Chrysler 300

By Paula MacPherson

I’m generally not a fan of big cars, and even though the 2012 Chrysler 300 is big, I liked it. The instrument panel is very pretty with its blue backlighting of the gauges.

 The opening in the steering wheel that allows you to see these gauges is small and the 8.4-inch touch screen that handles audio, navigation and communications from the center of the instrument panel is distracting.

The image on that screen tends to wash out with reflections under some lighting conditions, which is too bad since this screen also displays images from the backup camera. The light in the console mounted shift lever that tells you what gear you are in doesn’t dim at, so it’s distracting after dark.

Audio functions can be controlled verbally. I didn’t learn the prompts for all functions, but the ability to change bands and stations with a spoken command is impressive.

This 300 is luxurious. The steering wheel has a nice, relatively thick wood and leather rim that feels great. It’s also heated, which is nice on a cold morning.

As for driving the 300, I can’t fault it, but I can’t say the car is overly engaging, either. It feels solid and substantial, however, and I felt confident and safe behind the wheel.

That sense of security was enhanced by several safety features, including the blind spot and cross traffic alert systems. The former tells you when there is a car in your blind spot on the highway. The latter triggers a warning when you are backing out of a parking space and a car is coming in either direction. Both are great.

So, too, are the active cruise control and forward collision alert systems. I even consider the keyless entry and push-button start to be a safety feature. All you need to do to enter and start the car is to have the key in your purse. You don’t have to stop and fish for it, which could leave you vulnerable in some parking lots.

The V-6 in this Chrysler runs on regular gasoline and the filler has no gas cap to struggle with or lose. We averaged 22 miles per gallon.

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