Chrysler has dug itself a big hole but will this new car help them regain some of their brand? Did I find it at all ironic that on the same day I was driving a refreshed 2015 Chrysler 300 the brand’s parent company, FCA, announced it would no longer utilize ”Chrysler” as part of the corporation’s official name? Maybe a little. But the truth is, names in this industry seem to have as much staying power as the price of oil. Just when it seems like things have stabilized, everything changes. And while dropping “Chrysler” from the corporate title feels like putting down the last vestiges of a once-pround American icon, that name will continue to appear where it matters most to consumers, in advertising messages, on dealership signs, and adorning the bodywork of vehicles coming from the Chrysler division of FCA. And if these vehicles display substantial improvements in the areas of styling, performance, fuel efficiency and quality, the Chrysler brand will become a more respected global brand regardless of corporate naming conventions. We’re already seeing the effect of improved Chrysler product at Kelley Blue Book, where brand sales and consideration have risen in recent months.
Which brings me back to the 2015 Chrysler 300, a nameplate celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. As a fan of automotive history I’ve always appreciated the philosophy behind Chrysler’s 300 (a premium car offering both luxury and performance) even as the nameplate’s reality underwent some uninspired growing pains over the past six decades. But ten years ago the 300 entered it’s most promising era yet, returning to a V8-powered, rear-wheel-drive platform offering the kind of performance and luxury inspired by the original model. The 300 experienced a substantial makeover four years ago, at which time the exterior styling, interior quality and drivetrains were all updated. For 2015 all three areas have been reworked again, starting with updated styling that includes a 33 percent larger mesh grille, a new ‘floating” Chrysler 300 emblem within that grille, and a new lower grille to tie it all together. Lighting elements have been improved as well, with LED daytime running lights and full LED tail lights (these now sit flush with the trunk lid) as standard equipment. Reduced exterior chrome accents and optional LED fog lights and headlights round out the exterior changes.
The 2015 Chrysler 300′s updated interior reflects a similar design philosophy, combining the best of modern technology with a straightforward approach. The most obvious change is the 300′s new rotary shifter, which attaches to an 8-speed automatic transmission. The rotary knob replaces the large autostick shifter, streamlining the center console’s appearance and effectively coordinating with a cleaner, simpler center stack featuring fewer buttons and knobs. The gauge cluster also benefits from updated technology, with a new 7-inch digital display screen between the analog gauges. Everything from system warnings to odometer and fuel status information to navigation guidance can be shown here, while new steering wheel controls make it easy to configure the screen. This gauge cluster display is in additional to the standard 8.4-inch central touchscreen, which returns for 2015 with updated UConnect access features like a mobile app that let’s drivers start the engine and lock or unlock the doors while away from the car. Perhaps the biggest news for techies is the 300′s new mobile wifi hotspot, making internet access available for passengers without a cell phone.
That 8-speed transmission attaches to either a 3.6-liter V6 or 5.7-liter V8. Both powerplants are carry-overs, and both benefit from the transmission’s wide range of gearing to maximize acceleration and fuel efficiency. The 3.6-liter V6 still makes 292 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, but fuel efficiency jumps to 19 mpg city and 31 mpg highway for rear-wheel-drive models (18/27 mpg for all-wheel-drive versions). With the FCA dropping them, will Chryslers new 300 bring them back to life?