The driver testing the autonomous vehicle was streaming a TV program at the time of the accident.
Three years after Italian auto manufacturer Fiat took majority control of Chrysler Group as part of Chrysler’s Chapter 11 reorganization, the odd couple gave birth to an Italian-American sedan, the 2012 Chrysler 300. It’s one of those children that take the best features from both parents; in this case, refined Italian design on the outside and powerful American muscle on the inside.
From the several models released in the 2012 line, Chrysler chose the 300 Limited, which sports an efficient V-6 engine and eight-speed transmission with an EPA-estimated 31 mpg highway rating, as its livery model. The fleet incentive net price is $31,415, which factors in the MSRP of $29,845; the destination fee of $995; a “driver convenience” add-on of $2,000; 18-inch chrome wheels for $825; and the fleet incentive rebate of $2,250.
The 300 Limited livery edition sedan debuted at the 2012 International LCT Show in Las Vegas among industry heavyweights, sparring with new models from Lincoln, Cadillac and BMW. Call it a dark horse or an underdog, there is no mistaking that this once third-ranked American livery sedan that left the industry in 2010 amid poor performance has re-emerged as an improved and exciting breed.
Among other exterior enhancements, the front fascia and rear end are sleeker and more fluid, accented by chrome on the front grille and rear tail lights. The side windows offer a spotlight on the door handles at night, and the most distinguishable design feature (in my opinion) are the LED daytime running lights that look like diamonds in the front, a possible allusion to the car’s historical bling-bling hip-hop appeal.
On the surface, the 2012 Chrysler 300 is an elegant, low-profile luxury sedan that looks every bit like a livery workhorse. But as all operators know, it’s what’s inside that really counts. I spent a week testing the rear-wheel drive Chrysler 300C, which has a V-8 Hemi engine instead of the Limited’s V-6, and is the automaker’s livery vehicle for the UK market. But as I discovered, there are plenty of features and amenities shared between the 300C and 300 Limited models.
DRIVE: After activating the vehicle via push-button start, drivers are greeted by an interior featuring the technostyling of Tron: Laser-blue dashboard gauges and an 8.4-inch touchscreen display that offers satellite radio, climate controls, weather information, navigation and smartphone synchronization for hands-free calling. Putting the vehicle into reverse pulls up a rear-view backup camera on the screen that has sensors to warn of moving vehicles that may be out of view.
The 300C’s powerful V-8 Hemi engine accelerates smoothly, especially on the highway. It’s easy (and quite fun) to hit 100 on the speedometer before even realizing it because the cabin stays extremely quiet at high speeds. The sedan features an electronic stability control system that enhances handling and keeps the driver in control at all times. The driver’s seat also offers two memory settings for easy adjusting, which is useful if multiple people drive the vehicle.
One of the appealing benefits of the 300 Limited is its fuel-efficient V-6 engine. This engine isn’t available on the 300C, but operators who opt any of the V-8 models will be able to use the “eco” drive feature that informs the driver of optimum driving efficiency. Drivers also can call up an in-dash screen that gives the vehicle’s real-time fuel economy.
RIDE: The leather seats are comfortable enough to keep the average passenger content, but too stiff for high-end clients used to the cloud-like softness of other premium vehicles. Hard swerves and sharp turns are more noticeable in the 300 than in other luxury vehicles, such as the Cadillac XTS and BMW 7-Series.
Front-seat occupants can hear rattles when riding over rough roads. A front seat passenger felt the bumps, but passengers in the back said they didn’t notice. One rear seat passenger also said she could feel the speed as the car accelerated, which she said doesn’t happen when she’s chauffeured in her Inifiniti M luxury sedan.
Leg and headroom in the back is adequate for smaller passengers, but passengers over six feet may feel a little cramped. One passenger whose head touched the ceiling found it difficult to get comfortable because his back lacked support when he slid down to avoid hitting his head. From the outside, the sedan looks a lot bigger than it really is.
SPACE: According to Chrysler’s official specifications, rear leg room is 40.1 inches, and LCT measured about 39.7 inches. Rear head room is listed as 37.9 inches. When the front seats are moved all the way back, there’s almost no room left for rear passengers’ legs. This may cause issues for tall chauffeurs and front-seat passengers, because there’s going to have to be some compromise between the front and rear as to who gets the extra room.
The trunk is 16.3 cubic feet. Its opening was measured at 18.5 inches high, 47 inches wide, and 40.5 inches deep. With some creative arrangement, it can fit two full-size suitcases and a carry on, a drawback because chauffeurs should be able to quickly load and unload luggage instead of playing Tetris to find ways to make it fit. Three full-size suitcases are out of the question. One redeeming quality of the trunk is its inability to close and lock when the key is left inside it. Throwing the key in the trunk and closing the lid only causes it to open automatically.
TECH TREATS: An option in the Limited that comes standard in the 300C are heated and cooled front cup holders. Chauffeurs can use this feature to keep water bottles cold or cups of coffee hot for their passengers. The mini screen on the dash can alternate between vehicle speed, trip odometer, vehicle vitals, and real-time fuel economy. Also, when navigation is turned on, the dash screen alerts drivers to upcoming exits or turns so they can keep their eyes on the road instead of the navigation display.
The front of the vehicle is equipped with sensors that alert the driver when the car is nearing an object during parking or when it approaches a stationary object at high speeds, also known as a forward crash alert.
The 300 can be started remotely, a feature I personally enjoyed using when people walked by the car with me out of sight.
TALLYING IT UP: For the price, the Chrysler 300 Limited is a difficult car for operators to pass up. From a week of testing, it seems to meet at least the minimum standards for a chauffeured vehicle. But what it lacks in comfort and space, it makes up for in fuel-efficiency, power and style. Since the 2012 Chrysler 300 has only been on the market for a short time, as with other potential Town Car replacements, it is difficult to say whether it will hold up in the long run.
The good thing about the 300 Limited is that if clients do not accept it as a Town Car replacement, it can be priced lower and used as an economy option while still keeping a solid margin. Operators looking to shop in this price range also might consider the next iteration of the Toyota Avalon sedan, which has been redesigned to look more elegant and will come with a hybrid option estimated to achieve 40 mpg. But the Toyota badge may be a harder sell than the Chrysler wings, especially when it comes to Made-In-USA executives.
Facts & Stats: 2012 Chrysler 300
|Performance||300 Limited Rear Wheel Drive||300C Rear Wheel Drive|
|Engine||3.6-liter V-6||5.7-liter V8 HEMI MDS|
|Transmission||8-speed automatic with E-shifter||5-speed automatic|
|Horsepower||292 @ 6,350 rpm||363 @ 5,200 rpm|
|City / highway fuel economy||19 / 31||16 / 25|
|Fuel tank capacity||19.1 gal||19.1 gal|
|Unladen weight||4,029 lbs.||4,326 lbs.|
|Wheelbase||120.2 in.||120.2 in.|
|Length||198.6 in.||198.6 in.|
|Width||75 in.||75 in.|
|Height||58.5 in.||58.5 in.|
|Cargo Space||16.3 cu.ft.||16.3 cu.ft.|
|Legroom||41.8 in. (front) / 40.1 in. (rear)||41.8 in. (front) / 40.1 in. (rear)|
|Headroom||38.6 in. (front) / 37.9 in. (rear)||38.6 in. (front) / 37.9 in. (rear)|
|(standard unless otherwise noted)||Keyless enter-n-go, remote start system, heated/cooled front console cup holder (optional), Sentry Key theft deterrent system, air conditioning with Dual Zone automatic temperature control, automatic headlamps, panoramic sunroof.||Keyless enter-n-go, remote start system, heated/cooled front console cup holder, heated steering wheel, automatic high beam headlamp control, rain sensitive windshield wipers, radio/driver’s seat/steering column memory setting, panoramic sunroof, air conditioning with Dual Zone automatic temperature control.|
|Standard||36,000 mile bumper-to-bumper||N/A|
|Added care (Covers 800+ parts with $100 deductible)||4 years / 150,000 miles||N/A|
|Driver Convenience Option (fog lamps, center-mounted high stop lamp, Parkview rear back-up camera, power front driver/ passenger 4-way lumbar adjust, power front driver/passenger seats, remote start system, security alarm, universal garage door opener).||$2,000||N/A|
|18-inch chrome wheels||$825||N/A|
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