Not everyone dreams of owning a big American sedan, but there’s something reassuring about the knowledge that the likes of the Chrysler 300 and Chevrolet Impala still survive. Our latest test car, a 2017 Chrysler 300S with all-wheel drive, exemplifies everything Americans love about big sedans … and much of what led consumers into the SUV, minivan and compact-hatchback fold.
Big, heavy and slab-sided, the 300 does a number of things well. It’s roomy and comfortable, though we were surprised to discover a 6-foot passenger, seated behind a tall driver, would feel squeezed in the knees. The 300 is unexpectedly fuel-efficient, considering its V-6 engine is rated at nearly 300 horsepower and the car weighs more than two tons.
The trunk is spacious — 16.3 cubic feet — and the fuel tank holds 18.5 gallons of gasoline. The 300 therefore can cruise nearly 500 miles without refueling. The big sedan’s ride is soft, bordering on floaty, though handling is tighter than that of its predecessors of the 1950s through ’70s. The cabin is very quiet at highway speeds.
One of the 300’s best qualities is one it shares with other Fiat Chrysler products — the Uconnect 8.4 audio and infotainment system. Uconnect comes standard with satellite radio, Google Android Auto capability, Apple CarPlay capability, integrated voice command with Bluetooth, and a 552-watt amplifier pumping sound through 10 speakers. The test car came with navigation, SiriusXM Traffic Plus and SiriusXM Travel Link, a $995 option.
The base Chrysler 300 Limited starts at $32,340. It’s well-equipped, with Uconnect 8.4, heated front seats, rear-view camera, cruise control, leather upholstery, automatic dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and ignition, heated exterior mirrors. Our test car, with more than $5,500 in options, came in at $43,950.
Motivating the base 300, as well as our test car, was a 3.6-liter, 292-horsepower V-6. Also available is a 5.7-liter, 363-horsepower V-8. People who choose this power plant will pay a significant fuel-economy penalty — with rear-wheel drive, 16 mpg city, 25 highway, compared with 19/30. But we suspect the V-8 is a better fit in terms of the 300’s overall character. Our test car’s transmission sometimes was compelled to downshift in situations where the V-8 likely would just keep loping along.
While many of today’s active families don’t find large sedans versatile enough for their needs, compared with SUVs and minivans, most automakers still offer at least one. Among them are the Hyundai Azera, Chevrolet Impala, Ford Taurus, Toyota Avalon, Nissan Maxima, Buick LaCrosse, Honda Accord, Kia Cadenza, and the Dodge Charger, also a Fiat Chrysler product. The 300 has one major advantage over some of these models: its available all-wheel drive.
Despite its bulk, the 300 hasn’t turned in an overwhelming performance in government crash tests — earning an overall vehicle score of four stars of a possible five. It received the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s top rating of “Good” in four of five categories but scored “Marginal” in the institute’s small-overlap crash test.
2017 Chrysler 300S AWD
Engine: 3.6-liter V-6, 292 horsepower, 260 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Suspension: independent short and long arm front, multi-link rear
Curb weight: 4,267 lb.
Wheels: 19×7.5-in. dark bronze aluminum
Tires: P235/55R19 all-season
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 16.3 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 18.5 gal.
Fuel economy: 18 mpg city, 27 highway
Fuel type: regular unleaded gasoline
Steven Macoy (email@example.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.