2006 Chrysler 300 V6
Click image to enlarge


Review and photos by Greg Wilson

Discuss this story in the forum at CarTalkCanada

Find this vehicle in Autos’s Classified Ads
While Chrysler’s powerful 5.7-litre Hemi V8 engine is certainly an awesome powerplant, the fact is, the standard 3.5-litre V6 offered in the Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger and Dodge Magnum is sufficient for most owners’ needs and budgets. With 250 horsepower, this smooth and responsive V6 engine is remarkably quiet and offers better fuel consumption (City 12.2/Hwy 8.1) than the 340 hp Hemi V8 (City 13.9/Hwy 8.8) even though the Hemi has Chrysler’s cylinder deactivation “Multi-Displacement System”.

A 2006 Chrysler 300 with the 3.5-litre V6 engine starts at just $30,255 rising to $36,555 for the fully equipped 300 Limited model. That compares to the Chrysler 300C with the Hemi V8 engine which has a starting price of $43,595. Obviously, there’s a lot of money to be saved by buying the V6.

In its first year on the market, much of the publicity surrounding the Chrysler 300 centred around its bold, unconventional styling. However, a less obvious but more significant difference between the 300 and most of its competitors is its rear-wheel drive layout.

2006 Chrysler 300 V6
Click image to enlarge

Its competitors like the Chevrolet Impala and Ford Five-Hundred have a transversely-mounted engine and transaxle in the front driving the front wheels. The 300 has a longitudinally-mounted engine and transmission driving the rear wheels. (For the record, the Five-Hundred and the 300 are also offered with all-wheel drive systems).

The difference in the 300’s drivetrain layout has implications for its ride, handling, steering, traction, comfort, cabin noise and general ‘seat-of-the-pants’ performance. In addition, the Chrysler 300 shares some underpinnings from the previous generation Mercedes-Benz E-Class, which goes a long way to explaining its refined road manners. More on this in a minute.

2006 Chrysler 300 V6
Click image to enlarge

There weren’t many significant changes between the 2005 and 2006 Chrysler 300 models: a five-speed automatic with manual shift mode is now an option, there’s a new tire pressure warning display, an 8-way power driver’s seat, audio input jack, and an optional rear DVD entertainment system.

My 2006 Chrysler 300 test car had a base price of $30,115 (although Chrysler’s web site lists the base price as $30,255) and over $5,000 worth of options, including the five-speed automatic transmission with manual shifting mode, leather seats, alloy wheels, six-disc CD changer, six speakers, dual zone automatic climate control, heated seats, and rear seat DVD entertainment system. With Freight ($1,200) and A/C tax ($100), the as-tested price came to $36,625.


Standard features satisfactory

2006 Chrysler 300 V6
Click image to enlarge

Even the base Chrysler 300 has a satisfactory list of standard features, with the exception of side and curtain airbags which are optional. The standard 3.5-litre SOHC 24-valve V6 offers 250 horsepower at @ 6400 rpm and 250 lb-ft of torque @ 3800 rpm, and is mated to a standard four-speed automatic transmission, or optional five-speed automatic. The base 300 also has standard four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock and Brake Assist, stability and all-speed traction control, 17-inch tires and steel wheels (18-inch on AWD), fog lamps, and an independent suspension at all four wheels.

2006 Chrysler 300 V6
Click image to enlarge

Inside, standard stuff includes air conditioning, power windows, power locks with keyless entry, AM/FM/CD player with four speakers, power driver’s seat, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, 60/40 folding rear seatbacks, power locks, power heated mirrors, and cruise control.

The 300 Touring ($32,555) adds alloy wheels, leather seats, six speakers, alarm, and steering wheel-mounted audio controls. The Limited ($36,555) adds dual-zone climate control, heated seats, Boston Acoustics stereo, walnut trim, auto-dimming rearview mirror, and Homelink garage door opener.


Interior impressions

From the outside, the 300’s interior is deceivingly small. What appears to be a low roof is an optical illusion created by the 300’s high door sills and narrow side windows. The passenger cabin actually has lots of headroom and legroom for five passengers.

2006 Chrysler 300 V6

2006 Chrysler 300 V6

2006 Chrysler 300 V6
Click image to enlarge

However, sitting in the 300 there is a mildly claustrophobic feeling because of the high window sills and the roof which wraps over the edges creating a ledge which you have to duck under when getting in and out, particularly at the rear. There’s also a small ledge to step over.

But once in the car, the front and rear seats are very comfortable. The driver has a tilt and telescoping steering wheel, a standard power seat with height and lumbar adjustment, and the driver’s door has a wide armrest that’s handy for resting the left arm while freeway cruising. The top of the windshield is a bit low, but overall, I found the driving position to be very comfortable.

The large, round silver gauges and a luminescent green-on-black display, which includes an outside temperature gauge and compass, are easy to read, even with sunglasses on. The four-spoke steering wheel has controls for the radio and the driver information display which can be operated easily with the thumbs.

The quality of the interior dash and door materials is quite upscale. My car had a two-tone dash with metallic trim, some attractive metal look trim, and a round clock in the centre instrument panel. I liked the look and feel of the centre controls for the radio/CD/cassette player and the two-zone automatic temperature control.

2006 Chrysler 300 V6
Click image to enlarge

A gated floor shifter with its attractive chrome/leather knob falls easily to hand, and there’s plenty of storage underneath the armrest between the front seats.

At the rear, the seats are very comfortable and include a fold-down centre armrest with two cupholders. My test car had the optional DVD player and screen for rear passengers. It’s cleverly located inside the top of the centre armrest between the driver and passenger. To access it, you pull the armrest up from the back, then flip up the screen towards the rear. The slot for the DVD disc is in the rear of the centre armrest. The system comes with two wireless headphones and a remote. I prefer the position of this screen to those mounted on the roof because it doesn’t interfere with the driver’s rear visibility, and is easier on the neck when watching it.

2006 Chrysler 300 V6

2006 Chrysler 300 V6
Click image to enlarge

Front airbags are standard on the 300, but side and curtain airbags are optional. Considering the car’s price and the fact that many lower-priced cars now offer them as standard, I think they should be standard equipment.

The 300’s trunk has a wide trunk opening and a fully lined surface, and underneath the floor is a temporary spare tire and a battery on the right side, presumably to add more weight to the rear of the car for handling purposes. The trunk can be opened remotely with the key fob, but there is no handle on the trunklid to lift it up or pull it down. As well, the standard folding 60/40 seatbacks have no locking mechanisms or trunk mounted release levers.

Driving impressions

Unlike most front-wheel drive mid-sized sedans, the Chrysler 300 has a longitudinal engine in the front and a longitudinal transmission behind which drive the rear wheels. This is the preferred drivetrain layout for mid-size and full-size luxury cars because it offers a better weight balance front-to-rear and side-to-side for improved handling and ride, and fewer drivetrain-related vibrations.

2006 Chrysler 300 V6

2006 Chrysler 300 V6

2006 Chrysler 300 V6
Click image to enlarge

So it’s not really a surprise that I was impressed with the 300’s ride and handling. With its balanced layout, fully independent suspension derived from the E-Class, and beefy Goodyear Integrity P215/65R-17-inch all-season tires, the 300 combines a high level of ride comfort with predictable, stable handling, and braking. It does, in my opinion, drive like a mid-sized Mercedes.

With the 3.5-litre V6 engine, the Chrysler 300 accelerates quickly off the line in a no-nonsense fashion and offers comfortable highway passing power as well. At a steady 100 km/h on the freeway, the engine revs at just 1800 rpm in top gear. The optional five-speed automatic transmission slides between gears without a hint of harshness and its manual shift mode can be used for holding in gear on hills or when preparing to pass.

The 300’s cabin is very quiet at highway speeds. Surprisingly little wind noise enters the cabin despite its rather bold front end and squarish styling. As well, the body and suspension make no bumping or clattering noises commonly heard when travelling over freeway cracks, pavement dividers, and undulations.

The power rack and pinion steering is accurate but not too sensitive, and the driver’s visibility is good despite the high window sills and rather narrow rear window. I liked the flat hood because I could see the front edges for parking.

2006 Chrysler 300 V6
Click image to enlarge

My one complaint about the driving experience is that the rear tires will spin when accelerating on a slippery road, particularly on an uphill slope. The traction control activates, but it doesn’t prevent some spinning, and doesn’t provide a lot of traction. For people that live in mountainous areas where it rains or snows a lot, I would have to recommend the all-wheel drive option.


Verdict

The base 3.5-litre V6 engine is all you really need in the Chrysler 300, and you’ll save money too. With its rear-wheel drive layout, the Chrysler 300 drives like a more expensive luxury car, but traction on slippery surfaces can be a problem.


Pricing

  • Base price: $30,115

  • Options: $ 5,210 (Package 27K $2,300: leather seats, leather shift knob, leather steering wheel, aluminum wheels, 6 speakers, alarm, tire pressure warning, cargo net; Sound Group $755: AM/FM/cass/CD 6-disc/MP3, 6 Boston Acoustics speakers, 276 watt amplifier; Comfort Group $965: 5-speed automatic transmission with AutoStick, dual zone auto climate control, power front windows w/one-touch up and down, information centre and trip computer, heated front seats, power passenger seat, steering wheel audio controls, universal garage door opener, outside temperature gauge and compass, auto dimming rearview mirror; Rear seat DVD video system $1,190: w/wireless headphones and remote.)
  • Freight: $ 1,200
  • A/C tax: $ 100
  • Price as tested $36,625 Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives


Specifications

  • Click here for complete specifications for the 2006 Chrysler 300


Crash test results


Related stories on Autos

Competitors


Manufacturer’s web site

Connect with Autos.ca