Chrysler’s brand revolution is nearing completion as the company unveiled a significantly revised 300 sedan at the Detroit auto show. On a stark white stage, Chrysler brand president and CEO Olivier Francois introduced the car with a melodramatic story recounting the uncertainty of bankruptcy last year, reciting Eminem lyrics and quoting poet Robert Frost. In his thick, French accent, Francois spouted Eminem’s words, saying, with a straight face, “This opportunity comes once in a lifetime, yo.”
Just as it was at the 300’s debut in 2003, the revised 2011 model is all about a unique and emotional design. Chrysler’s big sedan retains the bold, imposing presence with a classic American shape, but it’s more windswept in profile. Chrysler has modernized the design with shapelier headlights featuring LED elements that Chrysler design vice president Ralph Gilles says are inspired by the eyes of an eagle. The 300 also adopts Chrysler’s new corporate grille complete with a fresh company badge on top.
The windshield is raked back more and the back glass takes on a faster angle, but the exterior changes aren’t just about looks, the new 300 also features a larger greenhouse for improved visibility and cabin brightness. “We’re guilty for starting this whole beltline craziness,” Gilles said. “As we go forward, being relevant is also being functional without losing our spirit.”
The rear-wheel-drive sedan will be offered with Chrysler’s familiar 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 or the company’s new Pentastar V-6 making 292 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. During Monday’s press conference, Francois revealed that the 300 will be offered with the new ZF-designed eight-speed automatic transmission, but we’re told that the car will initially launch with last year’s five-speed automatic. The eight-speed will become available on V-6 models in late 2011, though Chrysler hasn’t decided if the eight-speed will be standard or optional equipment. Equipped with the eight-speed and the six-cylinder, the 300 should be good for highway fuel economy “approaching 30 mpg,” according to Francois. You can read our complete first look of the 2011 Chrysler 300 in our Detroit auto show coverage.
The 300 was joined on stage by the heavily revised 2011 models of the Town & Country and 200 sedan, which were revealed last fall. Chrysler’s fourth product, the 200 convertible, will be the final product in revitalizing the brand’s entire lineup for 2011.