Chrysler sporadically marketed automobiles under the "300" designation for half a century. In its 1999 to 2004 iteration, the Chrysler 300M was a front-wheel-drive sedan with V-6 power.
A completely different 300 sedan joined Chrysler's lineup for 2005, with rear-wheel drive. To counteract concerns that the rear-drive 300 won't handle properly on snow and ice, Chrysler offers an Electronic Stability Program in upper-end models. It's an option for the base sedan.
Base and Touring editions are offered for 2006, along with a Limited option package. A new BeltAlert system has been installed, and a tire-pressure monitor is standard on Touring and Limited editions. A newly available backseat DVD entertainment system uses a 7-inch flip-up screen in the center console.
Dodge introduced a closely related Magnum series for 2005, but the Magnum is a wagon rather than a four-door sedan. All-wheel-drive versions of the 300 and Magnum also are available. Chrysler also offers a Hemi-powered 300C, which is listed separately in the Research section.
The 300 looks bold and imposing, flaunting a distinctive shape and riding a 120-inch wheelbase. Aluminum is used for the hood and deck lid. Sizable wheel openings encircle either 17- or 18-inch tires.
Though the 300 is shorter overall than the old 300M, it's larger inside. The seating position is 2.5 inches higher, and a four-gauge instrument cluster with light silver faces and chrome trim rings has watch-face styling. Trunk volume totals 15.6 cubic feet.
In addition to chrome-clad aluminum wheels, the 2006 Limited package includes automatic headlamps and dual-zone automatic climate control with infrared sensing.
Under the Hood
A 2.7-liter V-6 produces 190 horsepower in the base sedan. Other models get a 250-hp, 3.5-liter V-6. Both engines team with a four-speed-automatic transmission in rear-wheel-drive 300s, but the all-wheel-drive 300's 3.5-liter V-6 drives a five-speed automatic.
Antilock brakes, traction control and an Electronic Stability Program are optional on the base sedan and standard on other models. Side curtain-type airbags are optional.
From the first moments behind the wheel, the 300 feels especially solid and substantial. The 3.5-liter V-6 delivers adequate power for mountainous terrain, but no true surplus. Except for a slight snarl when pushing hard while climbing, the V-6 is very quiet. Performance is almost as appealing with the 2.7-liter V-6, which is a little noisier.
The 300 steers easily and demands just enough effort to impart a semi-sporty sensation. You can expect a confident feel through winding roads.
Performance in snow and ice is amazing because of the Electronic Stability Program. Even if you tromp the gas on a snow-packed curve, the system kicks in immediately — albeit assertively — to keep the car on course.
The seats are reasonably supportive and comfortable, but a bit hard. Abundant glass area and large mirrors help visibility. Backseat space is abundant.