LOS ANGELES -- Gracing Chrysler's stage at the 2014 Los Angeles auto show were not one, but three new 300 models, representing a refreshed version of the large sedan and a new trim range. The 300S, likely to be the big seller of the bunch, represented the sporty side, the 300C held the middle ground, and the 300C Platinum stood for the luxury end.
As a model refresh, with unchanged engine offerings from the previous generation, it would be easy to overlook these sedans. However, as I knew that lurking in the dashboards was the latest version of Chrysler's UConnect system, a surprisingly powerful infotainment head unit with a data connection and built-in apps.
A host of other updates in Chrysler's press materials hint at performance updates all around.
Focusing on the 300S model, which prices just under $35,000, the black accents looked very good with the red exterior on stage. Sport bucket seats up front were comfortable, with reasonably sized bolsters that didn't interfere with access. 20-inch wheels complete the 300S' brawny look.
A 3.6-liter V-6, the same as in the current generation, comes standard. For the 300S, Chrysler tunes the power output from the base 292 horsepower to 300 horsepower, and bumps torque from 260 to 264 pound-feet. As before, a 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, producing 363 horsepower, is available.
Seemingly counter-intuitive to the 300's legacy, Chrysler replaces the old shift lever with a simple dial to control the standard eight-speed automatic transmission. I like this change, as the lever unnecessarily obstructed access across the front console. The dial is similar to that found in the Chrysler 200 .
An electric power steering system looks like the most radical change in the 300's driving technology. This system will improve efficiency, as it makes for less drag on the engine than a hydraulic pump. Chrysler also took advantage of the the system's flexibility to offer a sport steering program, tightening up the steering response.
What I really like about the new 300 is Chrysler's latest UConnect system. Using an 8.4-inch touchscreen set in the dashboard, this system offers navigation, stereo and communications within an easily understood interface. It offers two tiers of app integration, with a few built in and more running off a connected smartphone. I most recently used the UConnect system in a Jeep Grand Cherokee , where I was able to look up destinations such as restaurants, then program the address into the navigation system. It works as a very good take on online destination search, with Yelp adding useful ratings and reviews from users.
For apps running off a connected smartphone, UConnect supports Slacker, iHeartRadio and Pandora, among others.
The 2015 Chrysler 300's various trim models give this full-size sedan versatility, offering wide appeal to middle-class buyers who appreciate a large cabin and brawny styling. However, the 300S won't be pushing the limits of performance among big sedans, nor will the 300C Platinum live at the top of the luxury set. Instead, the 300 is a reasonably priced non-ostentatious vehicle offering solid tech and comfort.