Wednesday, January 22, 2014

2014 Chrysler 300S Hemi test drive review. Even better than they used to be

They don’t make ‘em like they used to.  You hear people say that all the time when it comes to the current state of new cars.  And for the most part, that’s probably true.  There aren’t many places that you can buy a large, V8, rear-wheel-drive car anymore that can devour highway miles like they did 20-30 years ago.  But I can tell you from firsthand experience that there is at least one place—your Chrysler dealer.  I just spent a week driving a loaded 2014 Chrysler 300S, and it combines everything you loved about those old cars with all the new features people expect and crave. 

My family decided to take my Billet Silver Metallic test vehicle to Wichita over the weekend to check out the Starbird-Devlin Car Show that I reported about yesterday.  This is exactly the kind of trip that this car was designed for.  We just loaded up the cavernous trunk with all our suitcases and stuff, tossed BHo in the back, and headed south.  The Kansas Turnpike enjoys a 75-mph speed limit, so I just set the adaptive cruise control and held on to the wheel.  For much of the trip, we were dealing with 50-mph+ winds, but the big Chrysler stayed planted in the road while others were just hanging on.

As you might have guessed, the 300S is a sportier version of the stately 300 series, and it was equipped with 20-inch wheels, special interior accents, a sport-tuned suspension, and a ten-speaker Beats by Dr. Dre sound system.  I thought it was a pretty sharp-looking package, although some people thought the wheels made the car look like it should belong to a pro-basketball player or rapper.  The 300 has always had sort of a baby Rolls-Royce vibe about it, so the in-your-face look of these options was probably not an accident.  This design in general is starting to show its age a bit, so I have no problem with the folks at Chrysler trying to add a little spice.

There is one option box that someone checked on this car that should have universal appeal—the 363-hp, 5.7-liter “Hemi” V8.  With 394 pound-feet of torque, the 4,300-lb sedan squirts from place-to-place effortlessly.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again—I love this engine.  Whatever vehicle it is in is automatically better.  Now, you do obviously have to pay for such a wonderful upgrade.  The engine will set you back an additional $2,200, and your fuel mileage will only hit an average 18-mpg (15-mpg/city, 25-mpg/highway).  Is it worth it?  I’ll put it this way; once you drive one, it’ll be hard to argue against it.

I mentioned earlier that this car is more than just vintage technology.  It has all kinds of current-day features, like keyless entry and start, a dual-panoramic sunroof, and all the infotainment equipment most people expect in their new luxury vehicles.  We especially enjoyed the Garmin navigation system, which had beautiful voice-activation and a large touch screen.  It can also blast an airbag out of every nook-and-cranny, which is why this car has a five-star governmental safety rating.

The 300 is unique in that it competes with a lot of different cars.  On one hand, it is priced and equipped like a front-wheel-drive Buick Lacrosse, Chevy Impala LTZ, or even a Lincoln MKZ.  On the other hand, that rear-drive V8 powertrain lines it up with the likes of Cadillac or BMW.  If it was 30-years ago, there would be all kinds of cars that exactly competed head-to-head with it.  But now, it’s out on its own island.  Not that that’s a bad place to be …

I have always enjoyed driving cars like this, and this particular example is no exception.  No, they don’t make them like they used to.  But in the case of the Chrysler 300, they actually make them better.  Check out the slideshow below, or click this link for a nicer version.

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