A sedan fit for a father and his son

by Derek McNaughton . Aug 24 2016

Are the sins of the father always repeated by the son? I sure hope not, otherwise the burnout I did in Chrysler’s 2016 300S might return to haunt me someday. It was technically my son’s fault; he asked me to do it. The 300S happily obliged.

It was too easy. Flip off the traction control, left foot on the brake, some pressure on the gas with the right foot to release a little of the 5.7-litre Hemi V-8’s torque that peaks at 394 pound-feet, and woo-hoo, here comes tire smoke! Yes, I know: bad dad.

Having corrupted my son, I can also blame my father for ruining me. He absolutely adored the Chrysler 300, once trading away a silver one only to buy another gold 300 six months later at considerable expense for swapping vehicles so quickly.

He so loved the model he didn’t care about the cost, even as a miserly Scot.

His restlessness with cars was only calmed by the seas of the 300, which became his favourite daily driver.

That was years ago, of course, but the 300 then looked almost the same as it does today, despite being in its second generation after an update in 2011 and content additions in 2014.

How the 300 continues to endure in a market teeming with fresher full-size sedans is likely a testament to the home run Ralph Gilles made when he designed the car in 2001.

Fifteen years later, regular 300s still have the DNA of that original sedan and are definitely due for a remake; but the 300S model drives and feels as modern as any Taurus or Impala, still looking like a sedan that should be driven by the boss instead of her VPs.

Children on a school bus waved at us. The uninitiated asked what kind of car it was. Teenagers snapped pictures for Instagram.

“Hyper black” 20-inch aluminum wheels, a tidy rear fin on the back deck and black-shrouded headlights create a seductive look for sure, as does the sexy redline tri-coat pearl paint, fronted with a big black grille that looks as though it was lifted from a Bentley. Optional adaptive bi-xenon headlamps, LED fog lights and LED tail lights give the 300S even more prowess at night.

At $42,695 to start, our fully optioned car rang in at $52,720 before destination fees, but the price doesn’t need to be so high. For example, a full black roof is an insanely priced $1,395 option. The Hemi option alone costs $2,950 and selecting it means your 300S will be rear-wheel drive. If you want all-wheel drive, the only engine choice is a 300-horsepower, 3.6-litre Pentastar V-6, which can be had with rear-wheel drive as well.

The Hemi engine is leaps and bounds more satisfying. It lights with a pleasing bark that gets attention without being obnoxious, and it’s incomprehensibly smooth. Selecting the Hemi package also returns a sportier suspension, which feels almost Mercedes-like.

The Hemi’s 363 horsepower meant occasionally wanting more grunt, but the trade off in fuel economy makes the Hemi 300S livable. It is rated for 9.3 L/100 km highway, 14.8 city and 12.3 combined; I recorded 12.6 average, which included a thorough exploration of the car’s acceleration abilities.

On the highway, the 300S glides more than it floats, though it can feel as if it’s fighting its 1,962-kilogram curb weight on meandering roads. It pays to remember this car isn’t meant to be treated like a Miata on a Sunday morning. On the highway, road noise is limited and the lane-departure warning is one of the better alerts I’ve experienced.

All 300s are fitted with an eight-speed Torqueflite transmission controlled through a simple rotary shifter that works brilliantly. But the 300S gets a performance version that includes paddle shifters and a sport mode that tightens shift points and throttle response. The transmission will even stay in manual mode until you return it to auto mode. Another sport mode will also tighten the electric steering, providing respectable feedback, given its non-hydraulic nature.

Drivers will appreciate the quick feedback from the 8.4-inch Uconnect screen, which can tie into an iPhone for more features through Siri. Simple to operate, the system lets users drag and drop icons for their favourite features and keep them in the menu bar. A Beats Audio sound system with 10 speakers, subwoofer and 552-watt amplifier won’t blow Dr. Dre out of the back seat, but it’s worthy.

Rear heated seats come as part of the premium package, as does a heated steering wheel, power rear sunshade (that once got stuck on us), power tilt wheel, dimming mirrors and LED interior lights. The rear seats are 60/40-split and fold forward, making it easy to carry longer objects. Automatic dual-zone climate control and keyless entry are standard.

With a car this late in its life cycle, the interior’s fit, finish and layout aren’t perfect — the dash, in particular, consumes too much real estate. The instrument cluster, though it lacks sophistication, is decently lit in blue and silver and is easy to see and read.

Nappa leather-faced sport bucket seats are comfortable, but could use more bolstering if you regularly attack winding country roads, which a 300S will do without complaint.

But what this car really loves to do is charge down a straight line, its rear tires kicking up plumes of smoke.

Dad would be proud.

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