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New engine, transmission give sedan real moxie

In a first for North American automakers, Chrysler has fitted its full-size cars with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

In a first for North American automakers, Chrysler has fitted its full-size cars with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

For 2012, the six-cylinder Chrysler 300, 300S and Limited models get a standard eight-speed transmission built by German supplier ZF, which builds a similar gearbox for Audi and other upmarket European manufacturers.

This is on top of revisions made for 2011, which brought much-needed styling updates, mechanical revisions and a refined new double-overhead-cam V-6 engine that produces 292 horsepower.

But the eight-speed transmission yields two benefits.

With more gears, the Chrysler 300's fuel economy improves 17 per cent when compared with the 2010 six-cylinder Chrysler 300.

The other benefit of having eight gears: refinement. Adding three more gears to the transmission reduces the gaps associated with upshifting and downshifting, allowing for quicker engine response. Best of all? It's got a willing dance partner in the new V-6.

This new V-6 engine, used throughout Chrysler's lineup, produces enough juice to make this massive sedan move with moxie. The 300 is never lacking for power, even when equipped with all-wheel drive, as the test car was. This makes it a more attractive choice than the V-8. Yes, it has more power, but it comes at a price.

By contrast, the 300's 363-hp V-8 is mated to the old five-speed automatic. Fuel economy falls considerably, making the V-6 worth considering before settling for the V-8.

Like the 2011 300, the 2012 model retains its air of sophisticated grace, a benefit of last year's freshening.

The cabin is expansive, with generous room for passengers and wide, comfortable seats. Material quality has been significantly upgraded throughout the interior. The instrument panel is the essence of elegant simplicity thanks to the screen in the centre of the instrument panel that controls various functions with a very user-friendly interface.

Other updates keep the 2012 300 at the cutting edge.

Two new options this year include the Beats by Dr. Dre audio system, with a 522-watt 12-channel amplifier, and hands-free texting on Chrysler's Uconnect infotainment system.

The later option enables text-to-speech for incoming text messages, and provides the driver with speech-totext responses.

The addition of the eightspeed transmission is just the latest in a series of recent upgrades that allows the 300 to run with the big guns from Europe.

And with its fuel-efficient V-6 engine and up-todate electronics, you could say that the 2012 300 is batting 1,000.