Ten Things To Know About the 2011 Chrysler 300

Gary S. Vasilash

Given the unprecedented success of the first-generation 300, which was launched as a 2005 model, Chrysler designers and engineers had a lot to live up to. And with the 2011, they overachieved on this new rendition of the E-class sedan.

1. According to Brandon Faurote, head of Chrysler Brand Design, one of the influences for the design of the second-generation 300 is the 200C Concept vehicle that appeared at the 2009 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Specifically, the “sharp edges with soft transitions.”

2. Another heritage design influence, this one going back much further: the raised fender forms on the 300 models during the 1950s. “A bit of American nostalgia,” Faurote says.

3. Inside: an all-new interior. Faurote: “More expressive. Fewer cutlines. Better fit and finish. Satin and bright-chrome details. Ice-blue lighting.”

If you zero in on the texture of the instrument panel, you’ll see, Faurote says, “animal grains, not mechanical.” Also, the IP has two-levels of gloss, something that is found in BMWs.

4. Mitch Clauw, chief engineer, says that the vehicle develop-ment began approximately 3.5 years ago at the Chrysler Technology Center in Auburn Hills. In a space designated the “LX War Room.” They undertook, he says, a “Design for Six Sigma” effort, during which they created a House of Quality and plotted some 3,300 functional attributes (If it is a knob . . . What does it do? What does it feel like? What is the effort necessary to turn it? . . . ) “Design for Six Sigma,” he says, “very specifically targets all attributes.” But it wasn’t a matter of engineers making judgments. They spent a lot of time talking with real people: “You get overly complicated if you don’t check the functions with the customers.”

5. Among the vehicles bench-marked that Clauw cites:
• Hyundai Genesis
• BMW 5-Series
• Mercedes E-Class
• Lexus LS 460

And the benchmarking was more than looking at lists of specs for the vehicles. For example, he says that when it comes to road and wind noise, the LS 460 was determined to be the best in the world. “So we took one apart and studied all of the elements.” Which led them to use two 8-ft. composite underbody panels, dual-pane acoustic windshield and front-side glass, under flush-mounted roll-framed doors, body-cavity silencing foam, and triple door seals to create a quiet interior.

6. One of the consequences of roll-over crash regulations, the pillars on cars, the A-pillar in particular, have gotten beefy, which attenuates visibility. This is not an issue with the 300. That’s because there is the extensive use of high- or ultra-high-strength steels. The total outward visibility for the 300 is improved 15% compared with the first-generation model; the use of ultra-high-strength steel for pillars and doors is cited as the reason this is achieved. Fifty-three percent of the upper unibody structure consists of the advanced steels. For example, transformation induced plasticity (TRIP) steel is used for the B-pillar (as well as for the lower header and rocker). More than 67% of the vehicle’s lower unibody structure is made with the advanced steels. For example, dual-phase steel is used for inner-front rails and in the engine box area.

7. To assure that the 300 would be viable for the long run, Chrysler engineers tested the sedans for more than 7-million miles (including public roads and proving grounds).

8. Standard is what is claimed to be the largest touch-screen display available as a standard: an 8.4-in. QVGA display that’s the primary interface for the Uconnect Touch infotainment system. To develop this system, Chrysler engineers obtained input from 4,100 owners of E-segment vehicles from Europe, Asia and North America.

9. The 300 is produced at the Brampton Assembly Plant in Ontario, Canada. In July 2009, after Chrysler came out of bankruptcy, the company put its personnel through training for a World-Class Manufacturing (WCM) program. At Brampton, more than 30,000 hours of training were taken. An example of a change that occurred at the plant as a result of the WCM training is at Trim 1 Line, where the body wire harness, battery, sunroof, and HVAC unit are installed. After analyzing all of the components involved, kits were created so that workers get precisely what they need to perform their tasks in-station. They’re anticipating an improvement in first-time build quality on the order of 20%. Plans are underway for kitting to be used for the final assembly line, as well.

10. Yes, it still has a HEMI. The 300C and 300C AWD models (the latter is equipped with an on-demand all-wheel-drive system that features an active transfer case and a front-axle disconnect system; when AWD capability isn’t needed, the system automatically disconnects the front axle; when it is needed, up to 38% of the engine torque goes to the front wheels) are available with a 363-hp, 5.7-liter HEMI V8. The engine features Fuel Saver Technology, which runs the engine on four cylinders when full capacity isn’t needed, and which provides a 20% improvement in fuel economy. The 300 and 300 Limited models are equipped with a 292-hp, 3.6-liter Pentastar V6. This engine features double-overhead cams with dual-independent cam phasers, integrated exhaust manifolds, polymer-coated piston skirts, forged con rods, and a high-pressure die-cast aluminum block. The HEMI is produced at the Chrysler Saltillo Engine Plant in Mexico; the Pentastar is produced at the Chrysler Trenton South Engine Plant in Michigan (with additional capacity available at Saltillo).