First drive: 2016 Chrysler 300S in the UAE
When we drove the redesigned second-gen Chrysler 300C about four years back, we wanted to like the car, but it was a bit of a boat in terms of handling, even though its sister-model, the Dodge Charger, was a pretty decent corner-carver. Fast-forward to 2015, and the Chrysler 300 range has received a facelift to inject some aggression into the car’s overall character. And there’s a new trim level — the Chrysler 300S.
The 300S is very similar to the 300C we drove a few years ago, except for a few key differences. Firstly, all 300 models got a facelift recently to give them a larger grille and more LED lighting. The 300S additionally gets blacked-out trim and the most aggressively-designed smoked-alloy wheels we’ve ever seen, even when compared to the Chrysler 300 SRT we drove just prior to this car.
Other changes include Chrysler’s 8-speed automatic finally being offered in combination with the 370 hp 5.7-litre “Hemi” V8, and the annoying electronic gearshift lever has been replaced by a rotary selector. Cast aluminium is now used in the axles to save weight, and new electric steering that changes in “sport” mode to make it heavier while the throttle and the gearshifts become more aggressive.
The tech package also includes adaptive cruise control with the ability to bring the car to a full stop, lane-departure warning, forward-collision warning and more.
The cabin hasn’t changed much, with extensive use of firm rubberised surfaces and leather trimmings. There is a standard 7-inch screen for the gauges and an 8.4-inch touchscreen for the class-leading UConnect infotainment system. Bucket seats from the SRT have found their way into our 300S as well.
But the difference between a 300C and our 300S isn’t just a change of one letter. The 300S comes with sportier suspension tuning and paddle-shifters, and this became readily apparent in our test drive.
Previously, while the shared-platform Charger handled well, the 300C was left to flail about with softer suspension, the latter positioned more as a luxury cruiser. The 300S changes that, with limited body roll around corners and good all-round grip from the 245/45 rubbers on those fancy 20-inch alloys.
Steering feel is still limited, but well-weighted and fairly responsive, while the brake-pedal action is linear, making it easy to judge how much braking pressure to apply.
All in all, it’s a much more satisfying car to drive. Chrysler claims it offers quicker acceleration and up to 6% better fuel economy thanks to the new gearbox. While the petrol-savings are miniscule, the better acceleration is clearly evident, as the car feels more eager to get going from any cruising speed, especially when overtaking on the highway. It also retains that muffled V8 growl every time on throttle application, breaking the calm in what is otherwise a decently quiet cabin.
For its size, the full-size 300S doesn’t offer any more rear legroom than any Japanese midsize sedan, so from a practicality perspective, the American makes little sense. However, you do get a massive boot and a V8. And for the price of a 4-cylinder Mercedes-Benz C-Class, you get something that’s just as feature-laden but makes a much bolder statement.
Photos by Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury.