By Derek Price
Chrysler’s big, bad 300 sedan has long looked like it was styled by Al Capone.
This year’s version of it keeps that old-school gangster vibe — the upright grille, the sinister roofline, the giant trunk that could hide plenty of evidence from cops — but it puts a softer, more sophisticated veneer on top of it.
With a fresh design for 2015, the 300 drives like a more modern, upscale car than ever before, with a tailored, taut driving feel and a cabin that moves it further into luxury territory.
I spent a few hours driving the new car around Austin, Texas, and it seems like an impressive improvement over the last generation at first glance.
One of my favorite things about it is the dramatic separation between the sporty 300S model and the rest of the 300 lineup. The S has a racier look, a much firmer suspension, tighter feeling steering and faster shifting from the transmission. It was more rewarding to drive on winding roads, especially when you press the button to engage sport mode.
That said, my favorite version to drive was the 300C, which is the classic luxury flavor. It looks more expensive, with lots of chrome and shiny bits on it, but it was the soft, comfortable driving feel that really won me over.
There are so few cars like this on the market today — big ol’ four-door, powerful, soft-riding luxury cars — that it’s easy to fall in love with this one, especially for the price. It starts under $38,000. And to get a car like this from a luxury brand, you could easily spend $60 grand or more to find something with this level of power and spaciousness.
There are plenty of little changes that make the 300 a more sophisticated, upscale car now. It’s got a standard 7-inch screen on the dash, a new steering wheel with buttons that feel solid and precise, new digital features through Chrysler’s UConnect system, and my favorite thing of all: a new eight-speed automatic transmission that drives better and gets more impressive gas mileage.
Overall, there’s a lot to like about the new generation 300. It’s got a new look, a new driving feel and a nicer cabin, but it hasn’t lost the things that make it stand out: space, power, and that all-American body styling.
Pricing for the $300 starts at $31,395. You can get the 300S for $34,895 and the luxurious 300C for $37,895. A new 300C Platinum trim level tops the lineup at $42,395.
RAM PROMASTER CITY
While I was in Austin, I got the chance to drive Ram’s latest weapon in the delivery-van wars. The new Promaster City is aimed at commercial customers who work in urban environments, with a compact size and emphasis on efficiency that seem perfect for businesses that want lots of capability for the buck.
Based on the Fiat Doblo, which has twice been named the International Van of the Year, this new compact van comes standard with a 2.4-liter Tigershark engine that delivers the best standard horsepower and torque in its class, Ram says.
It has a surprisingly refined ride and cabin for a commercial vehicle. Driving it in Austin traffic — and around a special “work-cross” course that simulated doing deliveries in various conditions — I thought it was the kind of van I could live with every day, not just as a workhorse.
Pricing starts at $23,130.
At a Glance
What was tested?
2015 Chrysler 300S ($34,895). Options: None. Price as tested (including $995 destination charge): $35,890
Wheelbase: 120.2 in.
Length: 198.6 in.
Width: 75 in.
Height: 58.7 in.
Engine: 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 (300 horsepower, 264 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Estimated Mileage: 19 city, 31 highway
2015 Chrysler 300
Why buy it?
It offers the space and power of a full-size luxury car without the overblown price. A redesign makes it more refined for 2015.