Brand-by-Brand Guide to Car Infotainment Systems

Our subscribers get real about their infotainment systems, which can be technological marvels that make driving a dream, or so difficult to use that they’re downright infuriating

The Standout

Fiat-Chrysler Uconnect 8.4: 70 percent very satisfied
Its straightforward touch-screen design, combined with a few traditional knobs and buttons, helps make Chrysler’s Uconnect 8.4 infotainment system a favorite with consumers. Satisfaction with Bluetooth and voice commands—often sore spots with drivers—ranked highly. Don’t confuse the 8.4 with Chrysler’s lesser Uconnect systems, which have smaller screens, less capability, and a much lower satisfaction rating of 49 percent. With an infotainment system this good, it’s too bad very few Chrysler models are recommended by Consumer Reports.


Very Good Systems

Hyundai Blue Link: 63 percent very satisfied
Hyundai specializes in making intuitive systems. A 2015 Hyundai Sonata owner says he’s “amazed at how easy it works.” Other owners appreciated that the Genesis incorporates both a touch screen and controller knob. Hyundai’s quick-to-learn voice command and Bluetooth systems rank highest for owner satisfaction.

 



BMW iDrive: 60 percent very satisfied
BMW’s iDrive employs a console-mounted controller knob, although the latest version adds a touch screen and is easier to use than earlier iterations. Still, mastering iDrive takes some time. It’s super-reliable, with good Bluetooth connectivity. Owner satisfaction with Bluetooth and call quality is very high, as is the system’s thoroughness: “It is very comprehensive and tells me everything about my vehicle,” an owner says. An X3 owner added, “The learning curve is fairly steep, but the system is not bad once you get the hang of it.”

 



GM (Chevrolet, Buick, GMC) MyLink/IntelliLink: 57 percent very satisfied
These high-ranked systems from Chevrolet, Buick, and GMC closely mirror Chrysler’s design. Screens are intuitive, most fonts are large, and there are multiple traditional knobs and buttons. Steering-wheel remote controls are comprehensive. Owners generally like using the OnStar system, which can call a live GM concierge for roadside assistance or to download directions straight to the navigation system.

 



Kia Uvo: 57 percent very satisfied
Like sister company Hyundai, Kia has infotainment systems that use knobs and buttons along with a touch screen. We suggest splurging for the optional navigation system’s larger screen; a 2016 Sorento owner complains that the basic screen “is way too small, and the messages on it are even smaller.”

 



Audi MMI: 57 percent very satisfied
MMI uses a controller knob, buttons, and a screen. The system is complex, but many agreed with the 2013 Q5 owner who said it “takes getting used to. Once mastered is intuitive.” The latest Audis feature the optional Virtual Cockpit—which replaces normal instrument gauges with a big digital screen that can display Google Maps and phone calls straight ahead of the driver.

 



Lexus Remote Touch: 56 percent very satisfied
This system uses a trackpad or mouselike joystick, and a high-mounted display screen. A Lexus RX owner reports that “using the mouse-based system is cumbersome but manageable.” Owners like that the touchpad is easier to reach than a faraway touch screen. Lexus also won praise for easy-to-use Bluetooth audio streaming.

 


Average Systems

Nissan NissanConnect: 54 percent very satisfied
Pairing a bright screen with knobs and buttons, Nissan’s info­tainment systems are intuitive to use, with Bluetooth audio streaming that works well.

 



Infiniti Infiniti Connection: 54 percent very satisfied

Most Infiniti models are relatively long into their market cycle, which explains the dated-looking graphics of their info­tainment systems. But Connection, which combines a touch screen with a controller knob, works better than the newer, slow, and glitch-laden Infiniti InTouch system that rolled out first with the 2014 Q50 sedan. A worrisome note: The InTouch system, when separated from the overall Infiniti brand, finished dead last in our rankings—with only 38 percent very satisfied—because of its frequent software crashes and slow startup.

 


Volvo Sensus Connect: 52 percent very satisfied
Most current Volvo models use familiar-looking radio knobs and buttons to control a center screen. Winding your way through the menus isn’t intuitive or easy. The new generation of Volvo infotainment, launched with the 2016 XC90 SUV, uses a large iPad-like touch screen that requires a lot of fingertip swiping to navigate.

 


Mercedes-Benz Comand: 51 percent very satisfied
Comand pairs a center knob controller with a display screen. Earlier iterations were relatively easy to use, especially for a German luxury brand known for having complicated engineering. But though many rivals are simplifying, the latest versions of Comand have grown more complex, losing familiar knobs and buttons, and gaining a protuberant touchpad and more involved menus.

 



Subaru Starlink: 50 percent very satisfied

For years, Subaru’s infotainment systems were antiquated. Recent models finally have a modern touch-screen system combined with knobs and buttons. Although clearly improved, the new system remains decidedly average. Voice commands and Bluetooth satisfaction are average as well. Owners complained that the glossy screen “reflects bright sunlight, making it hard to see.” Many owners complained that the navigation system cannot be programmed when the car is moving.

 



Ford MyFord/MyLincoln Touch: 49 percent very satisfied
Ford was an early innovator in infotainment. But owners of MyFord Touch report reliability problems, with the system “constantly rebooting” and sometimes requiring replacement. Subsequent years have had fewer problems, but the screen design remains cluttered and unintuitive. Certain models replaced buttons and knobs with touch-sensitive flush buttons that were “overly touchy.” A 2013 Fusion owner writes, “MyFord Touch is a wonderful idea that was mostly implemented but was never really finished.” Ford is rolling out the new Sync 3 system, which responds quicker and is easier to use.

 



Mazda Mazda Connect: 49 percent very satisfied

One owner sums it up well: “Mazda still has some work left to do.” Mazda’s latest system uses a large central controller knob to select from a display screen. Another owner says, “I’m not impressed. It’s difficult to get through all of the steps to get what I want.” Owners were frustrated that the touch screen works only when the vehicle is stopped and that the voice-­recognition system often misunderstands commands. One owner complained that the Bluetooth was “incredibly flaky and crash-prone.”

 


Honda HondaLink/AcuraLink: 49 percent very satisfied
Honda and Acura info­tainment systems come in several designs, none of which make owners happy. Many were dissatisfied with voice-command quality­—the lowest-ranked among all brands. One owner found it “very difficult to use the commands because they must be said in ‘Acura-speak,’ not commonly used English words.” Our tests found the onscreen buttons and menus to be unintuitive.

 


Back to the Drawing Board

Toyota Entune: 44 percent very satisfied
Toyota’s system combines a touch screen and regular knobs and buttons, but the “whole thing is hit and miss,” one owner says. Complaints include small screens and slow system response. Voice commands often proved to be frustrating to use. The Entune app capability seems “clunky compared to phone apps.” Many respondents voiced frustration that the navigation system cannot be programmed while the car is in motion, preventing even passengers from entering a destination.

 



Cadillac Cue: 40 percent very satisfied
Owners criticize Cue for being “sluggish” and trouble-­prone, findings backed up by Consumer Reports’ reliability data. Some owners report having difficulty using Cue for months, even years, after purchase. A typical complaint: “This car REALLY needs a co-pilot with an IT degree.” Many criticisms focus on capacitive-touch buttons that are overly sensitive; one consumer noted that you “barely wave your hand in front of the Cue system and you change radio stations.”

 

Advertisements

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Ads Continue To Target Dads

Published: 06/21/2016  – by , Correspondent

AUBURN HILLS, Michigan — Moms are taking a backseat in a new round of commercials for the all-new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica minivan.

The ads ask the question: “What kind of man drives the Pacifica?”

The answer can be found in comedian Jim Gaffigan, a father of five and the “every man” in the campaign.

While driving his kids to soccer practice, making fast-food runs and dreaming about napping, Gaffigan extols the virtues of the Pacifica, which is on sale now at Chrysler dealerships. The campaign makes it clear the Pacifica is for dads who care about the safety and comfort of their family — even if they tend to complain a lot.

The automaker said the ads are “tongue-in-cheek,” while highlighting the various features of the Pacifica, including a long list of safety items.

The Pacifica replaces the Chrysler Town & Country minivan and targets the Honda Odyssey, Kia Sedona, Nissan Quest and Toyota Sienna.

Edmunds says: This campaign makes it clear the Pacifica is not just for soccer moms.

Dodge Shedding Family-Sedan Image With 204-MPH Hellcat

By Mark Clothier Dec 22, 2014

Dodge’s Charger SRT Hellcat is a hot-rodder’s dream: with 707 horses under the hood, it goes 204 miles per hour and devours the quarter-mile in about 11 seconds.

Chrysler bills the Hellcat as the fastest production sedan on earth, and this isn’t simply about bragging rights. Dodge, derided not so long ago for selling mostly bland family haulers, is rebooting itself as a muscle-car brand that appeals to guys in their 20s and 30s.

It’s an audacious bet because if gas prices surge again, a bunch of Challengers and Chargers may end up at used-car lots. And though Dodge’s performance heritage goes back a century, the brand has long been seen as the poor-man’s Chrysler. No one is more mindful of the challenges than Sergio Marchionne, chief executive officer of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (FCAU), who in an interview called Dodge “the best-kept secret in the house.”

“There’s a lot of work to be done,” he said. “But there is a unique place in the American mind for Dodge. And we need to satisfy that need.”

When Fiat took control of Chrysler in 2009, Dodge wasn’t admired for much except its rugged and reliable Ram trucks. Marchionne split Ram off into its own brand. That left a desultory lineup that included the Avenger, a re-badged Chrysler 200 family sedan, and the Grand Caravan, a downmarket version of Chrysler’s Town & Country minivan. Dodges were priced to sell, often to rental-car companies and drivers with weak credit.

Performance Upgrade

Before imbuing Dodge with a muscle-car vibe, Marchionne needed to re-imagine the Charger and Challenger, cars originally created in the 1960s to take on General Motors Co.’s (GM) Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Motor Co.’s (F) Mustang. This year, redesigned versions appeared with more power, cockpit technology and styling that still echoes the original cars. Even the Durango sport utility got a performance upgrade, with an eight-speed transmission and the most horsepower of any mid-size SUV.

The Charger Hellcat is a classic halo car. At $64,000 and change (compared with about $28,000 for the base model), it’s not expected to sell in large numbers. Rather it’s an aspirational tire-shredder intended to telegraph Dodge’s new street cred. The designers had a sense of humor, too. The car comes with two keys: A red one provides access the engine’s full horsepower; a black one limits the output to 500 horses — a dumbing-down for teenage sons or parking attendants.

Improved Mileage

The modern muscle car isn’t the gas guzzler it was a half-century ago. The V-8 Mustang GT Fastback gets 25 mg on the highway, while the V-8 Camaro gets 19 mpg. Even the Charger Hellcat turns in a respectable 22 mpg.

Focusing on performance may work well for Dodge, but it’s risky, said Michelle Krebs, senior analyst at Autotrader.com.

“If prices go up or the economy tanks, discretionary purchases like performance cars are the first to go,” she said.

So far Marchionne’s bet is paying off. The new Charger, Challenger and Durango have outsold their segment. Dodge says its cars now appeal to the youngest drivers in the industry, with half of customers belonging to Generations X and Y.

The early successes give Marchionne what he needs to take the next step: narrow Dodge’s focus by ditching some models and gradually adding ones that fit the new direction. Dodge has stopped making the Avenger and will discontinue the Grand Caravan in 2016 when Marchionne also plans to give the mid-size Journey SUV and compact Dart their own performance makeovers.

Generating Heat

The company says Dodge will sell 600,000 vehicles by 2018. That’s only a slight increase from last year, but Marchionne will have to get there without the Avenger and Grand Caravan, which generated almost 37 percent of Dodge’s sales in 2013.

That will require generating brand heat. To do that, Fiat Chrysler has resurrected John and Horace Dodge, who in 1914 started the company that bears their name. A print and television ad campaign depicts the brothers as fun-loving hot rodders who would feel at home in a Hellcat.

“The story of the Dodge brothers gives life to the brand,” said Tim Kuniskis, head of the Dodge brand. “It makes the brand something real. It’s part of the history of America. It’s not just five letters.”

Review: Dodge Charger still going strong with 8th generation

By Arv Voss, Auto Impressions 12/18/14

Washington D.C. >> The four-door 2015 Dodge Charger continues the evolutionary path from its muscle-car roots, classic design and historic racing heritage to today’s stellar high performance, featuring state-of-the-art engineering and technology.

The first Dodge Charger appeared in 1964 as a concept vehicle based on a two-door Dodge Polara, but as a one-off, open air roadster. It was conceived and built to help introduce the company’s new hemispherical head performance 426 HEMI engine. The following year, the 1965 Dodge Charger Concept vehicle made its debut at the Chicago Auto Show, illustrating the advanced design direction of the brand. The first generation production Charger appeared from 1966 to 1967. Generation Two ran from 1968 to 1970 followed by Gen III — 1971 to 1974. The fourth generation ran from 1975 to 1978. Generation V didn’t appear until 1981 and ran for 6 years, but as a front-wheel drive 2+2 hatchback, designed by Chrysler Corporation’s European design and engineering team. The hatchback design was dropped in 1987. Following a 12-year hiatus, homage was paid to the performance Dodge Chargers of the earlier muscle-car era with the debut of the 1999 Dodge Charger R/T Concept vehicle at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. It appeared as a fastback four-door performance coupe. Generation VI represented the years from 2006 to 2010. The Seventh Gen Charger ran from 2011 to 2014, with the 2014 Dodge Charger 100th Anniversary Edition celebrating Dodge’s Centennial year, which brings us to the eighth generation of Chargers — clearly the best yet.

This latest iteration Charger is the only four-door muscle-car in production, and it is the quickest, fastest and most powerful sedan in the world. The new Charger is not, by the way, simply a Dodge Challenger with two extra doors. There are six distinct trim levels of the new Charger: SE, SE AWD, SXT, SXT AWD, R/T, R/T Road & Track, R/T Scat Pack, SRT 392 and SRT Hellcat. All Chargers are rear wheel Drive with the exception of the V-6 SE and SXT models, which are optionally available with AWD, and all also come with zinc steering wheel mounted paddle shifters except the SE Trim.

Four engines are on hand to energize the various individual model Chargers: a 3.6-liter PentaStar V-6 with up to 300 horsepower and 264 foot-pounds of torque when equipped with the Rallye Group; a 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 with four-cylinder mode fuel cylinder technology — it delivers 370 horses and 395 foot-pounds of torque; an SRT 6.4-liter HEMI V-8 is next with 485 horsepower and 475 foot-pounds of torque; a 6.2-liter HEMI Hellcat Supercharged V-8 is the cream of the crop cranking out an incredible 707 horsepower along with a whopping 650 foot-pounds of torque.

There are three transmissions gearing energy to either the rear, or all four wheels: an 845RE Torqueflite 8-speed automatic with Auto Stick featuring Adaptive electronic control, optional Sport mode or paddle-shifted driver interactive manual control, a five clutch-pack design with only two open clutches in any gear, an off-center line pump with low-viscosity oil for reduced spin loss and a Torque converter lock with turbine torsional damper for low lock-up speeds in 1st through 8th gear; an 8HP70 Torqueflite 8-speed automatic also with Auto Stick, and featuring Adaptive electronic control, with optional Sport mode or paddle-shifted driver interactive manual control with Eco mode; and finally, an 8HP90 Torqueflite automatic 8-speed with Adaptive electronic control featuring full manual control via the gear selector or paddle shifters, with three SRT-unique selectable modes: Street, Sport and Track (with performance shifting and gear holding features).

In terms of its exterior styling, the new family muscle-car Charger displays a familiar and easily recognizable Coke-bottle form with scalloped body sides, menacing front crosshairs, a bold athletic stance, signature LED “racetrack” tail lamps that have all received a major redesign. The overall look of the Charger presents cleaner lines that create a sleek, chiseled and lighter appearing mass. The hood, fenders, front and rear fascias, headlamps, tail lamps, front doors and rear spoiler have all been resculpted, creating a more seamless look with improved aerodynamics — only the rear doors and the roof are unchanged. The rear makeover starts at the C-pillar’s touchdown point, which is moved rearward, creating a more exaggerated fastback appearance, combined with a shorter rear overhang. A new three-piece spoiler is more integrated into the deck lid, while the signature racetrack LED tail lamp showcases the same continuous glowing ribbon of light that debuted on the new 2014 Durango. The center high-mounted stop lamp is relocated from the top of the deck lid to the roofline inside the back glass, allowing the Charger’s backup camera to be centered.

Inside, the new Charger exhibits a restyled and driver-focused interior featuring new premium, soft-touch materials, a new customizable 7-inch full-color, driver information display instrument cluster and a new instrument panel center stack with next-generation Uconnect Access touchscreen and available HD audio system. The interior is instantly brought to life by its unique premium aluminum-lithograph driver bezel, which enables a seamless, billeted and highly detailed appearance, that carries through the instrument cluster and center console. The instrument cluster also received a high-tech treatment and now includes a full-color 7-inch DID, similar to the one found in the 2014 Dodge Durango and Dodge Dart. Standard on all models, this full color high-definition screen allows drivers to customize how information is presented in more than 100 ways.

A redesigned thick rim, three-spoke steering wheel with available rev-matching paddle shifters frames the Charger’s new instrument cluster. Buttons controlling driver information functions are now larger and illuminated for easier operation. Charger’s audio controls are still found on the back of the upper steering wheel spokes.

Looking to the center stack, the 2015 Charger features the latest Uconnect Access suite of technologies. A performance-inspired all-new leather-wrapped electronic gearshift lever is standard on both V-6 and V-8 models. The fully electronic shifter mimics a linkage shifter, providing tactile and visual cues for gear location. Performance-contoured seats provide optimum support and comfort with dual-density foam, spring suspension and top layers of light-density foam sewn into the covers.

The amount of storage space is designed for optimal use, and the wrapped center armrest opens for easy access to Charger’s USB port, 3.5mm auxiliary input jack, SD card slot or 12-volt auxiliary power outlet.

Oversized door pockets feature grained surfacing on all four doors and integrate bottle holders. Abundant ambient LED lighting with a white glow is located in foot wells, door-pull cups, overhead console (to light the center console below), door map pockets and cubby bin.

Pricing for the 2015 Dodge Charger will range from $27,995 for an SE V-6 RWD to $63,995 for the SRT Hellcat.

During the national press preview and launch of the new Charger, my driving partner and I began our journey in a pre-production Dodge Charger SRT Supercharged Hellcat on the way to Summit Point Motorsports Park in West Virginia for track testing in the rain. Our Charger Hellcat test car wore an exterior sprayed pitch black with a black and sepia toned interior. The base price was set at $62,295 while options including: the Laguna Leather Group, Harman Kardon® Audio Group, power sunroof, Uconnect 8.4 Touchscreen with AM/FM/SXM/BT and NAV GPS Navigation 20-inch tires and destination charge elevated to final sticker amount to $69,165. We were also able to test lesser models, both on road and on the challenging two-mile track with 10 turns. There was even a specially equipped Police Pursuit Dodge Charger available for testing on the track, complete with operational lights and siren.

SUMMARY: The 2015 Dodge Charger unquestionably lives up to its billing. It is truly the quickest, fastest and most powerful four-door sedan in the world, and with six different trim levels one should be able to find one to suit both their budget and performance requirements. There’s literally a Charger for everyone and all of the V-8 models certainly deliver an exhilarating time behind the wheel in the wet or on dry pavement. The Hellcat is definitely the most potent, and it serves up sports car performance with family sedan practicality and versatility. Aside from the Hellcat’s incredible acceleration, the exhaust note is nearly orgasmic. Put the pedal to the metal, and relish in the exotic V-8 note.

Certainly not a nod to frugality, but the new Charger is a hoot when nailing the throttle off the line (using the launch control or not) and lighting up the tires — smoke ’em if you got ’em. No water necessary for slipping and sliding. The opportunity to enjoy the prowess of the new Charger on twisting roads and in freeway driving was most enjoyable but the track exercises offered the opportunity to indulge in excess without the risk of receiving a present from John Law for excessive speed or reckless driving.

The redesigned cabin provides a warm and inviting atmosphere, along with being performance oriented and driver focused, and the materials, fit and finish are certainly a cut above the levels offered by many competitors. Don’t be surprised if there is a flooding of used Vipers on the market soon, as the Charger is not only more comfortable than a Viper, and more practical, seating up to five, and in the case of the SRT Hellcat, the performance is superior to that of the Viper as well.

Handling characteristics are stellar and the ride quality is comfortably compliant, while also delivering exceptional stability. Whether on-road or on-track, Charger SRT owners may personalize their drive experience via an all-new Drive Modes feature. Drive Modes tailor the driving experience by controlling horsepower, transmission shift speeds, steering (Charger SRT only), paddle shifters, traction and suspension. Drive Modes are pre-configured for Sport, Track and default settings, while the custom setting lets the driver customize the drive experience to their favorite settings. Custom — Allows the driver to personalize the vehicle’s performance. Sport — Delivers increased vehicle performance capability over the Default Mode. Track — Delivers maximum vehicle performance capability on smooth, dry surfaces, and Default — Activates automatically when starting the vehicle. The Drive Mode feature is controlled through the Uconnect system and may be accessed by Pushing the SRT button on the instrument panel switch bank; Selecting “Drive Modes” from the “SRT & Apps” menu; or by Selecting “Drive Modes” from within the Performance Pages menu.

The Dodge Charger SRT with a Hellcat engine comes standard with two key fobs — red and black. The red key fob is the only key that can unlock the full horsepower and torque potential of the Charger SRT Hellcat engine; while the black key fob limits the driver to a reduced engine output.

Valet Mode is provided on both Charger SRT and Charger SRT with a Hellcat engine. With the Valet Mode activated, the following vehicle configurations are enabled: Engine is remapped to significantly reduce horsepower and torque; limited to 4,000 rpm; transmission locks out access to first gear and upshifts earlier than normal; transmission will treat the manual shifter position the same as the drive position. Traction, steering and suspension are set to their “Street” settings; steering-wheel paddle shifters are disabled; Drive Mode functions are disabled; Electronic Stability Control is enabled to full-on; and Launch Control is disabled. The driver can activate and deactivate Valet Mode with a personal four-digit PIN code they create. This should also work well on teen-aged drivers.

In the final analysis, the 2015 Dodge Charger is a far cry from its predecessors and should please nearly all individuals from mild to wild. My personal favorite is of course the SRT Hellcat Supercharged, but the other versions aren’t chopped liver either. There’s no “Dodging” the fact that this latest iteration Charger sets the high performance bar considerably higher than ever before.

First Drive: 2015 Chrysler 300

The March of Progress

By Scott Evans | December 21, 2014

Progress is inevitable. Sometimes it happens quickly, but often it’s a slow march. Enough small steps forward, though, can add up to a bigger total leap. Such is the story of the 2015 Chrysler 300. It’s composed of myriad small improvements that when taken together turn a good car into a genuinely better car.

The biggest of the small changes to the updated 300 rings in at 33 percent, and it’s the increased size of the grille. Chrysler admits the previous model, while a much better overall car than its predecessor, didn’t have the presence and attitude of the 2005 car we all love. This car, the Chrysler people say, is inspired by the 2005 car, though I see more Jaguar XJ in it. Making the nose taller and reducing the slope of the hood would help, but that would no doubt run afoul of pedestrian impact regulations. Elsewhere, new taillights, wheels, and exhaust tips differentiate the new car from the old, though perhaps not to the casual observer.

The next largest small change stares you in the face. The new instrument cluster shows clear influence from the all-new Chrysler 200 and adds a great deal of functionality. The dials remain watch-like in appearance, but they’re now split by a 7.0-inch customizable display that provides the driver with far more information that’s much clearer and easier to read. Just in front the cluster is another small but noticeable change: the steering wheel. Lifted from the 200, it’s a stylish piece that’s comfortable to hold with intuitively laid-out controls. It’s connected to a new, fully electric power steering system that few owners will notice as being different. Steering response is linear and appropriately quick for a large, semi-luxury sedan. The weighting increases naturally as you turn the wheel, and if you dig deep enough in the center touchscreen’s menus, you can change the overall weight. There’s no road feel in the wheel, but the old car didn’t really have any, either, and it isn’t sorely missed in a big cruiser like this.

The steering wheel isn’t the only new round thing in the interior. There’s also Chrysler’s rotary shifter, plopped unceremoniously on the center console. Functionally, it’s worlds better than the old electric rocker it replaces, but an opportunity was missed to actually integrate it into the interior design or take advantage of its compact size to free up some needed storage space on the console. Instead, it’s been shoehorned into the hole where the old shifter sat, and that’s that.

The good news is it’s still attached to Chrysler’s eight-speed automatic transmission, and it’s got an improved Sport mode. Select S, and the throttle tightens up, the downshifts get more aggressive, gears are held longer, and the transmission will hang out in lower gears than normal to keep the engine in the meat of the powerband. Should you choose to use the paddle shifters while in S, the transmission will go full manual and won’t revert back to auto. Press the separate Sport button on the dash to tighten up the steering, as well. Press that button without selecting S on the transmission, and it’ll also sharpen up the throttle response and enable the paddle shifters, though the transmission will revert to auto if you don’t touch them for a while. All the above transmission talk applies to both V-6 and V-8 models. The ancient five-speed auto that held back V-8 300s for so long is finally gone, replaced with the quicker- and smoother-shifting eight-speed. Better ratios and programming fully exploit the V-8’s power and willingness to rev in ways the five-speed never could, and it buys you an extra city and combined MPG, as well. For the 15 percent of 300 buyers who opt for the V-8, it’s a godsend. Finally, the V-8 car drives as well as the V-6 car, but with more power and more rumble. Although we mourn the loss of the under-appreciated (to the tune of less than 1 percent of all 300 sales) 300 SRT, the 5.7-liter Hemi is plenty quick in its own right and feels faster now that the transmission can keep up. The unloved V-8 AWD model is likewise departed. The standard 3.6-liter V-6 also is perfectly quick. With up to 300 hp in S models, the V-6 is tuned to provide plenty of low-end torque, and for most people, it’ll feel nearly as spritely around town as the V-8. It doesn’t have the raw power to compete on the dragstrip, but it’s plenty strong enough to satisfy the average driver from light to light. It even makes a pleasant growl in the process.

If there’s one thing that hasn’t changed about the 300, it’s how the car drives. It still feels like a big, imposing car. The big, long dashboard rolling out ahead of you into the long, wide hood gives a sense of length to the car, and the wide, short windshield seems to stretch the car from one side of the lane to the other. From behind the wheel, it imparts a feeling of grandeur and privilege generally reserved for much more expensive cars. Despite some efforts to reduce the curb weight, the 300 still feels big and heavy when you pitch it around a corner. The seats, while quite comfortable, aren’t made for serious handling maneuvers, and though the suspension keeps the car composed at all times, it can’t mask the physics at play. The weight transfer evident while cornering discourages hardcore performance driving, but driven well within its limits, the 300 grips and handles very well and is still fun on a good road. Pushed to those limits, the car will alternatively understeer if you carry too much speed into the corner or oversteer if you’re too assertive with the throttle on the way out, though in both cases the computer is happy to intervene and keep the car pointed in the direction you originally intended. Ride quality remains as good as ever, compliant and isolating for comfortable cruising. All in all, it drives just like the last 300, and that car drove quite nicely. The computer’s services aren’t limited to overzealous driving, either. The adaptive cruise control system will now bring the car to a stop and resume moving in traffic, if the stop isn’t too long. The camera watching the road ahead will subtly warn you if you drift out of your land and gently move you back in if you don’t take action. Best of all, the point at which it issues a warning and the vigor with which it forces you back into your lane are both adjustable via the touchscreen. That same camera will also watch for stopped cars ahead and will now even brake for you if you’re really not paying attention. The 99.9 percent of the time you do your own braking, you might find the initial bite of the brake pedal a bit spongy, but you’ll get used to it, and the car will have no issue slowing or stopping. The new 300’s improvements aren’t all mechanical, either. Inside, the quality of materials has risen even further than the existing car, and the fit and finish is impeccable. The optional contrasting color schemes add a visual pop not found in the competition. Extra charge-only USB ports in the rear will be greatly appreciated in device-heavy households. The 2015 Chrysler 300 is a textbook definition of a mid-cycle refresh properly executed. A gaggle of small but significant updates altogether push the already good car further forward, creating a product with fewer weak points than ever before. Best of all, most of the little improvements are essentially gratis, as the base price remains the same as the outgoing car. Slow progress isn’t as exciting or sexy as a big makeover, but the result can be just as good.

2014 Chrysler 300 Review By Larry Nutson

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

2014 Chrysler 300
Imported from Detroit

by Larry Nutson
Senior Editor, Chicago Bureau Chief
The Auto Channel

My most recent long-term drive in Chrysler’s 300 was almost two year ago in a 2012 model. Back then the new eight-speed ZF automatic transmission had just been introduced paired with the V6 engine.

Along with the powertrain improvements, since then Chrysler has freshened the interior with very significant improvement in materials, finishes, component fit and overall appearance and layout of its 5-passenger flagship sedan.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

As I write about the 2014 Chrysler 300 that I am driving we are on the cusp of seeing another redesign of the 300 for 2015 that is expected to be revealed at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November.

My driver-for-a-week was a very attractive Deep Cherry Red Crystal Pearl Coat 2014 300 equipped with the 292HP 3.6-liter V6 and AWD and with a base MSRP of $33,495. Options on this vehicle included a $2600 Driver Convenience Group that includes a rear back-up camera, power front seats, fog lamps, remote start and a few other items.

Also equipped was a huge dual-pane panoramic sunroof for $1595, as well as the $995 Uconnect 8.4N audio/navigation equipment. With the obligatory $995 destination charge we rang up the total at $39,680.

For 2014, model variants include the 300, 300S, 300C and 300C John Varvatos Luxury Edition in RWD or AWD, and the 300C John Varvatos Limited Edition in RWD.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Unique to the Chrysler 300S model is the award-winning 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine with a cold-air induction system and sport-tuned exhaust system – which enables the aluminum mill to produce 300 horsepower (+8 horsepower), 264 ft.-lb. of torque (+4 ft.-lb) compared to the rest of the six-cylinder 300 models.

For customers who seek more performance, the Chrysler 300S and 300C are available with the 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 engine with four-cylinder mode Fuel Saver Technology and 370 horsepower, along with a firmer performance-tuned suspension and larger performance-disc brake system.

Expected fuel economy is always an important consideration in shopping for a new vehicle. The 300 achieves its highest EPA test rating of 19 city mpg and 31 highway mpg with the V6 RWD model. If you want Hemi V8 power the consequences will be lower expected fuel economy The EPA test ratings for the V8 RWD are 16 city mpg and 25 highway mpg. With AWD the ratings are lower due to the added weight and drive train friction.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

The 300 has a very long list of standard comfort, convenience and safety features making it a very well appointed entry in the large car class. Standard are heated-leather front seats, Uconnect 8.4 with voice commands, front-row reactive head restraints, advanced multi-stage air bags, full-length side-curtain air bags, seat-mounted side-thorax air bags, driver’s knee bag, rear head restraints in all positions, electronic stability control (ESC), Hill-start Assist (HSA),

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Rain Brake Support (RBS), Ready Alert Braking (RAB), tire-pressure monitoring (TPM), USB port with iPod control, SiriusXM Radio, SD-card reader, auxiliary audio input jack, steering-wheel mounted audio controls, six-speaker audio, Keyless Enter-N-Go, dual-zone automatic climate control with humidity sensor, cabin air filtration, acoustic windshield and front-door glass, 12-way power driver’s seats including 4-way power lumbar, cruise control, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, leather-wrapped steering wheel with manual tilt/telescoping steering column, leather-wrapped shift knob, luxury floor mats, 140-mph LED-illuminated instrument cluster with full color and driver-selectable Electronic Vehicle Information Center (EVIC), satin chrome interior door handles, LED-illuminated assist handles and front map lights, LED-illuminated front cup holders, rear-passenger reading lamps, LED-illuminated front and rear door handles, LED-illuminated center-stack storage bin, glove box lamp, illuminated vanity mirrors and two 12-volt power outlets. Phew, what a list.

On the exterior, the Chrysler 300 model features 17-inch painted aluminum wheels, P215/65R17 all-season touring tires, comfort-tuned suspension, touring brake package, liquid-chrome grille bars with chromed surround, bi-halogen projector headlamps with chromed bezels, automatic headlamps, chromed daylight opening, chromed front and rear fascia accents, LED-illuminated “C” shaped daytime-running lamps (DRL), body-color exterior mirrors and door handles, LED-illuminated taillamps with LED-illuminated light pipe, dual-chromed exhaust tips with rolled-edges, cap-less fuel-filler door with power release, 17-inch compact spare tire and chromed “300” deck-lid badge.

All-wheel-drive gets you 19-inch wheels and P235/55 tires. On the 300S and 300C John Varvatos 20-inch wheels and P245/45 performance tires are equipped. Suspension tuning and brake upgrades are also available.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

I’ve enumerated the long list of standard features intentionally for you to see that the 300 has a very generous list of features to go along with its compliant and comfortable ride, quiet interior with low levels of wind and tire noise, and a great sound system. Seats are quite comfortable, ingress and egress is without problem, and the overall feeling of the interior is one of high quality.

The V6 paired with the eight-speed automatic provides very good acceleration, highway merging, lane changing and passing performance. Its quiet too and the engine sound and exhaust note under full throttle operation is very large-car like. The Hemi V8 will perform even better, although while drinking more gasoline.

If you would like to compare the Chrysler 300 to other large 4-door sedans, you can do that right here on http://www.theautochannel.com. If you would like to find any additional information or options on the entire 2014 Chrysler 300 model line you haven’t found here, they may be found a mouse click away at (a href=”http://www.chrysler.com”> http://www.chrysler.com.

The Chrysler 300 was named a “Top Safety Pick” by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), achieving their highest rating. And the 2014 Chrysler 300 was named a Consumer Digest Best Buy.

If I were purchasing a 300 (All 2014 Chrysler 300 Trim Levels), it probably would be the 300S model with the V6 and all-wheel-drive (AWD). I like the Chrysler system that, when AWD is not required, automatically disconnects the front axle to maximize fuel economy while still providing the fun-to-drive performance and handling inherent in rear-wheel-drive vehicles.

Stay tuned for details on the new 2015 that’s coming yet this year.