2008 Chrysler 300 Touring AWD
2008 Chrysler 300 Touring AWD. Click image to enlarge
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Test Drives

2008 Chrysler 300C SRT Design, by Paul Williams
2006 Chrysler 300 V6, by Greg Wilson
2005 Chrysler 300C AWD, by Paul Williams
2005 Chrysler 300 Limited, by Laurance Yap

Manufacturer’s web site
Chrysler Canada

Review and photos by Peter Bleakney

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2008 Chrysler 300

Toronto, Ontario – There are not a lot of bona fide “home runs” in the auto business these days, but when Chrysler launched the full-sized 300 sedan in 2005, that sucker flew right out of the park. Its bold, gangsta-Bentley styling and available Hemi-power made it an instant celebrity. It was the first viable offspring from the DaimlerChrysler “merger of equals” and perhaps more importantly, it resurrected that most hallowed of American automotive institutions – the V8-powered rear-wheel-drive sedan.

Built on the previous generation Mercedes E-Class platform, it was a damn good drive too.

2008 Chrysler 300 Touring AWD
2008 Chrysler 300 Touring AWD
2008 Chrysler 300 Touring AWD. Click image to enlarge

But three years on, the Chrysler 300’s time in the limelight is waning. It’s an ubiquitous sight on our roads, and while the brave styling still holds up, the “wow” factor is gone. Even those aftermarket Bentley grills are totally five-minutes-ago, Sorry Chrysler, but I believe Snoop Dog has now moved on to a Lambo, or a Smart, or some such thing.

Nonetheless, the 300 still offers all the goodness it did back when it was the new kid on the block. The subject of this test is a 2008 300 Touring AWD, which carried a base price of $36,095, but as of May 2008, there was a $7000 price cut (Consumer Bonus Cash) as part of Chrysler’s “Thank You Canada” campaign.

Chrysler has made a few minor changes to the 2008 300. The front fascia and taillights have been tweaked, and a new deck lid incorporates a subtle swept-up spoiler and high-mounted stop light. There is a redesigned centre console, new gauges, extra padding on the doors, and the old Mercedes-sourced cruise-control stalk, which was confusingly positioned right above the turn signal stalk, is gone, replaced by a chunkier unit on the other side of the steering wheel.

The interior changes are welcome, freshening up what was all ready the best of the LX bunch. Even in Touring trim (the base version), this tester’s cabin looks elegant and appears very well constructed. The soft-touch textured plastic of the dash and tasteful metallic trim blend nicely with the new silver gauges. The fabric of the cloth seats looks pretty good too. Unfortunately, the fabric seats can’t be heated – only the optional leather chairs.

2008 Chrysler 300 Touring AWD
2008 Chrysler 300 Touring AWD. Click image to enlarge

In keeping with the “theme” of the 300, everything in here is plus-sized. The steering wheel is big, the large rotary controls on the console are glove-friendly, and the seats are broad and flat – although they don’t offer much lateral support.

There is plenty of useful storage – a deep bin in the console, large door pockets and a glovebox you could keep your Shih Tzu in.
Back seat accommodation is limo-like, and 60/40 split seats fold forward for increased cargo space.

Lack of heated cloth seats aside, the 300 Touring comes quite well equipped for 2008. Standard is electronic stability control, tire pressure warning lamp, aluminum wheels, eight-way powered driver’s seat with manual lumbar for both front chairs, manual tilt/telescope steering wheel, cruise control, power trunk release, and a good sounding four-speaker AM/FM/CD audio with auxiliary input.

What you don’t get are side or side-curtain airbags. They come with the $675 Protection Group, along with air filtration and self-sealing tires.

Under hood is a smooth 3.5-litre SOHC 24-valve V6 that generates 250 hp @ 6400 rpm and 250 lb.-ft. @ 3800 rpm. Normally, the 300 Touring makes do with a four-speed auto, but the AWD model gets a five-speeder with AutoStick manual override – part of the $4200 price hit.

2008 Chrysler 300 Touring AWD
2008 Chrysler 300 Touring AWD. Click image to enlarge

The AWD drive system is pretty basic, with a fixed front to rear torque split of 38/62. It may not be as fancy-pants as some of the European systems, but there is something to be said for having all the wheels powered all the time. With a good set of snow tires, this sedan would likely be a formidable winter ally.

The 300 AWD also has a noticeably higher ride height, and gets beefier brakes, necessitating 18-inch wheels instead of the standard 17s.

Down the road, the 300 Touring AWD feels like any other 300 – that is to say refined, quiet and solid. Despite its tough-guy looks and large footprint, the 300’s Euro-bred chassis gives the driver a good sense of the road, yet filters out imperfections in an expensive-feeling way.

My only gripe with this car (as with most LX-chassis vehicles) is the steering – it’s accurate enough, but Novocain numb.

The 3.5-litre V6 engine and five-speed AutoStick are commendably refined and seamless in operation, and while this six-pot doesn’t have the grunt of the 5.7-litre V8 Hemi, it doesn’t have the thirst for fuel either. The 300 Touring AWD is rated at 13.9 L/100 km city and 9.0 L/100 km highway.

2008 Chrysler 300 Touring AWD
2008 Chrysler 300 Touring AWD. Click image to enlarge

Those squeamish about parking will find manoeuvring the 300 in tight spots a challenge. You can’t see the front or rear corners of the car from the driver’s seat, and the high belt line and relatively narrow windows only exacerbate the problem.

Yes, the Chrysler 300 may not be starring in quite so many hip-hop videos these days, but that doesn’t make it any less desirable for those seeking a fine driving full-sized sedan. The “Thank You Canada” incentive only adds to its appeal.

With the AWD option, the competition narrows to a pretty small field – the only domestic being the Ford Taurus AWD, and then you’re looking at the Volvo S80 AWD, Audi A6 Quattro, BMW 528xi, and the Mercedes-Benz E300 4Matic.

Or the Bentley Continental Flying Spur. Which, come to think of it, looks pretty similar (if you get one of those aforementioned grilles and squint real hard).

Pricing: 2008 Chrysler 300 Touring AWD

Base price: $29,095 (with current $7000 rebate)
Options: $550 (Sirius Satellite Radio, $250; Uconnect Hands-Free Communication (includes rear view auto-dim mirror with microphone), $300)
A/C tax: $100

Freight: $1,300
Price as tested: $31,045
Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives

Specifications
  • Specifications: 2008 Chrysler 300

    Related articles on Autos

    Test Drives

  • 2008 Chrysler 300C SRT Design, by Paul Williams
  • 2006 Chrysler 300 V6, by Greg Wilson
  • 2005 Chrysler 300C AWD, by Paul Williams
  • 2005 Chrysler 300 Limited, by Laurance Yap

    Competitors
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2008 Chevrolet Impala
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2008 Buick Lucerne
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2008 Ford Taurus
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2008 Pontiac Grand Prix

    Manufacturer’s web site
  • Chrysler Canada
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