Re-engineered Chrysler 300 looks, feels more upscale

  • 14-Jan-2011 03:30 EST
Chrysler 300 exterior.jpg

“We’re guilty of starting this whole beltline craziness,” said Ralph Gilles, Senior Vice President of Product Design, referring to the previous-generation Chrysler 300. But with the new 300 sedan (shown), “we actually opened the DLO [daylight opening] a little bit,” resulting in 15% better outward visibility.

For the 2011 Chrysler 300, “everything is brand new,” boasted Olivier Francois, President and CEO of the Chrysler Brand, Chrysler Group LLC, at the full-size sedan’s world premiere at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit.

Based on a new second-generation, rear-wheel-drive E-segment chassis architecture, the 300 is said to provide best-in-class V6 power thanks to the new 3.6-L Pentastar engine. Delivering 292 hp (218 kW) and 260 lb·ft (353 N·m)—increases of 42 hp (31 kW) and 10 lb·ft (14 N·m) compared to the previous 3.5-L—the Pentastar V6 offers an 8% improvement in fuel economy, with EPA ratings of 18/27 mpg city/highway.

Also available is the 5.7-L Hemi V8 with Fuel Saver Technology, which transitions to four-cylinder mode whenever possible to deliver up to 20% improved fuel efficiency.

For improved aerodynamics and visibility, the windshield has been raked back 3 in (76 mm) and thinner rolled-framed doors with thinner pillars—enabled by the use of hot-stamped ultrahigh-strength steel in the A-pillars, bodyside doors, upper front-rail section, and windshield header—improve outward visibility by 15% compared with the previous-generation 300.

More than 67% of the sedan’s lower unibody structure and 53% of its upper structure are stamped from high-strength or advanced high-strength steels (AHSS). AHSS is applied to the vehicle’s seat crossmembers and upper-rear cross-car area behind the rear seats. Dual-phase steel is used in the inner-front rails and engine box area. Transformation induced plasticity (TRIP) steel can be found in the B-pillar, lower header, and rocker areas; nylon-composite reinforcements were also used in the upper header cavities and A- and B-pillars.

The rear structure of the new 300 was strengthened by 26% to ensure front-to-rear stiffness continuity.

Despite more extensive use of HSS, the new 300 is 236 lb (107 kg) heavier than the outgoing model—the base model weighing in at 3961 lb (1797 kg)—due to the addition of new content.

With a 0.320 Cd, the sedan sees an 8% improvement in aerodynamics.

New chassis hardware includes front-suspension hydrobushings, monotube shock absorbers, a repositioned lower-front shock-to-suspension-link bushing, hydroformed steel front- and rear-suspension cradles, and an electrohydraulic power steering system. At the rear, the 300’s five-link suspension design features new roll-steer geometry, allowing independent control of camber and toe suspension movement.

Chrysler engineers say the sedan’s road-holding capabilities are improved with new camber geometries, set at -1.0° in the front and -1.75° in the rear. New larger diameter front and rear stabilizer bars are said to help reduce body lean during cornering.

Three suspension tunings and wheel and tire combinations, ranging from 17 to 20 in, will be available, including an all-wheel-drive (AWD) version that features a 0.5-in (13-mm) tighter tire-to-fender fitment, a 0.15-in (3.8-mm) lowered overall ride height, and 19-in wheels with wider P235/55R19 all-season performance tires. An active transfer case and front-axle disconnect system improve fuel economy by up to 5%. Chrysler claims that no other major automaker offers the combination of these two independent technologies.

The 300C AWD features a multilink front suspension with unique steering knuckles, asymmetrical lower-control arm, and tubular upper-control arm to manage up to 38% of the Hemi V8’s power to the front wheels.

According to Francois, the new 300 has “more safety features than any domestic rival,” with more than 70 safety and security technologies. New active safety features include adaptive-forward lighting, forward collision warning, and blind-spot monitoring. That list also includes standard Keyless Enter-N-Go and electronic stability control (ESC).

Engineers took several measures to help absorb road noise and quiet the cabin, including two 8-ft (2.4-m) composite underbody panels with acoustic insulation, dual-pane acoustic windshield and front-side glass, body-cavity silencing foam, under-flush rolled-framed doors with triple seals, and acoustic wheel-well liners.

Inside, Uconnect Touch delivers what Chrysler claims is the segment’s largest standard touch-screen radio (8.4 in) and offers Garmin navigation and Sirius Travel Link for real-time weather, fuel prices, etc. The seats include an S-shaped spring suspension, new front seat backs with four-way lumbar system, and variable-density foams applied in the lower seat, seat back, and bolsters.

At the NAIAS reveal, Francois proclaimed that “quality is nonnegotiable.” That is why Chrysler engineers tested the 300 for more than 7 million mi (11 million km) during the evaluation phase in its labs, on proving grounds, and on public roads in various climates. That also explains major investments at Chrysler Group’s Brampton (Ontario) Assembly Plant, where production of 300 series sedans launched in early January.

Among other investments, a new Metrology Center was installed at Brampton to measure and validate the body geometry. Tools within the Metrology Center are used to verify the vehicle’s entire sheet metal structure to very small tolerances, to identify possible deviations between the product and the process.

The 2011 Chrysler 300 arrives in dealerships this spring, starting at $27,995 (including destination).

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