The Chrysler 300 roars into the great Detroit car history books after a final Dream Cruise
Pour one out for the OG.
The Chrysler 300 — the last great sedan created by an American automaker and the catalyst for Detroit’s greatest horsepower race — is about to celebrate its last Woodward Dream Cruise.2023 Chrysler 300CThe rolling car show that originated as a celebration of muscle cars tips its hat this week to the farewell edition of the Chrysler 300C and the final gasoline-powered models of the Dodge Charger and Challenger, the 300’s siblings that made Dodge a highway hero and housed the ultimate expressions of Chrysler’s legendary Hemi V8.After a generation of increasingly bland sedans with modest engines, the 300’s long hood, squinting windows, V8 power, forward-leaning stance were thrilling and almost shocking when it hit the road for the 2005 model year.
The big sedan was simultaneously modern and referential to 1930s mob bosses and ‘60s and ‘70s muscle cars, while its rear-wheel-drive layout raised the bar for performance and handing.’You could feel the passion’The 300 T-boned American popular culture at full throttle when the big, gangsta lookin’ rear-wheel-drive sedan debuted as a 2005 model.Ralph Gilles with the 2005 Chrysler 300C“You could feel the passion that went into developing the car,” S&P Global Mobility senior analyst Stephanie Brinley said.
“The people who worked on the 300 knew they were making a statement.“The 300 gave Chrysler its swagger back.”Reviewers loved its looks and performance, but rappers made it chill.Drake compared it to a Bentley.
50 Cent battled a news chopper in a John Varvatos-trimmed 300S while Eminem and Adam Levine guested.
Dre hooked it up with Beats.Complex.com rated the 300 ahead of BMWs, Lamborghinis and Bugattis in the 25 most iconic hip-hop cars.The 300 swept the major automotive awards, including North American and Free Press car of the year.It made Chrysler matter.From concept car to sales starThe 300’s rear-wheel — and eventually all-wheel — drive platform was in development before Chrysler’s ill-starred merger with Daimler, but the project benefited from Mercedes’ parts bin, sharing its rear suspension and automatic transmission with the E-class luxury car.Story continues1999 Chrysler 300 design sketch by Bob Hubbach,“We looked at a lot of rear-wheel drive Americana concept vehicles in the mid-1990s,” said Ralph Gilles, one of the 300’s designers and now global design chief for Stellantis, the company that formed when Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot SA merged in 2021.“The 300 was a productionized take on the idea for the Chrysler Chronos,” an exuberant concept car first shown in 1998.
The 300’s grille and headlights drew immediate comparisons when a concept version was shown at the 2003 New York auto show.The 1998 Chrysler Chronos concept car was an inspiration for the 300.The production 300 was a sensation from the moment it hit the road in early 2004 as a 2005 model.“The production version and pricing shocked people.
Nobody believed they could get that car, with 20-inch wheels and a Hemi for under $36,000,” said Gilles, who penned the sketches that became the 300 along with fellow designers Mark Hall, Bob Hubbach and Jeff Gale.
“There was definitely something bigger than us that happened,” in the 300’s development and public acceptance, Gilles said.Millions on the roadThe Brampton, Ontario, plant that builds the 300 — and the Dodge Charger and Challenger that followed it — has produced 1.4 million 300s, 1.8 million Chargers and 838,371 Challengers since production began.
There was also the short-lived Dodge Magnum sport station wagon, which notched about 170,000 sales from 2004-08.Members of various disciplines review the feasibility of a design proposal for the Chrysler 300..With over 4 million built, Brampton’s production of 300s, Chargers and Challengers dwarfs total output of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s icons that bore the names before them.Chrysler shifted emphasis from the 300 to the Charger and Challenger in recent years as Dodge built its new performance image — “the Brotherhood of Muscle” — around increasingly powerful versions of the Hemi V8.
The ultimate expression is the 1,025-hp Dodge Challenger SRT Demon 179 muscle car, priced at $96,666 and built in a limited edition of 3,300 vehicles before Brampton closes to convert to EVs later this year.“I’m very proud of the 300,” Gilles told me recently.
Nearly 20 years in production with only one mild update and its proportions are still current.“I love the fact that it seeped into American culture.
That’s the prize.”1999 Chrysler 300 design sketch by Ralph GillesEnding on a high noteThe Chrysler 300 is still a terrific car.I just spent a week with the final edition of the Chrysler 300, the 2023 300C.
The letter C became synonymous with the 300, but strictly speaking, it only refers to V8-powered models.The Chrysler 300’s profile and proportions were nearly unchanged from the car’s debut in 2004 until the final car rolled off the line in 2023.For 2023, the final 300C got a 6.4L version of the Hemi V8 that produces 485 hp and 475 pound-feet of torque.
The base price is $55,000, with a $1,595 destination charge.You can pay more and get less.
Certainly, less curb appeal, road presence and power.
The 300 and Charger are virtually the only mainstream full-size sedans still on the market.
Surging demand for SUVs pushed other big sedans like the Buick LaCrosse and Toyota Avalon off the road sooner, but the 300 was always in a class by itself.Chrysler designer Bob Hubbach, front, and then-director of advanced design Freeman Thomas working with a 1950s Chrysler 300 in the background.It lacked wireless phone charging, and a couple of other features that were unimagined when the car debuted, but I missed the 300C when my week with it ended, and I’ll probably miss the 300 again when production ends, and be delighted as I see cherished examples joining the other classic cars on the road for the Dream Cruise and other events.Will the 300 ride again?The Brampton plant will shut down around the end of 2023 to convert for production of electric vehicles.We don’t know what those vehicles will be, but we know at least one successor to the 300 and its siblings’ bravado is in the pipeline.Dodge showed a concept for an electric muscle car, the Charger Daytona SRT Banshee, a year ago, with promises a production model will arrive in 2024.
Its power and performance are still secret, but Dodge made it clear the vehicle exists to be fast and exciting, a successor to the current Charger or Challenger.Dodge revealed its Charger Daytona SRT concept, “the future of electrified muscle,” before the 2022 Woodward Dream Cruise.Stellantis is mute on exactly what vehicles will come from that program, where they’ll be built and what names they’ll bear.Might one of them be an heir to the 300?“That’s a very popular notion,” among people who love the car, said Gilles, a man far too smart to tip his hand.
“It warms the heart.
The name has meaning.”Contact Mark Phelan: 313-222-6731 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @mark_phelan.
Read more on autos and sign up for our autos newsletter. Become a subscriber.This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: The Chrysler 300 roars into history after one last Dream Cruise