Talk about shelf life. It just keeps going . . . and going.
Yes, the Chrysler 300 has made quite a name for itself over the past 10 model years and returns for 2015 with a renewed focus on luxury, but with less muscle to brag about.
A decade ago, the 300 and its mechanical twins, the Dodge Charger sedan and Magnum wagon, turned the full-size-passenger-car category upside down by shunning the more commonplace front-wheel-drive layout with a range of full-size rear- and all-wheel-drive vehicles. Chrysler also revived the "Hemi" V8 as the hot-shot engine option at a time when such seemingly impractical powerplants were being given up for dead.
The 300 underwent a modest restyling for 2011 and now gets yet another life-extending refresh to keep it current. The new nosepiece includes a more prominent Bentley-like grille and lower air intake plus revised headlight pods (with LED running lights). In back, new taillights and blacked-out exhaust outlet panel are visible. Altogether the physical adjustments enhance what was already pretty sexy.
The interior receives new seat-cover designs and a three-spoke steering wheel, but the most obvious adjustment is the adoption of a rotary knob on the console in place of the traditional stick shifter. It might not be any more convenient to use, but it definitely declutters the cabin and provides easier access to the control panel and king-size 8.4-inch touch-screen display.
Partially carried over are the available drivetrains. Standard in the base 300 Limited, 300S, 300C and 300C Platinum is a 3.6-liter V6 that produces 292 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, or 300/264 in the 300S. Optional for all but the Limited is the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 that puts out 363 horsepower and 394 pound-feet of torque.
On the down side, the 300 SRT model has been terminated, which means the 470-horsepower 6.4-liter V8 is gone, although the Dodge Charger and Challenger and the Jeep Grand Cherokee can be still be ordered with it. All-wheel-drive returns as an option, but it's now only available with the V6.
For 2015, all engines are connected to eight-speed automatic transmissions that have been assigned the historic "Torqueflite" name. The eight-speed is an upgrade from the previous five-speed automatic found in V8 models and can be controlled by paddle shifters when the Sport button on the instrument panel is pressed. The gear changes occur more rapidly and the more immediate-acting sport-tuned steering mode kicks in.
As for fuel economy, the V6 rates 19 mpg in the city and 31 highway, while the Hemi's numbers are pegged at a thirstier 16/25.
With a starting price of $32,400, the base 300 Limited arrives reasonably loaded with dual-zone climate control, leather seats (heated in front), keyless start, 12-way power driver's seat and 17-inch wheels.
The 300S adds the more powerful V6 with dual exhaust, a 552-watt audio package, performance-tuned steering and suspension, 20-inch wheels and a rear backup camera.
The 300C includes a panoramic sunroof, navigation system with Wi-Fi hot-spot capability (it turns the 300 into a rolling Internet hub), wood-trimmed interior, 12-way power passenger seat and an Alpine sound package.
The full-load Platinum further tops up the 300C with fancier interior/exterior trim, premium leather seat and instrument panel covers, and power-adjustable pedals.
Among the many options is a range of high-tech collision-avoidance goodies along with rain-sensing wipers and a 19-speaker 900-watt Harmon Kardon-brand stereo.
Taking the Platinum route and adding the extras will push your Chrysler 300 purchase well past the $50,000 mark, however, given the nature of this full-size North American beast, you'll possess a level of coddling content and impressive performance that would cost thousands more to replicate on just about any import-based luxo-sedan you can name.
What you should know: 2015 Chrysler 300
Type: Four-door, rear- /all-wheel-drive full-size sedan
Engines (hp): 3.6-liter DOHC V6 (292/300); 5.7-liter OHV V8 (363)
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Market position: The Chrysler 300 is uniquely positioned as the only North American sedan to offer both rear- and all-wheel-drive variants. That allows it to compete with similar European and Asian luxury models.
Points: Modest redesign yields an equally modest improvement in looks. ; Base V6 is likely all the engine you'll need, but there's just something about a Hemi; AWD option a lifesaver in wintry climates; Replacing shifter for a rotary dial won't please traditional buyers; Limo operators will likely be happy to add the big Chrysler to their fleets.
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; driver's knee airbag; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control.
MPG (city/hwy) 19/31 (3.6); Base price (incl. destination): $32,400
Base price: $27,900
Ford's big FWD or AWD sedan offers both non-turbo and turbo V6s.
Base price: $27,900
Full-sizer comes with four- and six-cylinder engines, but no AWD.
Base price: $33,100
Much-improved sedan available in V6 or gas-electric hybrid versions.