2018 Chrysler 300S V-8 First Test: Last of the Old Guard


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It’s been a long time since we last tested a Chrysler 300S. Last summer, we attended a drive event for the 2018 model, and four years before that, we reviewed the recently refreshed 300. But the last time we actually brought a Chrysler 300S in for testing was all the way back in 2012. Six years later, that’s been fixed.

At first glance, it might not seem like much has changed since our last test. Chrysler has tweaked a few things here and there, but the 300 still looks about the same as it did when Call Me Maybe was climbing the charts. Dig a little deeper, however, and it’s clear that’s not necessarily the case.

For 2015, Chrysler added a new digital instrument cluster, an updated infotainment system, several new safety features, and most important, an eight-speed automatic transmission. As we found in our 2012 test, the outdated five-speed that Chrysler originally used was slow to shift and a poor match for the 300.

Does the new transmission improve performance as much as we thought it would back in 2012? Yes and no.

The 2018 Chrysler 300S we tested was definitely quicker than the 2012 version. It hit 60 mph in 5.3 seconds and ran the quarter mile in 13.8 seconds at 101.3 mph. Both times are 0.3 second quicker than what we recorded six years ago.

In his notes, associate road test editor Erick Ayapana praised the 300’s “strong and linear acceleration.” He also wrote that the “V-8 seems well paired with the gearbox, which is responsive and quick with the shifts.”

Braking performance also improved. Our test car stopped from 60 mph in 109 feet, 7 feet shorter than the 300S did back in 2012. Ayapana praised its “good brake feel, body control, and impressively short stopping distances, no doubt helped by the grippy tires.”

The 300S also impressed testing director Kim Reynolds. After running the big Chrysler through our handling tests, he wrote, “Despite its age (like 1 million years old now) the basic car here is still remarkably entertaining. It does all the right stuff—brakes and turns in adeptly, corners with not too much understeer, and accelerates in a nice, powerful RWD manner.”

Unfortunately for Chrysler, although the 300S is still entertaining to drive, it seems to have lost a step in the handling department. With a time of 27.0 seconds at 0.65 average g, our test car was actually 0.1 second slower through the figure eight than the 2012 version.

We’re not sure exactly why that is, but in his notes, Reynolds wrote, “You do notice that the chassis doesn’t seem as solid as it once did, and steering feedback is lacking. It’s more of a means of correcting oversteer than precisely steering.”

Even if the new transmission didn’t improve handling quite the way we thought it would, the eight-speed still makes the 300S more enjoyable to drive. To us, that’s a win.

Where the 300S really falls short, though, is in the cabin. The seats are comfortable, and the leather feels nice, but most of the other materials feel cheap and flimsy. Even Reynolds, whose testing notes usually focus exclusively on performance and handling, called the interior “hard to avoid” and “astonishingly dated.”

If you choose the luxury-focused 300C instead of the sportier 300S, Chrysler lets you add a leather trim package, which goes a long way toward fixing those issues. It costs a bit more than the $48,760 Chrysler charges for our test car, but it’s probably worth it.

Alternatively, you could double down on the sportiness and load up a Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack for about the same price. The interior won’t be any nicer, but the R/T Scat Pack’s 485-hp V-8 makes it much quicker.

Heck, for about $50,000, there’s a long list of cars you could buy that are better than the 300S in a lot of ways. They’ll all probably have nicer interiors and get better gas mileage. But good luck finding another large, boxy, rear-wheel-drive V-8 cruiser with the kind of street presence the 300S has.

Cars like the 300S don’t get built anymore. And when it gets redesigned in a few years, there’s a good chance Chrysler won’t build a car like the 300S anymore, either. It will probably be better on paper, but it won’t be the same.

2018 Chrysler 300S
BASE PRICE $36,890
PRICE AS TESTED $48,760
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, RWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
ENGINE 5.7L/363-hp/394-lb-ft OHV 16-valve V-8
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 4,433 lb (53/47%)
WHEELBASE 120.2 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 198.6 x 75.0 x 58.7 in
0-60 MPH 5.3 sec
QUARTER MILE 13.8 sec @ 101.3 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 109 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.81 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 27.0 sec @ 0.65 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 16/25/19 mpg
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 211/135 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 1.02 lb/mile