by Clint Burgess

Ever since cars were built, it has been the aim of designers to make them better. Often, this translated into their being more luxurious. Here we are in the 21st century, and not much has changed. Auto manufacturers have found new heights of luxury and comfort. Such is the case with Chrysler's new 300: It offers comfort and style, as well as class.

In a push to gain a share in the luxury market, Chrysler has stepped things up a notch with the 300. The auto manufacturer hasn't necessarily lacked in this category, but this new vehicle is more ambitious than what they have done in the past. The bold design of the exterior exudes strength and prestige. On the outside, it looks like something you could drive through a brick wall. Complimented by an interior that will leave drivers wanting for little, this car has got what drivers need. There is a certain balance of style, design and comfort that accompanies the strikingly familiar feel of the 300. But don't forget power when considering this imposing driving machine -- it comes standard with a V6, 3.5-liter, 200 horsepower engine.

Competition is fierce in the area of luxury, but Chrysler has the reputation of a company with longevity and positive consumer confidence. Starting at around $24k and moving into the high $32,000 range for limited styles, this new stripe on the company flag should be able to make a strong impact in the market. Some early critics of this vehicle dismissed it as too bulky or muscular to be a luxury car, but drivers are what matter and the response from the consumers has been overwhelming. Options such as leather interior, dual-zone automatic climate control, six-speaker Bose stereo and power everything make the 300 a contender for one of the most functional luxury vehicles around. However, there is still a dichotomy here -- after all, this is a smooth-handling, extremely comfortable driving machine and you can get it with a V8 Hemi. That is truly a feat of engineering genius. And this is a smart Hemi; it will reduce the cylinder usage to four when the full eight aren't needed.

The 300 has plenty to offer consumers on both sides of the fence. The masculine end of the spectrum will enjoy the torque of the Hemi engine and the retro muscle car styling, while the more conservative buyer will appreciate its finer aspects. Chrysler built this car with both strength and refinement in mind. They have implemented technologies conceived by Mercedes-Benz (their parent company) to ensure that this car was able to carry itself as a luxury vehicle and still burn rubber. Elegant but not too stuffy would sum up the feel of the 300's interior. The Touring Edition as well the 300C offer faux wood trim and chrome to add that luxury sedan feel.

Perhaps the most tantalizing option in the 300 series is the C model. This is the bad older brother in the line. It can be slammed with the V8 Hemi, and that includes 340 horses, dual chrome exhaust and the opportunity to boast the baddest sedan in the neighborhood. While the 300C is the big seller at the moment, Chrysler is on to something here. They have begun the ascent back up the mountain of style and design and put the American sense of automotive ingenuity back on the international scene.

Publication date: 04/14/05

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