2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8 - FROM $47,670
Stylish and powerful, the 2012 Chrysler 300 is an excellent full-size sedan.
What's New for 2012
Despite a complete overhaul last year, the 2012 Chrysler 300 receives several significant changes and enhancements. An eight-speed automatic transmission is now available with the V6 engine, which can also now be paired with all-wheel drive. There are also three new/returning models for 2012: the uniquely styled 300S, the high-luxury 300 Luxury Series and the high-performance SRT8. A smaller touchscreen interface is now standard on the base and Limited models.
The big, rear-wheel-drive V8-powered sedan is as American as any number of overused clichés. Yet even if the 2012 Chrysler 300 is built in Canada and based on a platform that has evolved from an old Mercedes E-Class, it is nonetheless the epitome of a classic American sedan reinvented for the modern age.
It's the "modern age" bit that's most important. Thanks to a complete overhaul last year, the 300 boasts sleeker styling, a quieter interior and a more comfortable ride than it did in years past. Interior craftsmanship is second to none in its class, and the 300's myriad electronic features are not only advanced, but also easy to use.
There's a touch of modernity under the hood as well. While the 300 will always be best known for its V8 power, opting for its base 292-horsepower V6 is nothing to be ashamed of. It's a smooth-running engine that not only produces quick acceleration but also returns admirable fuel economy due in no small part to the new-for-2012 eight-speed automatic transmission.
There are other additions for 2012. The 300S offers a different take on the 300's styling. Gone are the old-world luxury trappings of wood, chrome and other bright-metal trim, replaced instead with darker trim bits and available red leather that create a cooler, more modern vibe. Coming back after a one-year hiatus is the SRT8 performance model, now boasting a 6.4-liter V8 that pumps out 470 hp and 470 pound-feet of torque.
Yet most shoppers will be considering the more common variants of the 2012 Chrysler 300, and that's not a problem at all. Even in its most basic trim level, the 300 can pass as a luxury car with its high-quality interior, refined ride, strong power and generous features. Stepping up the model ladder further improves things. While checking out the Buick LaCrosse, Cadillac CTS, Ford Taurus, Hyundai Genesis, Volkswagen Passat and the related Dodge Charger is a wise idea, the Chrysler 300 is an excellent choice, especially if you want the definitive American sedan.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Chrysler 300 is a full-size sedan available in seven trim levels: base, Limited, 300S V6, 300C, 300S V8, 300C Luxury Series and SRT8.
The base 300 comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlamps, heated mirrors, keyless ignition/entry, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, an eight-way power driver seat with four-way power lumbar adjustment, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a six-speaker sound system with a compact touchscreen interface, a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack, an iPod/USB audio interface, satellite radio and steering wheel controls. Bluetooth phone connectivity is optional.
The Limited adds 18-inch chrome-clad wheels, an upgraded transmission, remote ignition, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a power passenger seat, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and upgraded speakers. The AWD Limited gets 19-inch chrome-clad wheels and upgraded brakes.
The 300S V6 adds unique styling elements, performance tires, steering wheel shift paddles, a larger touchscreen display and a 10-speaker Beats by Dr. Dre sound system. However, leather upholstery and the power passenger seat are options along with a navigation system. The rear-wheel-drive 300S gets 20-inch polished-aluminum wheels, while the AWD version gets 19s. They also differ in suspension tuning.
Optional on the Limited and 300S V6 is the Luxury Group, which adds power-adjustable pedals and steering wheel, driver memory functions, a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, heated and cooled front cupholders, a power rear sunshade and an auto-dimming exterior driver mirror. The 300S version gets leather upholstery and the power passenger seat. The Limited version gets upgraded leather upholstery, ventilated front seats and a wood-trim steering wheel.
The 300C adds on top of the Limited's standard equipment a V8 engine, automatic wipers, automatic high beams, a rearview camera, the larger infotainment interface, a navigation system with real-time traffic and the Limited's version of the Luxury Group. The 300S V8 is similarly equipped, but includes the 300S V6's styling elements and sound system. The navigation system is optional.
The 300C Luxury Series version of the 300C adds special "platinum chrome" exterior trim, 20-inch wheels, upgraded leather upholstery, hand-stitched leather-trimmed interior surfaces, Berber floor mats, and real wood trim. The Beats by Dre system is optional.
The SRT8 is a high-performance model that adds to the 300C a high-performance V8, special 20-inch wheels, performance tires, Brembo brakes, a two-mode adjustable sport suspension, sport-tuned steering, front and rear parking sensors, special styling and interior trim, adaptive and auto-leveling bi-xenon headlamps, a rearview camera, leather/faux-suede upholstery and sport seats.
All but the base 300 can be equipped with a 19-speaker Harman Kardon sound system. All but the base model can be equipped with a panoramic sunroof and the SafetyTec package, which includes adaptive and auto-leveling bi-xenon headlamps, adaptive cruise control, a blind-spot and cross-path warning system, a forward collision warning system, a rearview camera (300S), power-folding mirrors and automatic wipers (Limited and 300S V6).
Powertrains and Performance
The Chrysler 300 base, Limited and 300S V6 models come standard with a 3.6-liter V6 that produces 292 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. The base model comes standard with a five-speed automatic transmission, but the same eight-speed automatic found on the other V6 models is optional. Rear-wheel drive is standard; all-wheel drive is optional on the Limited and 300S.
In Edmunds performance testing, a base 300 went from zero to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 18 mpg city/27 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined with either the five-speed automatic or all-wheel drive. The eight-speed automatic with rear-wheel drive stands at 19/31/23.
The 300C and 300S V8 get a 5.7-liter V8 good for 363 hp and 394 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed automatic and rear-wheel drive are standard, but all-wheel drive is optional. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 16/25/19 with rear-wheel drive and 15/23/18 with AWD.
The SRT8 gets a 6.4-liter V8 good for 470 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque. Rear-wheel drive and a five-speed automatic with paddle shifters are standard. In Edmunds performance testing, the SRT8 went from zero to 60 mph in a very quick 4.7 seconds. Fuel economy for the SRT8 is 14/23/17.
Every 2012 Chrysler 300 comes with antilock brakes, traction and stability control, front side airbags, side curtain airbags, a driver knee airbag and active front head restraints. The SafetyTec package adds a blind-spot warning system, a cross-path warning system (alerts the driver to cross traffic while backing up) and a forward collision warning system. A rearview camera is also available.
In Edmunds brake testing, the base 300 came to a stop from 60 mph in a better-than-average 118 feet. The 300S V6 was essentially the same, while the SRT8 did it in an excellent 111 feet.
In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash testing, the 300 received the top rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
After last year's overhaul, the Chrysler 300 now has a cabin that might make luxury car shoppers think twice about paying extra for a fancy badge. The look is hardly what we'd describe as ground-breaking, but it's classy even in its most basic form, and the 300S in particular adds some visual flair with its available two-tone color schemes. Materials are top-notch, particularly on the new 300C Luxury Series with its leather trim covering most interior surfaces. Given the 300's proportions, it shouldn't come as a surprise that there's ample room for occupants big and small. The adjustability of the driver seat and tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel is particularly impressive.
The large 8.4-inch touchscreen control interface is a vast improvement on the substantially smaller screen found in many other Chrysler Group vehicles. In fact, it's one of the better touchscreen systems around, with large buttons and a logical menu structure. Luggage capacity is average for a large sedan, with 16.3 cubic feet of space. Rearward visibility is the only notable drawback for the 300 here, as the thick rear pillars can make it hard to spot other cars in the rear three-quarter view.
The 2012 Chrysler 300 glides down the road in a way that reminds us of a big Mercedes-Benz sedan. Its suspension dampens even heavily rutted pavement, yet it does so without causing uncontrolled body motions. The ride becomes firmer with the optional 20s, but we wouldn't call it objectionable. Body roll is acceptable when cornering, and the electric-assist steering has appropriate weighting and feel.
The 300 is famous for its big V8s, but the standard V6 is a strong performer in its own right. It's also smooth, quiet (mostly because of the cabin's ample sound-deadening) and pretty fuel-efficient with rear-wheel drive and the new eight-speed automatic. However, the V8 is worth its extra cost for those hankering for a taste of good old American muscle.
Meanwhile, the new SRT8 represents American muscle on steroids. With 470 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque, it provides serious tire-smoking credentials. The SRT8 also goes around corners with a level of athleticism that belies this sedan's full-size dimensions. Having said that, tighter roads will quickly make even this top-dog 300 feel its size.