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SEDAN SURVIVOR: Chrysler’s big, handsome, all-American 300 soldiers on as automakers increasingly shift toward SUVs

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Reruns of “Leave It to Beaver,” that late 1950s-early ‘60s TV comedy, can be caught in glorious black and white on the MeTV network weekday mornings. Its gentle, family-based humor provides a fanciful flashback to life in imaginary American suburban times.

One of the show’s most nostalgic aspects, some 60 years on, is the array of automobiles inhabiting the driveways and tooling along the fictional streets of Mayfield.

The show’s closing credits note the cars were supplied by Chrysler Corp., and what a panoply of fantastical vehicles there were back in those days. Big Plymouth, Dodge, Chrysler and DeSoto sedans sport space-age designs with outlandish fins, chrome-laden grilles, and bench seating for six.

Sedans ruled the road, unlike today where sedans are falling out of favor as SUVs surge in popularity. Chrysler still clings to the concept, though, with its bold, handsome 300 sedan (and its twin-under-the-skin Dodge Charger).

A week in a 2019 300S AWD reveals a vehicle with comfy seating, plenty of stretch-out room, surprising quiet on the highway, a bundle of luxury appointments and a load of attitude.

The “S” model in the 300 lineup delivers a menacing mien thanks to its big, 20-inch blacked-out alloys and black chrome grille surround, while an optional S Model Appearance Package ups the ante through body-color front and rear fascias with unique daytime running lamps, premium LED fog lamps, sculpted sill moldings and a perky body-color rear spoiler.

Opting for all-wheel drive limits engine choice to a V-6, precluding the iconic Hemi V-8 that grants optional muscle-car power to rear-wheel-drive versions of the family-style sedan. Still, in “S” guise, the six’s power output is upgraded to a solid 300 horsepower from 292 in its standard form. The added 8 horses come courtesy of a cold-air intake and performance exhaust.

All 300s, regardless of which engine, deliver power smoothly to the rear or all four wheels through an excellent eight-speed automatic automatic transmission. The V-6 capably executes two-lane passes and pulls strongly on long interstate ascents. “S” models include sporty steering-wheel shift paddles that work in conjunction with a push-button sport mode to serve up sharper throttle and shift responses and a quicker steering ratio.

As the closest the 300 line gets to sport-sedan capabilities, the 300S provides confident, predictable handling with none of the marshmallow wallowing and car-sickness swaying vacationing families contended with in those big American sedans in the “Beaver” era. Revised suspension bushings, stiffer springs, and thicker anti-sway bars work in tandem with 20-inch summer tires to bring a tauter yet still pleasantly compliant ride around town or on the open road.

Inside, the 300S serves up plenty of large-sedan passenger room. The front sport bucket seats are big and comfy, but taller passengers relegated to the back might find headroom a tad shy. Seating surfaces are swathed with leather, while a nickel-finish analog clock and blacked-out interior accents highlight the performance-focused cabin. Ambient blue lighting adds a high-tech look to gauges and data displays.

Up-to-date security and driver assistance technology is available but requires optional packages to deliver a full panoply of safety features.

In line with the 300S’ focus on performance, it doesn’t overlook the sedan’s audio performance with a kickin’ Alpine surround-sound system (optional) including a 506-watt amplifier driving nine premium speakers and a thumping trunk-mounted subwoofer.

The 300’s chunky, sharp-edged exterior styling has aged surprisingly well over the years, remaining stand-out handsome in a shrinking sea of similar-looking would-be competitors. Whether Chrysler will see value in taking the plunge and produce an all-new replacement of its flagship sedan remains up in the air.

But the current version still has plenty to offer to buyers who desire to drive a classically big, all-American sedan.

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