Power: 5,7-liter 340-horsepower V8
Fuel economy: 17/24 mpg
Unless you've been out of the country for the past few years, it's unlikely you've missed the hype surrounding Chrysler's full-size sedan. The 300C still turns heads when it rolls down the street (really: driving around New York in a black one caused everyone from teens to seniors to swivel), and it still has auto designers running back to their drawing boards
But what gets drowned out in all the talk of the 300's appearance is how good a car it is (one of the first and best fruits of the oft-maligned Daimler-Benz/Chrysler amalgamation). When you sit down in a 300 and close the door, there's an unmistakably Teutonic thunk. And there's more to it than that: The 300 shares its suspension and transmission design, steering, interior controls and four-wheel-drive technology with Mercedes-Benz's last-generation E-Class (which was no slouch itself).
That's the surprise of this car: You could write it off as a superficial styling exercise, but then it wows you by also being a serious driving machine.
There are many different kinds of 300 you can buy. The base models, with their six-cylinder engines, are nice, but the reason the 300 takes the blue ribbon here is that Chrysler had the crazy idea of stuffing a 5.7-liter V-8 under the hood. With 340 horsepower, the "Hemi" provides the 300C with almost as much thrust as its rich uncle, the Mercedes-Benz S550.
That kind of power is impressive in any kind of vehicle, but to find it in what should've been a humdrum large sedan is astonishing. And for a car this large, it's surprisingly nimble. Pulling a U-turn reveals the tight steering radius that Mercedes (and now Chrysler) is known for.
The Chrysler is also tremendously well equipped: navigation, Bluetooth, rear-parking sensors and all-wheel-drive are available.
The 300 falls short only in the cockpit. The dash is utilitarian, at best. The sharp lines and hard plastics are a victory of bean counting over design. Then again, you're less likely to focus on the aesthetics of the dashboard when you're cruising a twisty two-lane road and that Hemi V-8 is warbling under the hood.
The 300C started out as a looker, but it also has the goods. It wins.