The Evolution of the Chrysler 300
The Chrysler 300 is a full-size luxury sedan that is oozing style and delivers top-notch performance for everyday road driving. This is a gorgeous car that will deliver performance as good as it looks.
When you go shopping at a Chrysler car dealership, you'll see the latest model of the Chrysler 300 and maybe a few models from previous years. Yet these small sampling doesn't give you a real idea of how much the Chrysler 300 has evolved over the years. By getting a better understanding of the car's history, you can better appreciate the technological and style advances that the current model represents.
Here's what you need to know about the evolution of the Chrysler 300:
Chrysler 300 Letter Series
The modern iteration of the Chrysler 300 was only introduced in 2005, but the car was first introduced several decades ago in 1955. The first iteration of the 300 was called the "letter series" because each model year was followed by a letter. When it was first introduced, the car was called the 300C. Each successive year had another letter, and the run ended with the 300L. (The order was mixed up from C to B, and the letter I was also skipped.)
Veteran designer Robert MacGregor Rodger is credited with introducing the Chrysler 300. He had been responsible for introducing the first HEMI V8 at Chrysler in 1951, and he wanted to try out a HEMI in a widely distributed production car. The Chrysler 300 was built especially for that purpose.
The first 300 was an amalgamation of other cars because the automaker was on a limited budget. Rodger designed the 300 by putting together the nose from the Imperial with the two-door body shell for the New Yorker and the rear quarter panels of the Windsor. Another designer tweaked the front end, and the design was finalized.
When the 300 went on sale in 1955, it had 300 horsepower and was one of the fastest cars on the market. It could go from 0 to 60 mph in 9.8 seconds. One test had the car reaching a top speed of 130 mph. While those stats may seem impossibly slow by today's standards, they were groundbreaking at the time. NASCAR drivers even used a fleet of 300s during the 1955 season, going on to win several trophies.
The first 300s sold 1,725 units at $4,109 each.
The letter series ended in 1965. Over the 10 years that the series ran, the car went through many design changes, but it kept its long and boxy body. It kept the V8 engine, which continued to grow in size and horsepower.
Chrysler dropped the lettering on some versions of the 300 introduced as early as 1962, and the full line of this generation continued through 1971. By the time the non-letter series was in full force in 1966 (since the letter series was fully terminated), the Chrysler 300 was offered in four different body styles. Consumers could choose from a two- or four-door hardtop, a convertible or a sedan. The car had the same platform and basic styling, and a V8 engine was still standard. In 1966, the horsepower had dropped back to 325, but an optional engine boosted the power to 365.
Design changes were introduced in 1967, including a pointed grille and a new roof. A huge new engine was introduced, as well: a 440-cubic-inch 7.2-liter V8 that put out 350 horsepower. A "TNT" version of the engine was available that put out 375 horsepower.
The sedan was dropped in the 1967 lineup, as well, changing the focus to the sportier models.
In 1969, the Chrysler 300 grew in size and got a slab-side body that was shared by the Imperial and the Newport. The pointy grille was dropped in favor of a more streamlined front end. No changes were made to the engine, and sales dipped slightly as a lack of major design changes caused excitement to wane.
Only slight modifications were made in 1970 and 1971, such as new tail lights, so sales never really revived.
Chrysler seemed to want to revive the success of its letter series by picking up the next generation of its 300 where that series had left off -- this time introducing an M in the line. However, the 300M was not part of the letter series and was a line unto itself.
The 300M was introduced after a long gap in production. It came on the market in 1999, 20 years after the last non-letter series was produced (which itself was produced eight years after the previous model). The 300M was a radical shift from the previous series. It was a four-door sedan when the sedan had been previously dropped from the lineup. It also had a V6 engine when previously only V8s were used.
While you may think that the more toned-down 300 in both power and style was less successful than previous models, it actually performed better than ever.
The new 300M had a 3.5-liter V6 engine that put out 253 horsepower. While that seems like a huge drop in power, it actually wasn't. The new stats were "net horsepower" and the previous stats from the letter and non-letter series were "gross horsepower." The handling and performance of the 300M was widely praised.
The 300M had a radical design change, and it looked like a conservative sedan. Over the next six years, the design would be tweaked to make the car more sleek and sophisticated.
Modern 300 Series
The current iteration of the Chrysler 300 is in a class of its own. You can hardly see the remnants of any previous models in its design. The expansive sedan is formidable on the road, both in look and performance. The imposing design is wide and tall, creating a unique look and plenty of interior room for a comfortable ride. The first generation was introduced as either a four-door sedan or a station wagon.
The new 300 had a 2.7-liter or 3.5-liter V6 engine, depending on which trim level you chose. For those who wanted the same power that some of the previous models offered, a 5.7-liter HEMI V8 was available that put out 340 horsepower.
The second generation of the current iteration was introduced in 2011, and it is only available as a four-door sedan. Chrysler has found what works for the 300, and it has focused on that in the current generation.
The modern 300 is loaded with advanced features such as soft-touch materials, leather upholstery, a large display screen with navigation and driver information, adaptive cruise control, back-up camera, lane departure warning, LED lights and much more.
When you shop a Chrysler car dealership for a 300, you will likely find several models from the current generation, either in the current year or from the past several years. Now when you look at those models, you can see the evolution of the car and understand how truly exceptional the Chrysler 300 is. You aren't just buying a luxury sedan when you buy a Chrysler 300; you are buying a sophisticated piece of automotive technology that has evolved over nearly six decades.