Going & Stopping

Sporting Chrysler's new Pentastar V-6 engine, the 300 moves out quickly enough, with stronger power as the tach needle winds to the right. I look forward to the automaker's eight-speed automatic transmission, which will grace the V-6 by year's end. The current transmission — a carryover five-speed auto — upshifts smoothly but can be stingy on downshifts, particularly on curvy roads. The EPA-estimated gas mileage for the V-6 is a so-so 21 mpg in combined city/highway driving. The eight-speed should improve on that.

I never took much issue with the old 300's 3.5-liter V-6, which moved the car capably enough. Saddled with another 158 pounds, its 3.6-liter replacement doesn't offer a world of difference, despite having substantially more power. The Ford Taurus feels about as quick; the Toyota Avalon is noticeably quicker.

Step up to the optional 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, and the five-speed is no quicker to downshift, but the engine erases much need for that. The drivetrain doesn't pack the immediate punch I've come to expect from a Hemi, but power gets exhilarating once the revs build. Get on the gas hard, and the 363-horsepower drivetrain's baritone pitch is one of the richer sounds this side of a supercar.

Both engines exhibit a moment of accelerator lag from a complete stop. It's been an issue since the industry's widespread adoption of electronic throttles, and the 300 and 300C exhibit it most noticeably around town, when you need a quick spurt to pull around a parked car.

Overall mileage drops to 19 mpg with the Hemi, or 18 mpg if you opt for all-wheel drive, too. Chrysler says the all-wheel-drive system employs a front-axle disconnect that keeps efficiency closer to that of two-wheel drive and transfers power to the front wheels when it detects wheelspin. I didn't evaluate an all-wheel-drive 300, but if you drive one, consider scheduling your test drive during inclement weather. We evaluated an all-wheel-drive Dodge Charger last May that had the same system, and on wet roads it allowed the rear tires to spin far too long before routing power to the front ones. Modern all-wheel drive tends to provide traction all the time; in the quest for incrementally better fuel efficiency, Chrysler may have compromised just that.

Four-wheel-disc antilock brakes are standard, with larger discs and twin-piston calipers up front on the 300C. With either drivetrain, the pedal exhibits smooth, linear response and strong stopping power.

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