I’m not really sure how many people plan Saturday drives to New York City at 11:00 PM the night before, but last Friday night, when a friend asked my fiancée and I if we’d come for a visit, we couldn’t say no. The drive between Boston and New York isn’t that long, and we didn’t have any other pressing plans, so why not? It would be fun.
On top of the general enjoyment associated with visiting friends, making the drive also gave me the opportunity to do some important research. That morning, a 2015 Chrysler 300C had shown up in my driveway to be reviewed, and what better way could there be to review a big, American sedan than to drive it to New York City?
Looking at the Chrysler 300C as it sat parked in my driveway, it was easy to see why people regularly refer to it as a mobster’s car. It’s a tremendously large vehicle, and even though the most recent refresh has refined the design, the look is still bold and aggressive. Especially in New England, there’s no hiding in the Chrysler 300.
While the comparison was made quite frequently when the first generation was introduced in 2005, Chrysler’s “mobster’s car” image later got a major boost when “Breaking Bad” featured Walter White dumping his old Pontiac Aztek in favor of a black Chrysler 300 SRT8. White might not have necessarily been a great role model, but he sure helped make sure the 300 stayed cool.
Whether Chrysler intended for this to happen or not, from what I can tell, the 300 is also extremely popular with older drivers. It really isn’t hard to figure out why that is, either. Now that the Ford Crown Victoria is gone, the closest available alternatives are the Chrysler 300 and perhaps the Chevrolet Impala. I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing either. I actually think it’s fascinating. How often does the same car appeal to both wannabe gangsters as well as their grandparents?
The version of the Chrysler 300 I had the opportunity to test was sadly not the now-discontinued SRT version and instead came equipped with the much more commonly-purchased V6 engine and optional all-wheel-drive. Also unlike the 300 SRT, the 300C put up no pretentions of sportiness. There was no “Sport” button. There were no paddle shifters. It was just a big, luxurious sedan that barely fit in my driveway and wanted nothing more than to eat up some highway miles.
In a world where factors like gasoline and insurance are no longer concerns, a V8 is a great idea, but don’t underestimate the Pentastar V6 that Chrysler offers. It never lacked passing power at highway speeds, and sounded surprisingly aggressive. The acceleration didn’t exactly punch me in the kidneys, but it never felt slow while merging with traffic or making an unprotected left turn.
Once you’re cruising down the highway, though, what becomes most important is the ride and the interior. When it came to how the 300C rode, I was very pleased. Even at 80 miles per hour, it soaked up highway bumps with little protest or noise. In fact, there were a few times on more freshly-paved roads where the ride was eerily silent. I certainly wasn’t complaining, but it was definitely eerie.
The interior felt surprisingly high end, as well. One of the major contributors to that feeling was the panoramic glass roof. For such a large car with such a high beltline, the interior still felt open and bright. While the generally large size of the 300C partially contributed to that feeling, you should never underestimate the value of letting in plenty of sunlight. Combine the sunroof with the light color of the seats and some of the trim, and I had a car that felt spacious and perhaps even airy.
Considering the price point, the quality of the interior materials was also surprisingly high. I especially appreciated the leather-wrapped steering wheel. I place a lot of value on how a steering wheel feels to hold, and in this case, it was exceptionally comfortable the entire time I was driving.
The seats themselves were plenty comfortable, although towards the end of the drive, I started to feel more fatigued than I hoped I would. To be fair, though, my initial impressions of the car’s seats were good enough that I had hopes the trip would be entirely fatigue-free. Outside of a ride in a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, I’m not sure that’s a fair expectation.
The on-board technology definitely worked to make the drive as fatigue-free as possible, though. Chrysler’s infotainment system relies on a large touchscreen instead of a faux-mouse or dial, which made it surprisingly simple to use. Its only downfall was the fact that there are always traffic jams on your route when you’re driving into New York City, and it felt the need to inform us of every single one of them. Silencing the navigation system solved that annoyance, though, and I would still rate Uconnect as one of the best in the industry.
Considering the drive we were making, the inclusion of adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist was much appreciated. While it’s much more common to see adaptive cruise control on cars these days, Chrysler’s party piece is the fact that its system works just as well at low speeds as it does at highway speeds. While I would have preferred to be moving more quickly during a few traffic jams, having the car handle the constant speeding up and slowing down of each traffic jam took a surprising amount of stress out of the whole experience.
For people who are used to adaptive cruise control, it’s not exactly weird to feel your car speed up or slow down on the highway, but in congested traffic, it’s a completely different experience. Once I realized I could trust the system, though, it was quite nice. Kate didn’t even notice that my feet weren’t on the pedals until I pointed it out to her. If I hadn’t said something about it, I doubt she ever would have. I know the 300C isn’t the only car in the world with this capability, but it’s still pretty impressive.
I was also impressed with how simple driving through the city ended up being. Considering that the car barely fit in my driveway, you would have thought driving through New York City would have been a nightmare. After a few hours behind the wheel, though, it really wasn’t. If I lived there, a Chrysler 300C wouldn’t be my first choice as a city car, but you can certainly do a lot worse. The size did make parking a bit of a concern, but the one time I needed to, I was able to parallel park it without a problem once I found a large enough space.
Driving home Sunday evening, our experience was pretty much the same. The car was comfortable and quiet, we cruised along the highway without incident, and when we finally got home, I was tired, but I certainly wasn’t nearly as exhausted as a four-hour road trip has the potential to leave you. Even better, I never had to stop for gas along the way because I was able to complete the entire trip to New York City and back home on less than a tank of gas.
As far as complaints went, I really didn’t have many. The navigation system wasn’t perfect, and I would appreciated some higher quality materials in a few places, but overall, it felt like a car that was built with purpose. At the end of it all, I came away thoroughly impressed.
I understand why older drivers are attracted to the 300C, but it’s not specifically a retiree’s car. I also like the tough-guy look, but there’s more to it than a car for wannabe-gangsters. For the money, it’s one of the best highway cruisers on the market, and the available technology makes it a spectacular choice as a commuter car, as well.