December 2, 2022

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Rare Rides Icons: In Memoriam, The Chrysler LX Platform (Part IV)

October 19th, 2022 4:48 PM

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The Chrysler 300 was the first production car to use the LX platform and was arguably the most important as well. We discussed the debut and styling of the exciting new 300 in our last LX platform installment. When it debuted in 2005 with retro-inspired muscle car styling and a good deal of Mercedes-Benz componentry, it garnered an immediate and positive impression from the buying public with its looks. But did it fare as well on its interior? Let’s find out.

Though Chrysler liked to compare the new 300’s looks to the 300 it offered in the 1950s, it did not pursue a Fifties-inspired interior. Instead, the 300 went more modern American, with chunky shapes and a mix of Chrysler and Mercedes switchgear. The dashboard carried a squared-off architectural look, with a rounded binnacle over the dials, a rectangular one for the center stack, and minimal outside detailing.

The gauges themselves were a bit of a throwback, with black numbers on a white background. Meant to look upmarket, gauges had a sort of British air about them (like a Rover). Set within a dark gray background to match the dash, the dials were flanked by a green LCD screen up top that showed the odometer, and a vertical green LCD screen was used as a shift indicator. 

The center stack was trimmed with aluminum effect plastic trim, in a suitably early 2000s brushed finish. A centrally-placed retro-looking analog clock was flanked by vents and sat above the stereo with (optional) CD player, and HVAC controls. The steering wheel featured the same sort of trim as the center stack on each of its four spokes and had a burled wood look insert on the upper quarter of the wheel rim. 

This same faux wood was also represented on the door pulls, and on the shift lever. It was a sort of take on what BMW was doing with its wood trim at the time. Elsewhere on the door, a large chrome door handle led to a thick chrome strake that represented the only brightwork on the doors. Side note: observe the sloppy saw work in this cutaway PR photo!

Upper trim 300s had leather interiors in stone, gray, or black. No matter the upholstery color, all 300s had the same two-tone dash treatment inside: A darker gray upper dash with a lighter stone lower half. The color split continued onto the doors and added some visual interest to the otherwise austere cabin.

Automotive press at the time praised the 300’s interior as roomy, efficient, and indeed stylish. While most outlets conveyed the 300 had a well-made quality interior, the TTAC review said otherwise. “The Chrysler 300’s interior continues the cheap and not-so-cheerful theme,” said Sajeev.

Underneath the good (or poor) interior, the rear-drive 300 used many of the same mechanicals as customers found on the front-drive 300M the year prior. Despite its Mercedes-Benz borrowing, the 300’s 2.7-liter EER V6 and 3.5-liter EGG V6 were Chrysler fare from the Nineties. The cheapest 300 customers experienced 190 horsepower from an EER, paired to the four-speed 42RLE automatic from the 300M. 

The 3.5-liter V6 made a much more respectable 250 horsepower, shifted through the aforementioned Chrysler four-speed, or the 5-speed W5A580. That code was the other name used by the Mercedes 5G-Tronic automatic. Fortunately, the 300 stepped beyond V6 power and used a couple of V8s as well.

The first of those was a 5.7-liter Hemi, commonly used in RAM trucks since 2003. Good for 340 horsepower and 390 lb-ft of torque, the 5.7 was available only with the five-speed Mercedes automatic. For those seeking max powah the only real option was the SRT-8 trim, which used a 6.1-liter version of the Hemi. It made 425 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque which meant the 300 was seriously fast. The SRT reached 60 miles per hour in 4.9 seconds, which was (and is) super quick by sedan standards. 

We need to take a quick aside to international markets with regard to engines. There was a diesel version of the 300, only in the Australian and European markets. It was a Mercedes-sourced 3.0-liter V6. A widely used engine from Mercedes, it was also found in the C-, E-, ML-, and S-Class cars. The diesel produced 215 horsepower and 376 lb-ft of torque in the 300 which meant sprightly acceleration of 7.9 seconds to 60.

Chrysler used six initial trims to differentiate the various 300s, which began at a base and unlabeled rear-drive model. This bare minimum 300 with the smallest 2.7-liter engine and a four-speed asked $24,025 ($37,392 adj.) and was available only with rear drive. Worth noting, the 2.7 was not offered in the Canadian market and the base model used the Touring trim’s 3.5-liter. For slightly more money, Chrysler added a Touring badge and some additional trim to the bargain for $27,945 ($43,493 adj.).

Touring was the lowest trim also available in an all-wheel drive version. As mentioned previously, it was a Mercedes 4MATIC system pulled directly from the contemporary E-Class sedan. Chrysler asked a couple of thousand dollars for the pleasure of four driven wheels, which meant $30,045 ($46,762 adj.) in Touring trim. Niceties here included a CD player, standard electronic stability control, leather seats, and keyless entry.

Between Touring and the super luxurious C was a Signature Series. Available only in rear-drive, the Signature asked $29,905 ($46,544 adj.). For nearly the same price as the AWD Touring trim, the rear-drive Limited trim used the same 3.5-liter V6 as the Touring but added chrome wheels and some sway bars. Its ask was $30,765 ($47,883 adj.), or $32,045 ($49,875 adj.) in all-wheel drive guise.

If a customer stepped up to the C trim it meant the 5.7-liter V8 was standard. Rear-drive Cs asked $33,770 ($52,560 adj.), and all-wheel drive examples were $35,095 ($54,622 adj.). All C cars came fully loaded and included large 18-inch chrome alloys. The more specialized SRT-8 focused more on power than luxury, and as such was available only in rear-drive guise. It was the most expensive model, at $40,045 ($63,326 adj.).

Though it had a somewhat complex trim setup in North America, the 300 expanded into more versions as its first generation progressed. Many forget there was even a long-wheelbase version for the limousine-type customer! And outside its domestic market, there was an additional wagon body style. A Chinese company got in on the action and made its own version too. We’ll cover these variants in our next installment, and review the first-gen 300’s sales figures. 

[Images: Chrysler]

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