and 300C AWD at $41,145, Chrysler will go after the Cadillac CTS, Lincoln MKS, Hyundai Genesis, and even the Lexus LS 460 and Mercedes-Benz E class.
"We're going to give you more content at a better price than you'll get from the competition," Velisek said at a press event here.
Notable features: Chrysler offers its 8.4-inch Uconnect touch screen with a Garmin navigation system and Sirius Travel Link for weather, fuel prices, and other information. An available package of safety features includes adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning.
What Chrysler says: "We have cars that are not only beautiful but offer values tens of thousands of dollars beyond their price point," says Olivier Francois, Chrysler brand CEO.
Compromises and shortcomings: The 2011 300's design is more conservative than the outgoing car's. That may not sit well with those who liked the flamboyance of the previous car. Also, rear drive, for all its virtues, can be a tough sell in regions where winter driving is a fact of life.
The skinny: The 2011 300 is a better car than its predecessor, but the luxury competition is very challenging.