By Steve Siler
Attend a meeting of the GAY (Great Autos of Yesteryear), or any gay car club, for that matter, and one thing becomes clear: Chrysler is the darling of the car-queen crowd. And among the Newports, Imperials, New Yorkers and Cordobas (yes, with Corinthian leather), the most prestigious Chryslers to pull up to any meeting of the metal are those with “300” in their names.
The first Chrysler 300 was built some 49 years ago, with many more to follow during the next 20 years. And now, after a few decades off, we have this new 300. Like the original, the 2006 300 has a bold, paternal mug, a long hood, high beltline and a huge trunk. But the demographics sure have shifted from the family dads who bought the first version—today’s 300 has been taken in by the hip-hop crowd. Big, impressive, highly customizable, the 300 joins the Escalade and the Hummer in the ranks of the truly ghetto-fabulous.
Unlike the first 300, however, the current one is offered in four different arrays, each with their own motors and equipment level. First, there’s the attractively priced (sub-$24K) base model. But just forget that one: it’s for the rental-car crowd. The next-up, $27,525 “Touring” model is much nicer, with standard leather and a decent 3.5-liter V-6. Still, it isn’t as glitzy, comfy and fast as the awesome, $33,425 300C. Powered by a Hemi-V-8 (with cylinder deactivation that keeps fuel economy respectable), the 300C is the one you see in all the ads; with flashy 18-inch chrome wheels, mirrors and door handles, this car is blinged-out to the max. And any resemblance it or any of the other 300s have to high-dollar luxury sedans (can you say Baby Bentley?) is purely intentional.
At the top of the lineup is the monstrously powerful 300C SRT-8. All those letters at the end are the signature of Chrysler’s in-house performance division, a la Mercedes-Benz “AMG” and BMW’s “M” divisions. SRT, which stands for Street and Racing Technology (“8” indicates the number of cylinders), takes the 300 sedan to the max by bringing the Hemi up to a whopping 425 horsepower, tightening the suspension, adding gorgeous 20-inch wheels, subtle aero bits outside and leather-and-suede sport seats inside. An impressive Boston Acoustics sound system is also included in the SRT-8’s $40K price.
Inside, the 300 features plenty of room for five passengers, four if you’re Texas-sized. Knee room is abundant in all seats, as is headroom. Equipment levels are high, for the most part, with navigation systems and Bluetooth wireless connections available in most arrays. The 300C has luminous tortoise-shell trim on the steering wheel, door handles and shift lever standard. Décor is art deco in theme, and admirably precise in execution, with a lovely analog clock in the center of the dash that would make a fetching watch. The view out the slim windows isn’t the best, but the view over the broad hood (complete with a crease down the middle like your dad’s old New Yorker) is terrific, not because you can see so much, but because it reminds you that you’re driving a car. A real car. A real big car. A real, cool-looking big car. Still, I recommend ordering the sunroof to let some light in.
Some years ago, Daimler-Benz took over Chrysler, and thus there is some German influence throughout the 300 lineup. Where, specifically? Where it counts, ie: the rear suspension (same design as found on many Mercedes), which helps it achieve a great ride/handling balance. The five-speed automatic transmission on the V-8 models is also Benz-based. More Mercedes fairy dust is sprinkled throughout the 300 in terms of the cruise controls, info display in the gauge cluster and those nifty blink-three-times-then-quit turn signals that makes lane-change indication a one-touch affair.
While the 300’s handsome and mechanically sound package is appealing in all sorts of ways, queens looking for that plus a little more versatility (and you can never have too much of that) will find it over at the Dodge store in the form of the sexy and roomy Magnum wagon. If you want a bit less flash and more aggressiveness, the Dodge Charger sedan also possesses most of the 300’s goodness with a bit more grunt in the styling. Interestingly, both are available in something comparable to most of the 300’s arrays, including balls-out SRT-8 versions.
All said, the 300 is as good as it looks, and we can recommend it without reservation.
Chrysler is a gay-friendly company.
Read other Chrysler reviews by Gaywheels.com’s writers