2012 Chrysler 300S
2012 Chrysler 300S; by Michael Schlee. Click image to enlarge

Dynamically, it’s a bit of a wild boar (I’m trying not to call it a pig, okay?), and it can build up plenty of speed and momentum in a hurry, but changing directions quickly in a vehicle of this mass is obviously, well, challenging. Similar to the Dodge Charger R/T we tested, the 300S was fitted with smaller, narrower winter tires that further hampered its ability to carry speed out of corners or maintain traction under anything but modest acceleration. Despite its cornering and acceleration difficulties, the 300 handles well in its niche: cruising highways and big open roads, with solid steering weight, good on-centre feel and mild, progressive response to steering inputs at speed. I would give it the handling edge over the Hyundai Genesis R-Spec we drove recently, even though the Genesis had its full size wheels with low profile winter rubber. In both cases, it’s fair to pigeonhole them as excellent highway cruisers, and leave it at that.

2012 Chrysler 300S
2012 Chrysler 300S; by Jonathan Yarkony. Click image to enlarge

While the S package can be had on almost any trim level, ours was on a rear-drive V8 model, meaning we had a chance to renew acquaintances with Chrysler’s 5.7-litre Hemi V8. I wasn’t too thrilled when I had to fill it up at the end of the week, though I did manage to keep the fuel consumption reasonable, at under 14 L/100 km for the week. I can’t be any more accurate than that because I mistakenly reset the economy reading in the middle of the week; and for the record, the reset button shouldn’t be such a hair trigger – I just touched it briefly intending to look for trip distance (which, strangely, requires exiting to a top menu and going in separately), and it was back to square one. Official EnerGuide ratings are 13.5 L/100 km city and 8.0 highway, and I drove a fairly even mix of surface routes, rush-hour congestion and regular highway cruising.

Nonetheless, despite the fuel economy penalty of the thirsty V8, it was a joy in those moments of indiscretion when I lit up the skinny tires, or even when I stood outside and fired it up using the remote start feature. It’s big and it’s coarse in that endearing Detroit-muscle way and I was surprised to read its 363-hp rating on the spec sheet, because it easily feels like 400 hp (that butt-dyno reading may have something to do with a Civic I drove for one day between the Genesis R-Spec and 300). When you get up to those kinds of horsepower ratings, there really isn’t anywhere to make full use of them (especially in winter, on skimpy wheels and rubber), and the 394 lb.-ft. of torque only make quicker work of tearing the tires to shreds.

2012 Chrysler 300S
2012 Chrysler 300S
2012 Chrysler 300S; by Jonathan Yarkony. Click image to enlarge

The 300S V8 makes do with the old five-speed automatic, which is fine considering how much power and torque the Hemi pumps out, but the 300S V6 gets Chrysler’s new eight-speed auto connected to the 3.6-litre Pentastar (300 Limited models also get this powertrain combo, or you can get it as a stand-alone option on the base V6 for $1,300), which I suspect would fulfill most drivers’ daily needs, except for the primal satisfaction that a big grunting V8 can induce. On the cerebral side, the V8 offers cylinder deactivation to run on four cylinders under light throttle to help manage fuel consumption, and the 300 is an IIHS top safety pick and earns the full five stars overall in the NHTSA’s tough new five-star testing.

If you are looking for a large sedan, the 300 offers good value for a roomy, good-looking, Canadian-built sedan, starting at $32,995, and V8 power from $39,995. The S package is a no-cost option on the V8, and even though the styling touches are nice, all V8 300s come with heated/ventilated front seats and heated rear seats, wood and leather-wrapped steering wheel with power tilt/telescope and heat (which can be set up to turn on automatically at start-up, and very easily), adaptive HID headlights, heated/cooled cupholders (not just piped in from the car’s HVAC, but genuine heating and cooling), interior LED mood lighting and 8.4-inch touch-screen for Uconnect and navigation system (activating the nav system is an extra $450).

Our tester added the Customer Preferred Package 29V SafetyTec Group (catchy package name, eh?) for $1,750, which added blind spot and cross path detection, adaptive cruise control (which I didn’t use), forward collision warning (which did go off one time during a bumper-to-bumper rush-hour panic stop) and power-folding exterior mirrors with supplemental turn signals and courtesy lamps. A glorious panoramic sunroof with a sliding front panel and fixed rear panel turns the entire roof into a skylight, although it is a very pricey option at $1,495.

The 300 will never recapture that initial sales success because of rising gas prices, and though it can’t compete with hybrids or diesels on the efficiency front, there are still plenty who are willing to support a gasoline habit in return for the sound and feel of a classic V8 (the 5.7-litre Hemi held a spot on Ward’s 10 best engines list for six years) in a car this good-looking.  Personally, I’m also happy that Chrysler managed to get this car on the road in huge numbers while it could – though a common sight, especially in Brampton, it’s a design that has held its appeal, and livens up the rush-hour view in a sea of dreary Corollas, Civics and Escapes. The redesign really puts the finishing touches on this instant-classic design with sleeker, modern touches and an interior that fulfills the promise of its upscale aspirations.

Pricing: 2012 Chrysler 300S V8 RWD
  • Base price: $39,995
  • Options: $3,695 (SafetyTec group $1,750; Panoramic sunroof $1,495; Navigation $450)
  • A/C tax: $100
  • Freight: $1,400
  • Price as tested: $45,190

  • Buyer’s Guide: 2012 Chrysler 300

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    Crash test results
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
  • Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)
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