All-new for 2005, the Chrysler 300 proves decisively that North American buyers really are ready for the return of the full-size, rear-wheel-drive sedan.

Also offered at Dodge as the Magnum station wagon and the Charger sedan, the Chrysler 300 shares underpinnings and some interior components (most notably the cruise control stalk) with the Mercedes E-Class. Although it’s a big car, it’s actually 25 mm shorter than the 300M it replaces. Rear-wheel-drive can be optioned up to all-wheel-drive.

There are three engine choices, starting with a 250 hp, 3.5-litre V6 in the 300. The 300C carries a 340 hp, 5.7-litre Hemi V8, while the 300C SRT8 contains a 425 hp, 6.1-litre Hemi. (A 190 hp, 2.7-litre V6 that’s the base engine on the Magnum is unavailable on the 300 in Canada, although American buyers can order it.) The 5.7-litre Hemi features a fuel-saving multi-displacement system (MDS), which seamlessly deactivates four of the eight cylinders when full power isn’t needed, such as when highway cruising. The 6.1-litre Hemi is fully active at all times.

The 3.5-litre starts as a base 300, including four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and traction control, 17-inch wheels (18-inch on AWD), air conditioning, fog lamps, rolling power locks, power heated mirrors, power windows, power locks with keyless entry, CD player with four speakers and cruise control. The Touring adds leather interior, cargo net, six speakers, and wheel-mounted audio controls. The Limited adds dual-zone climate control, Homelink garage door opener, auto-dimming rearview mirror, power driver’s seat, heated seating, Boston Acoustics stereo and walnut trim.

The 300C adds memory seats and auto-dimming outside mirrors, power-adjustable pedals, enhanced stereo, leather and tortoise-shell power tilt and telescoping wheel, dual exhaust, touring suspension and 18-inch wheels.

Extras on the SRT8 include 20-inch, 10-spoke forged aluminum wheels with Z-rated performance tires, high-flow exhaust system, four-piston caliper Brembo brakes, lowered suspension with Bilstein shocks, larger-diameter sway bars, a unique front fascia and trunk spoiler, and SRT8-embossed leather seats.

Named Motor Trend magazine’s Car of the Year among its numerous awards, the 300 is a pleasure to drive even in base form, with wide stance, taut handling, exceptional interior room and comfort, and an extremely quiet cabin. The 5.7-litre Hemi is all the horsepower most drivers will ever need, capable of smoking the tires but without the over-qualification that Hemi engines of old used to exhibit when all you wanted to do was putt-putt through the grocery store parking lot. The narrow greenhouse makes for an attractive design that provides more rearward visibility than the more sloping Magnum. In short, this may be the best full-size North American family sedan to roll off an assembly line in decades.

The 300 is built in Brampton, Ontario

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