by Jonathon Klein
Enter a man strumming a guitar out of focus, peaking through the window overlooking the ruins of Detroit. A gravelly voice comes out with, “Is there anything more American than America?” With iconic “American” scenes playing across the screen he continues with, “Making the best, making the finest takes conviction.” All of this leading up to him telling the world that while we should let the rest of the world make our beer, build our phones and watches, we should “let America build your car.”
The ad went viral after it aired during the Superbowl due to people bitching about how Bob Dylan seemingly sold out and did the commercial for a paycheck. Outside the internet community, the ad was so successful that it became Chrysler’s platform for “America’s Import” ads. They spoke to an American public that was just coming out of the painful throws of another depression, and showed off that we could potentially be great once more.
Following these ads up are now a new collection of ads that have both a Japanese and German person speaking in their native tongues about how refined, how awesome “this” car is. Then seeing the Chrysler badge and flipping out because they “thought” they were talking about a car from their own respective countries aiming to illustrate that truly Chrysler has come a long way.
But all the ads, all the misdirection and slightly odd innuendos. Everything Chrysler did would be for naught if the cars were still shitboxes like they were from the 1980’s to the early 2000’s. And the Chrysler 300 is at the forefront of this charge. Having one for a week, I wanted to see if Chrysler made good on their promise of being America’s Import or if they were still crap?
With the new 300, Chrysler clearly designed the car to hark back to the days of big American cars. It’s meant to make a bold statement, and the design is definitively better than the previous generation. This new body is one that exudes luxury, but does so with a quiet grace that’s usually reserved for something German. Although, the car is roughly the size of a Nimitz Class aircraft carrier and handles about as well as one to boot.
Given the size, I never felt the car was overly big. I never felt claustraphobic or that the ends would scrape the sides of parallel parked cars. It’s big, but it’s a subdued presence, and one that is perfectly tailored to this car. And because of that size, you get miles and miles of leg room both in the front and in the back.
I had just got back from a road trip from Chicago to Austin. We took my FR-S. While it wasn’t unbearably tight, it absolutely ruined my back. The 300 on the other hand provided comfort both with the ample space and wonderfully plush heated leather seats, which helped get feeling back in my neck. Additionally, what also helped was that the ride couldn’t be smoother.
I don’t know if they went to Rolls Royce, or Mercedes, but I could have done the memory foam wine glass test in the car and it would’ve passed. The only way you knew that you had gone over some broken part of the road was just a quiet noise while passing over it. There was no jarring lurch, no bounce like a disco era Cadillac, the car just cruised over the bumps and made the experience that much more comfortable.
My biggest takeaway with this car was that it never felt like it was going to fall apart. You’d get into an old Chrysler and feel your teeth loosening with each bump. This felt solid. Each part felt heavy, very similar to German or Swedish luxury cars. The heavy you get from dropping a lot of money for a reclaimed steel kart from the 20’s that’s been marked up by Restoration Hardware a 1000%. A far cry from the Chrysler of old. Even the gauges were wonderful to look at.
However, seeping through are some of Chrysler’s old cost cutting techniques.
First off, Chrysler’s engineers apparently couldn’t be bothered on the day it came down to the design of the steering wheel and just reused the same one from the last generation. It’s so bland, so boring, and it feels really cheap. It almost takes you out of the luxury car experience, and Chrysler can’t afford for that to happen.
But at least it’s not dangerous, as I found out with the headlights. They are flat-out terrible, and offer no more than 80ft of illumination. I don’t know if they were calibrated incorrectly or that they were just that bad, but they need to be changed. Ultimately, these small problems can be quickly fixed to make this car really quite good. However, what can’t is the lack of soul that comes from the engine.
I won’t say that the Pentastar V6 is a bad engine, it just lacks any character. It sounds a lot like every other V6 on the market. That said, it does pull the heavy car quite welll. Add to that, the 8-speed transmission makes for very smooth shifts. It just didn’t wow me. The engine feels disposable, as if Chrysler were told to just build some engine.
BMW, Audi, and Mercedes, whom Chrysler are going after with this car, all have cars centered around their own respective engines. That focus on the engine first, gives more character to the rest of the car, something that the 300 just doesn’t have. I’m sure that a V8 would make for a completely different experience, but the V6 just doesn’t add anything to the car.
When Chrysler set out to rejuvenate the brand after coming out of bankruptcy, I was skeptical. How could a company that’s been so lost for so long come back? I figured that after a few months, they’d be gone with the likes of Pontiac and Saab. Somehow though, they came back, and with one of the best lineup’s of cars in the world.
The 300 really showcases Chrysler’s commitment to pushing past their old image of absolutely terrible cars and into one that truly embodies those corny commercials they’ve been producing. Between the Guts and the Glory, the Imported from Detroit, and America’s Import, Chrysler is definitely on it’s way back to the world stage.