Chrysler: 2015 300 brings attitude, soul
Los Angeles — Chrysler Group LLC is moving its 300 sedan forward by looking backward.
The 2015 Chrysler 300, which the automaker is set to unveil Wednesday at the Los Angeles Auto Show, was inspired by the critically acclaimed 2005 model, which re-launched the nameplate for the modern day.
"It's going to be bold," said Chrysler brand CEO and President Al Gardner during a recent media event. "It's going to come with a whole bunch of character and soul, and it's going to take you back to the 2005 car. That's when you saw it coming down the road, you sure as heck knew what it was."
The full-size sedan has a similar silhouette to the 2014 model, but has a redesigned front end with a taller and more prominent grille, new sculpted LED tail lamps with an illuminated halo, added curves, new interiors and enhanced driving dynamics.
Brandon L. Faurote, head of Chrysler design, said designers ultimately took numerous design cues from the Chrysler 200, which launched earlier this year as the "new face of Chrysler."
The 2015 300 is priced starting at $31,395, excluding $995 destination fee — the same as the outgoing model year. Production of the car is expected to begin in the fourth quarter of 2014 at the Brampton Assembly Plant in Ontario, with cars arriving in dealerships in the first-quarter of 2015.
"This car is designed and built for the masses," Gardner said. "But it's supposed to have soul. It's supposed to have attitude. It's supposed to be fun."
Chrysler also added a new "300C Platinum" model for the 2015 model year, which starts at $42,395, excluding $995 destination fee. That's $4,500 more than its previous high-end "C" model that starts at $37,895, excluding destination.
The Platinum model features quilted Nappa leather, hand-sanded wood and ultra-premium Poltrona Frau leather-wrapped instrument panel and console. Outside, there are platinum-chrome details and 20-inch wheels.
Other trim levels are Limited, "S" and "C." All models come standard with an eight-speed automatic transmission. All trims except the "S" model come standard with a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine rated at 292 horsepower and 23 miles per gallon combined, including up to 31 mpg highway. The "S" model comes standard with a sport-tuned version of the V6 engine rated at 300 horsepower and also up to 31 mpg.
All models exceptthe entry-level Limited have a $3,000 optional 5.7-liter Hemi V8 engine, rated at 363 horsepower and up to 25 mpg highway available.
New for 2015 is a "Sport" button enables sport-tuned steering; pedal, engine and transmission calibration; plus rear-biased torque on AWD models for more dynamic handling. Three suspension tunings come standard on certain models.
Ralph Gilles, Chrysler senior vice president of product design, said the goal of the 2015 model was to take the 2005 car, which he led the design team of and "up the attitude." "The 300 is absolutely a performance car," he said.
The vehicle continues to be built on Chrysler's LX platform, which the Dodge Charger and Dodge Challenger are built on.
The 2015 300 comes to market as a difficult time for the large-sedan segment, which has shrunk nearly two points of market share in the past five years as mid-size sedans grow bigger and customers flock to crossovers.
"It's just a tough segment to be in right now, no matter how good the product," said Kelley Blue Book senior analyst Karl Brauer. "There's been a complete renaissance in that segment, and the volume for that segment just keeps dropping."
Brauer added the 300 is "stepping up," but he's not sure how much the car can gain.
Gardner said the car is fundamentally different than its competition, thanks to its standard rear-wheel-drive and optional all-wheel drive. The Chevrolet Impala and Ford Taurus are standard forward-wheel-drive and limited all-wheel-drive on some models. The 300 also is the only domestic to continue offering a V8.
Chrysler reports 30 percent of current 300 drivers opt for all-wheel-drive, and 20 percent upgrade to a V8.