The 10-Year Evolution of the Chrysler 300
Chrysler’s flagship model, the 300 is now in its tenth year of production, but there’s nothing tired about this sedan.
Defined by it’s completely unique blend of high end style and invigorating performance, the 300 has always been in a league of its own.
Here’s a look at how it has grown over the last ten years and why the 2015 Chrysler 300 is unlike any other luxury car around.
The Chrysler 300 made its big debut back in 2003 at the New York Auto Show. At the time, it was just a concept car, but it didn’t take long for Chrysler to add it to the lineup.
It entered production the following year, although it was technically a 2005 model. The full-size luxury sedan was extremely well received which is no surprise.
Its design was the work of the legendary Ralph Gilles who went on to become the Senior Vice President of Design at Chrysler and the President and CEO of SRT. The 2014 SRT Viper is also on his list of achievements.
The Chrysler 300 benefitted from Gilles’ daring ideas. It’s look is both muscular and sophisticated. And it also has a twinge of retro thrown in, harkening back to the days of prohibition.
The Chrysler 300 was based on the same platform as the rear-wheel drive LX, and many of its mechanical components were also drawn from the Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
The choice to go with rear-wheel drive was driven by a desire to distinguish the 300 as a driver’s car. With the enhanced performance that RWD offers, the 300 stood out from the crowd and delivered a more engaging experience than other sedans.
It was originally offered in three different trims with several engine options to choose from including Chrysler’s well-known Hemi. All-wheel drive was also an available option. All 300 models were equipped with a four-speed automatic transmission.
The interesting thing about the development leading up to the 300’s release is that two versions of the car were created in tandem. Chrysler worked on the upscale sedan while SRT focused on a high performance model.
The Chrysler 300 SRT-8 was also released in 2005, and Edmunds praised it as proof that “upscale sedans don’t have to be stale-looking and slow.”
Consumers were also impressed by its affordable pricing which gave buyers the opportunity to get a lot of power and style for a very reasonable amount of money.
The SRT-8’s engine offered up 425 horsepower delivered by an extremely potent V8. And all 300 models came replete with the latest features.
Always Getting Better
The 300 certainly wasn’t left untouched for long. For 2007, just two years after it entered the market, the 300 saw significant upgrades.
The first and most important was the W.P. Chrysler Executive Series Package which added a total of six inches to the car’s wheelbase. The option allowed for lots more legroom in the back so rear seat passengers could stretch out and get comfortable.
The new and improved 300 also got decked out with a series of state-of-the-art features for 2007. 18-inch chrome wheels with an updated design were swapped in for the previous 17-inch wheels.
Adaptive cruise control, automatic high-beam headlights, heated rear seats, and a maintenance reminder also became part of the package, providing even more convenience and luxury than before.
The 300 also continued to perform very well in safety testing thanks to its protective features like traction and stability control. It received all four and five star ratings from the NHTSA and got the highest possible score from the IIHS.
Chrysler was back at it in 2008 when the 300’s interior got a serious overhaul. All surfaces were revised to be soft to the touch, and the overall look and feel of the dash was adjusted.
LED accent lighting became available along with other luxury options like a surround-sound audio system, an iPod interface, a backseat entertainment system, and a multimedia system.
And the 300’s already high grade safety package was augmented with front seat-mounted side airbags and a side curtain airbag system.
The exterior didn’t see a whole lot of change, though the front and rear were lightly spruced up to give the car an overall look of freshness.
And Chrysler didn’t let their flagship go unattended in the following couple years either. In 2009, the 5.7-liter engine in the 300C, the top trim level, benefitted from the use of variable valve time.
That wasn’t the only mechanical innovation to please fans. A new active transfer case in the all-wheel drive models also supported performance and helped cut back on fuel consumption.
A special tuning of the suspension made the already plush ride even cushier. But for buyers looking for a sportier feel, the new Chrysler Heritage 300C incorporated the same steering and suspension as the Dodge Charger R/T Daytona.
The following year, the updates weren’t quite so involved. The most noteworthy additions were keyless entry/ignition and rear parking sensors which are both quite handy amenities to have.
Mixing Things Up
2011 was the year that the 300 truly went through a transformation. From the inside out, almost every part of it was redone, though it still retained a similar exterior look.
The retro feel was still there, but every little detail had been polished to give the 300 a newly elegant presence.
Chrysler also did away with the 300’s smaller engine options and replaced them with the a 292-horsepower V6. And the Hemi got a boost up to 363 horsepower and 394 lb-ft of torque.
The standard trims offered were the base, Limited, 300C, and 300C AWD. Even the base trim came with some pretty classy touches like four-way power lumbar support, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and satellite radio.
But once up into the higher level trims, owners could enjoy even more convenience. From heated and ventilated seats to a touchscreen infotainment interface, the rejuvenated 300 had quite the impressive package to offer.
In 2012, the 300 finally received an enhancement that people had been awaiting for quite some time. A brand new eight-speed automatic transmission was paired with the V6, making for a smoother more luxurious ride than ever before.
2012 also marked the return and introduction of a few unique models, the 300S, the 300 Luxury Series, and the SRT8 which had taken a brief sabbatical.
From 2012, the 300 remained fairly unchanged although trim offerings did shift around here and there.
For 2015, the tenth year of its production, the 300 has taken on some sharp new lines and style cues, and the latest safety and connectivity technologies have been worked in.
More appealing gauges and a rotary-dial shifter make the interior shine. And drivers can rely on an array of advanced safeguards like adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and lane keeping assist. Bi-xenon headlights are also available for enhanced visibility.
After a decade, the 2015 300 is a still a leader in style, performance, and safety, illustrating Chrysler’s dedication to innovation and America’s love of luxury with a kick.