Driven: 2016 Chrysler 300S

2016 Chrysler 300S gets a thumb's up from James Dean (or at least his sign) | Larry Edsall photos
2016 Chrysler 300S gets a thumb’s up from James Dean (or at least his sign) | Larry Edsall photos

At first quick glance, you might not notice anything different about the 2016 Chrysler 300S. But look more closely and you can see the S on the decklid badging, the blacked-out accents, the 20-inch Hyper Black-finished wheels, subtly sculpted side sills and the deck lid spoiler.

Look inside and you see the letter “S” stitched into the front seat backs.

And you might dismiss all of that as mere cosmetics, a large, full-size sedan trying to look like something sporty.

The 300S poses along famed 17 Mile Drive on the Monterey Peninsula
The 300S poses along famed 17 Mile Drive on the Monterey Peninsula

But climb into that cockpit, adjust the power driver’s seat and manually tilted and telescoped steering column to your liking and you will be in for a pleasant surprise. Not only does this big Chrysler have a large trunk and plenty of room for five adults, but along with that S badge comes performance-tuned suspension — increased spring rates, tuned steering gear and bushings, larger sway bars (if your S has the optional 5.7-liter Hemi V8; ours did), and those 20-inch wheels are wrapped with Goodyear Eagle F1 tires, the sort that provide enhanced grip when the ambient temperature is 40 degrees or warmer.

The 2016 Chrysler 300S was our car for the Monterey Car Week trip from Phoenix to northern California and back. Bob Golfen and I shared the car and driving duties.

As you may know, Bob is tall enough that he’s uncomfortable in a commercial airplane but he kept commenting about how comfortable he was in the Chrysler’s “Detroit, Michigan” seating setup with Black and Ambassador Blue Nappy leather and silver French-seamed stitching on the seats.

Yep, there's a Hemi under the hood
Yep, there’s a Hemi under the hood

My driving position requires a lot less legroom, but I also was comfortable for long stretches behind the wheel. Actually, our only complaint about the interior was a lack of nooks and crannies to store stuff — Bob’s wallet and phone (mine was linked into the car’s Uconnect hands-free Bluetooth network), my snacks and beverages (doesn’t everyone need coffee, water and a soda within reach as they drive?).

Speaking of driving, the S also has a Sport mode and paddle shifting that cut nearly in half the shift times while boosting engine and throttle response and firming up the electric power steering.

Base price on the big sedan is $35,470. The 300S Premium option group adds $3,295 to the price but includes a dual-pane panoramic sunroof, power multi-function mirrors, GPS navigation (which we often found lacking, especially when we were looking for out-of-the-way locations on the Monterey Peninsula), ParkSense front and rear assist, blind-spot and cross-path traffic detection (both very much appreciated), Uconnect 8.4, HD radio (don’t get me started about Bob’s taste in music!) and a self-dimming exterior mirror the driver’s side.

Our car also had the Hemi V8 (a $3,000 option that includes upgraded disc brakes at all four corners) and those 245/45 W-rated tires ($95).

Price as tested: $42,855.

The 300S was fun to drive, belying its size and acting more like a compact or mid-size sports sedan, though with a lot more room inside and in its trunk. Acceleration was fast and suspension firmed up when you needed to merge into traffic or pass on the two-lane roads we preferred to take across California and the Monterey Peninsula.

At Cypress Point
At Cypress Point

And once we found our location targets, the 300S was surprisingly easy to park, and to extract from a parking spot with the rear cross-traffic alert letting us know of vehicles approaching our rear quarters.

Bob and I may not be Siskel and Ebert, but we’d give this car two thumbs up.

2016 Chrysler 300S

Vehicle type: 5-passenger full-size sedan, rear-wheel drive
Base price: $35,470 Price as tested: $42.855
Engine: 5.7-liter Hemi V8, whatever, 363-horsepower @ 5,200 rpm, 394 pound-feet of torque @ 4,200 rpm Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 120.2 inches Overall length/width: 198.6 inches / 75.0 inches
Curb weight: 4,366 pounds
EPA mileage estimates: 16 city / 25 highway / 19 combined
Assembled in: Brampton, Ontario, Canada

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