2012 Chrysler 300S V6
2012 Chrysler 300S V6. Click image to enlarge

Test Drive: 2012 Chrysler 300S
Feature: Chrysler’s 8-speed transmission
Used Vehicle Review: Chrysler 300, 2005-2010

Manufacturer’s web site
Chrysler Canada

Review and photos by Greg Wilson

Photo Gallery:
2012 Chrysler 300

Since Fiat took the reins of Chrysler in 2009 under the leadership of Sergio Marchionne, Chrysler has done an impressive job of updating and improving its existing models, particularly the styling makeovers of the 200 (Sebring), Charger, and 300. The full-size 300 sedan was given a major styling refresh in 2011, and for 2012, a new Chrysler 300S trim level introduced a de-chromed, custom look, or as Chrysler defined it, a “low-key street presence”. You can spot the ‘S’ by its big 20-inch alloy wheels and all-season performance tires, body-coloured bumper trim (instead of chrome), blacked-out grille bars, and blacked-out headlight surrounds. Yes, we like it!

Starting at $35,995, the rear-drive 300S comes standard with what is probably the best engine and transmission combination offered in the 300 series: the 292-hp 3.6L “Pentastar” V6, now used throughout the Chrysler and Dodge vehicle lineup and voted one of Ward’s Automotive’s “Ten Best Engines” in 2011. It offers a great combination of power, smoothness, quietness, and fuel economy — even moreso when combined with the new ZF eight-speed automatic transmission that has the right gearing for quick take-offs, decisive highway passing, and leisurely cruising. Standard paddle shifters in the 300S add some excitement to the drive if you’re manually inclined.

2012 Chrysler 300S V6
2012 Chrysler 300S V6
2012 Chrysler 300S V6. Click image to enlarge

The 2012 300S is also available with the 363-hp 5.7L Hemi V8 engine that comes with a five-speed automatic transmission, but frankly, we think the V6 is all you’ll really want — and the new eight-speed transmission helps deliver better fuel economy and driveability too.

Rear-wheel drive is standard, but the 300S is also available with all-wheel drive ($38,995), which is a great feature for Canada as it adds a measure of safety and stability during poor weather and poor road conditions. Chrysler’s all-wheel-drive system runs in rear-wheel drive most of the time by automatically disconnecting the front axle when not needed, thereby helping fuel economy. When the rear wheels begin to slip, power is transferred to the front wheels automatically through a transfer case.

Our test car was a rear-wheel-drive 300S V6 painted in a business-like Mineral Grey Metallic Clearcoat ($100 extra). The 300S is also available in Bright White Clearcoat, Gloss Black, Bright Silver Metallic Clearcoat ($100), and Deep Cherry Red Crystal Pearlcoat ($150).

Those big 20-inch tires and polished alloy wheels on the 300S look sharp. Our test car had Firestone Firehawk 245/45R20-inch all-season performance tires (all-wheel drive models come with standard 19-inch tires) and 20 x 8-inch polished alloy wheels with black inserts. Despite their low profile sidewalls, these tires don’t create a punishing ride — in fact, the ride was quite comfortable and tire grip in the wet was good thanks to their all-season tread design. The downside to these 20-inch tires is that another set of 20-inch winter tires and wheels would be expensive and difficult to find; a separate set of 18 or 19-inch winter tires on steel wheels would probably be necessary.

2012 Chrysler 300S V6
2012 Chrysler 300S V6. Click image to enlarge

Our car was equipped with just about every option available, but even so, the total price came out to $45,000 including Freight and PDI. That’s a darned good price for a full-size luxury sedan with all the toys. The list of options in that price is so long that I won’t repeat them all here — they’re listed at the end of this article.

Our test car’s attractive cabin featured “Radar Red” Nappa leather seats with embossed S logos in the front seatbacks, red leather door armrests, and red leather centre armrest, all with white stitching. The classy cabin also offers a meaty black leather-wrapped steering wheel, large aluminum door handles, carbon-fibre-like trim on the dash and centre console, piano-black trim on the centre console and steering wheel, and tasteful use of slim chrome trim around the gauges, clock, cupholders, shift lever, steering wheel, and climate controls. As well, the tachometer and speedometer are backlit in a pleasant blue hue and the huge 8.4-inch centre screen offers a nice blue-and-white on black display that’s easy on the eyes.

Connect with Autos.ca