The 2012 Chrysler 300S is like my husband's favorite sweater. Both are stylish with healthy doses of retro flair; both are roomy and comfortable; and, both are beloved by my hubby and coveted by me. In an ideal world, my husband would own the 300S so I could sneak in the same amount of quality time with the 300S that I've long been relishing with the sweater.
It's not that I wouldn't want the 300S as my very own, but it has such a masculine vibe that it perfectly suits stylish men with families. These stylish men, however, must be willing to share with their spouses; it's the mack-daddy car that mack mommies also will enjoy.
The top-of-the-line S trim that I tested is new for 2012 and outfitted for a sportier experience. A new eight-speed automatic transmission with Sport mode is matched to a standard V-6 engine. A V-8 engine with five-speed automatic transmission is available. My test car came with the standard 292-horsepower V-6 engine. Whenever I got behind the wheel of this five-seat sedan and started accelerating, a voice that sounded eerily similar to singer Barry White's echoed in my mind saying, "Sit back, baby, and enjoy the ride." I had to oblige. Acceleration and gear shifts were barely noticeable and the car maintained perfect poise, even at high speeds.
The full-size 300 sedan has a starting price of $28,595, including a $925 destination charge, and the 2012 300S with a V-6 engine starts at $34,595. With the addition of all-wheel drive, the Customer Preferred Package that adds an array of safety features like blind spot detection and a backup camera, and the Luxury Group that adds leather power seats and other niceties, the final price of my test car came to $43,210.
The 2012 300S' exterior is the first clue that this car isn't for the mundane. The chrome grille is blackened and the headlamps are rimmed with kohl-colored bezels that highlight C-shaped LED running lights. The standard 19-inch aluminum wheels also sport black cutouts. These shadowy elements work together with the dual chrome exhaust tips and delicate angles to create a sophisticated-looking car.
As a sedan, the 300S sits lower to the ground than other family cars like crossovers or SUVs, which makes it easier for everyone to get in and out of it. Even my youngest, a petite 2-year-old, could climb in. The doors are too heavy for little ones to open, but not cumbersome for adults.
The roomy trunk pops open easily with the touch of a button inside the cabin or on the key fob. It's easily closed with one hand. The 60/40-split rear seats fold to allow for even more trunk space.
The 2012 300S comes with a standard 3.6-liter V-6 engine that produces 292 horsepower. This is the engine my test car featured, and I found it plenty powerful. A 363-hp, 5.7-liter V-8 engine is available. My test car with a V-6 engine had optional all-wheel drive and got an EPA-estimated 18/27 mpg city/highway; rear-wheel-drive models with the V-6 engine get 19/31 mpg. The V-8 engine loses some efficiency and gets 16/25 mpg. All models take regular fuel.
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Fair
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Good Times
It takes only a glance at the piano-black dash and door panels to understand that the 300S' interior perfectly complements the exterior. Circular gauges surrounded by halos of blue lighting add a retro touch, and athletic but comfortable bucket seats for the driver and front passenger are welcoming. The cabin is as quiet as can be, which is all the better to hear the tunes pumped out by the standard Beats by Dr. Dre audio system. Of course, I've been a Dre fan since his N.W.A. days, so I may be a bit biased, but the 10 speakers plus two subwoofers sound fantastic.
The audio system and almost everything else is controlled through the standard 8.4-inch touch-screen with Chrysler's Uconnect system. I find Uconnect to be one of the easiest multimedia systems to operate. The screen looks crisp and responds well to touch; the fonts and icons are easy to read, and everything is labeled logically. With so much technology entering new cars these days, I often have to pull over to the side of the road to read the owner's manual and figure out how to work any given system. Switching radio stations can be an uphill battle with some multimedia systems. With Uconnect, there were no roadside stops because it all makes sense.
Other notable features include standard dual-zone climate control, available power rear sunshade and available heated and cooled front cupholders, which are on the small side but great on a summer day. Besides the two front cupholders, there are two more in the rear and four bottleholders. Storage for sunglasses, loose change, luggage, snacks and smartphones is plentiful with the cabin's various cubbies, a generous center console and a tiered glove box.
Seating is spacious and comfortable for everyone. Although cloth upholstery is standard, my test car came with the Radar Red leather upholstery. My husband and son immediately took to the color and while my affection was initially stunted, it quickly grew. Perhaps it was the first- and second-row seats' comfort that won me over.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
The 2012 Chrysler 300S has been named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which means it received the highest score of Good in front, side, rear and roof-strength crash tests. It also received similarly high marks from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, earning an overall crash-test score of five stars of five. It received five stars in front and side crash tests and four stars in the rollover crash test.
The 300S has standard rear-wheel drive, four-wheel-disc antilock brakes with brake assist, an electronic stability system with traction control, active head restraints in the front row and seven airbags, including side curtains for both rows and a driver's knee airbag. All-wheel drive, a backup camera, adaptive headlights, cross-path detection and blind spot warning systems, and forward collision warning are optional features.
This full-size sedan has three sets of lower Latch anchors across the backseat, but the second row wasn't large enough to fit my children's three safety seats. I'm still pleased that Chrysler thought to include three sets, but I do wish a little more thought was put into accessing them. They're buried in the seat cushions, and the leather upholstery doesn't have much give. Moreover, the tether hooks sit behind the inflexible head restraints and are tough, especially for larger hands, to use. Find out how the 2012 Chrysler 300S did in Cars.com's Car Seat Check.
Get more safety information about the 2012 Chrysler 300S here.