The week before, I was at the LA Auto Show to attends as many press conferences as possible. There was one I was asked to be at, however.
Back at June at the Chelsea Proving Grounds outside of Ann Arbor, Chrysler brand CEO Al Gardner asked if I was going to Los Angeles for the show. I hesitated, but it did cross my mind. Yet, I had a hunch. After the Dodge Charger was revised, the only logical next debut would be the revised 2015 Chrysler 300. I asked Gardner if there was a reason to go. After a few winks, nudges and “say no mores,” the equation was made.
My hunch was correct. I attended the Chrysler presser and witnessed the changes to the 300. I remarked on how much work they did on the big sedan. Its new front end, front fenders and rear end were well executed. They also reshuffled the trim lineup to emulate a current model formula. On top of the 300C is the Platinum model – the new flagship for the brand. Perhaps it is appropriate to do this since Gardner wants to make Chrysler a mainstream brand on par with Chevrolet, Ford, Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, etc.
There was a lot more to report on the new 2015 Chrysler 300 from L.A. The fact that the base Limited has a higher content while retaining its original base price is a strong indicator where the 300 is being positioned. Also, that improvements in the cabin were welcomed, including a larger TFT screen for trip, vehicle and fuel economy readouts. Also, the 300 receives a full suite of active safety features seen on several models already. In all, the new 300 is showing huge promise when they show up at dealerships after the first of 2015.
The new model marks a huge milestone for the Chrysler brand. 2015 will mark the sixty years since the first C-300. This was a point that needed to be made during the presser.
The original 1955 C-300 was a whole new kind of car. It began on a Windsor platform, there were bits and pieces from every Chrysler of that year – including the Imperial's front clip. Yet, the most important part of this hardtop coupe and convertible was the 300 horsepower HEMI V8 under the hood. The result was a forerunner to the muscle car. I would even argue that it was the first luxury performance car to be built in volume production.
Gardner also mentioned another icon – the original LX platform 300 of 2005. Ralph Gilles penned this modern interpretation of classic automobiles, with the original C-300 in mind. There are plenty of cues on the reconstituted 300 of ten years ago that is seen on the newly revised model. The rear-drive oriented 300 always had a bold presence expressed through its huge grille, low profile roof and classic touches all around.
Since we are on a history kick, I mentioned briefly to Gardner, Gilles and other Fiat Chrysler Automobiles executives within earshot about another iconic 300 that ties all of this together. The first new 300 I remember from my childhood were the "Fuselage" bodied ones from 1969 to 1971. The word "bold" is used whenever the Chrysler 300 is discussed. The Fuselage models were no exception. Their clean bodies were sleek and long. Under the hood were some serious firepower – both 440 cubic inch V8s, including a 375 horsepower TNT version.
Throughout its 60 year history, the Chrysler 300 provided enough dynamite and fireworks to keep its faithful happy and proud. Hence why the tagline for the refreshed 300 is "Drive Proud." Pretty apt, don't you think?
V&R had its share of Chrysler 300 coverage. I reviewed a 2009 300 Touring sedan, followed by a 2013 300 S Glacier Edition. So, on the week of Thanksgiving, I found it appropriate that I have another Chrysler 300 at my disposal.
The base all-wheel drive 2014 model served as a barometer of where the 300 came from and where it will be going. It is elegant in its Deep Cherry Red finish – a stalwart in winter. It is smooth when it rides on clear tarmac or on some snowy surfaces. Yet, it is responsive thanks to the standard Pentastar V6, eight speed automatic and all-wheel drive.
This 300 made for a great turkey chaser. Unlike the last few years, it sought a traditional Thanksgiving. Thanks to a couple of close friends and some good company, I felt a return of the real meaning of the day. Beyond the historic debates and challenges to the economic line of extreme consumerism, the five of us truly gave thanks to the space we live in. The food was also terrific
Part of what I was thankful for that day was packaged in this career. The Chrysler 300 symbolized that perfectly. The interactions with the company – as reminded by PR veteran and author Jason Vines when he recalled e-mails I sent in my pre-V&R days – along with viewing the revised 2015 model in Los Angeles kept the 300 fresh in my mind. I always felt that the original LX platform model symbolized a new chapter for Chrysler in terms of engaging a generation of owners and enthusiasts to the slab-sided big dog of the road.
It goes beyond that. Not many cars have the gumption to stand out, be recognized and offer up debates on car design, quality and vehicular personality than the Chrysler 300. Perhaps it has always been this way for over 60 years – from the first time the big HEMI-powered coupe and convertible first made its way onto showrooms…and on the track.
What driving this 2014 Chrysler 300 did for me was to bridge those 60 years of this model and gave me a bit of freedom in celebrating. Country highways, suburban freeways and urban streets pave the way for this celebration away from the Los Angeles Convention Center. It is good to see the Pentastar V6 show its power with its smooth shifting eight-speeder and traction happy all-wheel drive in motion.
One complaint I have: The Hankook Optimo tires. How about some real winter rubber, please? That would make this 300 more fun to drive.
If that is the only complaint, then all of this has come full circle. Here is to sixty years of an icon. May we have happiness in Chrysler for every 300 made.
And, thanks, Al Gardner.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle driven for this article was provided by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
All photos by Randy Stern