Thirteen years after it burst into American showrooms, the aging Chrysler 300 still wears its glare proudly.
As always, in fact, it appears to be packing heat.
Even after all this time – the 300 arrived in 2004, an Ice Age ago in the auto industry – the old street-fighter can still summon a convincing gangster strut of sorts.
I wish I could.
As you may recall, the 300 kind of rattled the industry back in ’04 with its square-yet-hip-hop styling, an edgy anti-jellybean sort of look.
For better or worse, it hasn’t changed much – as you can tell from the photo of the 2017 300S I had recently.
We better enjoy the big sedan’s vaunted senior status while we can.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is long overdue in building an all-new one and may well put the next 300 on a platform borrowed from Alfa Romeo – Alfa being one of FCA’s brands.
You can draw your own conclusions about that possibility – and it could be a significant step forward if the new 300 gets components from the current Alfa Romeo Giulia.
I’m in no hurry to see it, though. An urban, bad-boy Alfa? C’mon.
Full-sized, affordable, rear-wheel-drive sedans – once a Detroit staple — are a rarity in the U.S. these days, even when they arrive with hard-scrabble interiors seemingly carved from milk jugs.
For now, I’ll just savor the 300, flaws and all.
Glossy black with a black interior, my murdered-out 300 looked raw-boned and jut-jawed.
As always, of course, one of the car’s most distinctive style elements was a huge blacked-out Bentley-esque grille with a large winged Chrysler emblem in the center.
Simple, single-projector headlamps with subtle scowls kept a respectable distance from the grille, while a long, slightly sculpted hood muttered “power.”
The mostly flat sides designed by Ralph Gilles years ago still seemed right, helped by short, tight overhangs front and back, and prominent “humps” that gave the fenders some flare.
Nifty 20-inch dark wheels wrapped with substantial 245/40 tires did a nice job of filling those wells, adding menace to the 300’s stance.
Moreover, the 300’s thick sides and short, high trunk made its top appear as if Chip Foose had lopped an inch or two out of it, but I think that was mostly illusion.
I had hoped that my 300S would be packing Chrysler’s strong 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 – one of my favorite domestic V-8s – but, hey, I was a couple of cylinders off.
Still, its standard 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 was no slug, spinning out 300 solid horsepower through a tight-shifting 8-speed automatic.
Matter of fact, for the first day or so I had the car, I wasn’t entirely sure which engine resided under the hood.
The big sedan pulled away from stops with a meaty surge and a decent growl, accelerating reasonably hard all the way to 6,000 rpm.
While I would be happier with the Hemi – not to mention a 30-year-old girlfriend with a trust-fund – I have to admit you don’t lose a lot with the V-6.
Zero to 60 arrives in a highly respectable 6.3 seconds, according to Car and Driver, and the lusty six can muster 30 miles per gallon on the highway.
Sure, the 300 radiates “old-school,” but those are pretty modern numbers.
In addition, the 300’s Mercedes-Benz-derived platform – borrowed back when Chrysler was part of Daimler-Benz – can still dance, thanks to upgrades and additions from Chrysler.
The S, for example, gets much stiffer springs front and back and larger stabilizer bars that make the 4,000-pound sedan feel a lot more nimble than standard 300s.
Granted, it’s not quite ready to tangle with a BMW M2, but the big sedan turns into corners pretty competently and hangs onto curves with minimal body lean.
Of course, the heavier-duty suspension pieces can make for a fidgety, somewhat springy ride over imperfect city streets.
The car felt nicely planted and composed at 80 miles per hour on interstates – a trade-off I can live with.
Like all modern cars, the 300’s steering seemed a bit numb, but it was quick and well-weighted, stiffening some in corners.
All you have to accept is the 300’s plastic tub of an interior – a “feature” that has long kept it from being considered a true near-luxury sedan.
Did I mention, incidentally, that the car costs nearly $40,000?
The coarse black-plastic dashboard in my 300 wrapped around an oversized, oval-shaped display screen/center stack flanked by large climate-control vents.
Though it looked extremely mainstream, the system had Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto capabilities, as well as integrated voice command and a media hub with two USB ports.
Meanwhile, a rotary shifter about the size of a washing-machine knob controlled the 8-speed automatic – also a fairly contemporary touch.
However, the door panels front and back were almost entirely black plastic, which just didn’t feel right given this car’s deep, special roots. (Remember the fabulous 1955 Chrysler 300 coupe?)
Just try to focus on the 300’s good-looking seats. They were covered in smooth black leather stitched in bronze and offered excellent leg- and headroom in back.
Despite all of that, the 300 is still a solid car with a reasonable price. I hope we can say that about the next one.