First drive: 2016 Chrysler 300S Alloy Edition

Chrysler dials up the sinister swagger in the 300S Alloy Edition

Chrysler taps into the minds of enthusiasts to create a 300 that feels customized right out of the showroom.

Eleven years ago, a small group of Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 owners in Southern California got together to create the first annual Spring Festival of LXs – a car show devoted to the Chrysler LX platform that underpins the two aforementioned cars, along with the gone-but-not-forgotten Dodge Magnum wagon and (in a slightly modified form) the Dodge Challenger.

Initially compromised of just a few dozen cars, the LX Fest has grown exponentially over the years. It now attracts well over a thousand diehard LX owners to the show, many of whom have added their own custom touches to their rides in order to give them a custom, one-off vibe. Years ago, the folks at Chrysler caught wind of the LX Fest and began supporting the show in various capacities, not only to meet these Mopar devotees, but to get a sense of the trends that enthusiasts have been gravitating toward. That research has helped to shape the evolution of the platform over the years.

Now in its 11th year running, FCA came out to this year’s LX Fest with the new 300S Alloy Edition along for the ride – a package which includes a host of features that owners formerly had to turn to the aftermarket for. Is it enough to keep this platform feeling fresh and vital? I hopped behind the wheel of a 5.7-liter V8-powered model to find out.

Staging for performance

When FCA revamped the entire LX lineup for 2015, a number of new models also entered the fray, including the Challenger and Charger SRT Hellcats and the R/T Scat Pack models. But part of this platform update included Chrysler quietly discontinuing production of the Chrysler 300 SRT in the U.S. (a pseudo-SRT model is still available in select global markets).

As one FCA rep explained it to me, the logic behind it was something of marketing miscommunication between FCA and their customers: Buyers looking for the plushest 300 money could buy would walk into a showroom and say “give me the best 300 you’ve got” and they land in an SRT model. But the problem was that the SRT models are built around performance, and for buyers looking for the epitome of old-school luxury, the raucous engine note and firm ride wasn’t translating particularly well.

It tacks on about 25 more ponies to the 5.7-liter’s 363 horsepower while also improving the engine’s soundtrack substantially.

With the 6.4-liter HEMI V8 removed from the 300’s options sheet, buyers looking for understated performance were left without a home in the Mopar lineup to some degree. And while the 300S doesn’t offer nearly the same level of performance as the 300 SRT did, it does recapture some of that presence and swagger.

The 300S has always been a model that’s had a focus on style, with 20-inch wheels, premium audio, and a posh leather interior among the list of standard equipment. The Alloy Edition takes this a step further, applying a bronze hue to the wheels not unlike the Brass Monkey wheels offered on the SRT-spec Challenger and Charger, along with matching trim, titanium exhaust tips, a body-colored rear ducktail spoiler, performance suspension and uprated brakes.

Taking things a step further here is the inclusion of the Scat Pack Stage 1 Performance Kit on this test car. Not to be confused with the R/T Scat Pack models mentioned earlier, this is a dealer-installed package of performance parts directly from Mopar Performance that are now on offer to provide more performance tuning options for owners of 5.7-liter V8 models, specifically in the realm of engine output and sound.

2016 Chrysler 300S Alloy Edition First Drive
Bradley Iger/Digital Trends
Bradley Iger/Digital Trends

Referred to simply as the Stage 1 kit on the 300 models, this includes a performance cat-back exhaust system, cold air intake, an ECU tuner and a performance oil filter. It tacks on about 25 more ponies to the 5.7-liter’s 363 horsepower while also improving the engine’s soundtrack substantially without raising the volume high enough to be obnoxious.

The Stage 1 kit commands a price tag of $2,495. That might seem like a lot until you start pricing out these components in the aftermarket and realize you might actually end up saving money here – and avoiding the hassle of seeking out the right parts and having them installed by a reputable shop.

There are also Stage 2 and Stage 3 kits available, which dig far deeper into the mechanicals, going as far as swapping the camshaft and porting the cylinder heads. But oddly enough, these higher tier kits aren’t emissions certified, which means that if you live in a state with smog laws you wouldn’t be able to legally operate a car with either of these kits installed. Here in California, that makes these kits essentially a non-starter, and performance enthusiasts will have to make do with the Stage 1 offering.

Evolving gracefully

The fact that the LX Fest is celebrating its 11th year running does inadvertently point out that the platform which underpins these cars has been in production for more than a decade. Contrary to popular belief, the LX platform is not derived from a Daimler design, but is instead an updated version of the Chrysler LH platform which had been tweaked to accept Mercedes-Benz E-Class and S-Class suspension components as well as a rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive powertrains.

The 300S Alloy Edition still provided enough entertainment to keep me engaged.

The LX architecture has seen a number of tweaks over the years that have helped maintain its viability, with the 2015 refresh offering some of the most comprehensive mechanical updates thus far, with a new automatic transmission and a host of new suspension packages on hand. The ZF eight-speed gearbox continues to be a winner here in the 300S, but while the Dodge SRT models now offer three-way adaptive suspension damping, on the 300 it simply isn’t on offer with any package – including the 300S.

That seems like a bit of a missed opportunity here since those adaptive dampers would likely allow the 300S to have a compliant ride in its most comfortable setting and responsive cornering in sportier modes – as the Challenger and Charger SRT models do – but without the ability to alter damping characteristics, the 300S Alloy Edition is relegated to a static suspension tuning that seeks to accomplish both, yet ultimately sides with comfort rather than performance.

Of course the aftermarket is more than happy to oblige owners looking for a lower stance and tighter handling, though considering the nature of this particular model, it seems like a more earnestly performance-tuned suspension setup should at least be on the options sheet.

But the 300S Alloy Edition still provided enough entertainment to keep me engaged during my time with it. Off the line acceleration is admirably rapid, with the quick ratios and fast shifts of the paddle-controlled automatic allowing the motor to stay in the sweet spots of the power band when I wanted to have some fun, but otherwise keeping things serene and under the radar when all of the car’s settings were keyed down while cruising around town. It might not be the 300 SRT I want it to be, but coming in at under $43,000 all told, it also doesn’t cost what a 300 SRT did either.

The road ahead

One of the reasons that the LX platform has such a devout following is that no one else is really playing in this full sized, rear-wheel drive sedan space in this price range anymore. Rumor has it that in a few years’ time, the LX architecture will be put out to pasture and replaced by augmented versions of the platform that the upcoming Alfa Romeo Giulia rides on, no doubt resulting in a smaller footprint for the 300, Charger and Challenger if they do indeed adopt it.

It makes sense considering where the industry is headed, particularly in terms of weight savings and chassis rigidity, but I wonder if that’s what all these Mopar fanatics at LX Fest are really looking for in a car. For enthusiasts, choosing a car is as much an emotional purchase as it is a pragmatic one, and the visual presence of these big, square-shouldered bruisers is a huge part of their appeal – as is their capacity for passengers, cargo, and housing 700 horsepower engines. Here’s hoping those folks have something to look forward to from FCA for many years to come.


  • Ample passenger and luggage space
  • Sinister looks from the factory
  • Block-rocking audio system


  • No adaptive suspension option
  • Platform starting to show its age

Fast and Furious fans get revved up: Toyota’s Supra sports car is back

The 2020 Toyota Supra made its long-awaited debut at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show. The resurrected sports car, famous for a role in The Fast and the Furious, goes on sale in the U.S. this summer.

With 341 horsepower, the WRX STI S209 is the most powerful Subaru ever

The Subaru WRX STI S209 is the latest in a series of special editions that have never been sold in the United States before. The 341-horsepower pocket rocket debuts at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show.

2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 is ready to strike with over 700 hp

The 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 revives one of the greatest names in American muscle cars, and gives Ford some ammunition in the horsepower war with Chevy and Dodge. Debuting at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show, the GT500 boasts over 700 hp.
Emerging Tech

Look forward to your morning commute with one of the best ebikes available

A proper ebike is perfect for commuting or a trek along the trailhead, with most offering pedal assistance and a long-range battery. As more brands offer their own take on this innovative way to get around, it's hard to distinguish the…

Cadillac is finally ready to take on Tesla with its own electric car

At the 2019 Detroit Auto Show, Cadillac announced plans for its first electric car. The unnamed model will be a crossover, based on a new platform to be shared with other General Motors brands.

Move mountains with the 2019 Ram Heavy Duty and its 1,000 pound-feet of torque

Unveiled at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show, the 2019 Ram Heavy Duty pickup truck boasts 1,000 pound-feet of torque -- outgunning rival trucks from Ford and Chevrolet. The new Ram goes on sale later this year.

Peloton’s tech lets truckers play follow the leader to boost fuel economy

Peloton Technology can help semi trucks save fuel by running close together on the highway. Using short-range wireless communications, the trucks get a kind of super cruise control.

China’s GAC Motor cruises into Detroit with all-electric Entranze concept

Chinese automaker GAC Motor brought its all-electric Entranze concept to the 2019 Detroit Auto Show. This is the third straight year that GAC has appeared in Detroit, and the company has established a design center in California.

2020 Ford Explorer branches out with sporty ST, efficiency-focused hybrid models

The 2020 Ford Explorer gets two variants never before seen on Ford's stalwart family hauler. The ST focuses on performance, while the hybrid aims for decent gas mileage. Both models will debut at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show.

Some of Volkswagen’s electric models will wear a ‘Made in the USA’ label

Confirming earlier rumors, Volkswagen has announced it will build electric cars in its Chattanooga, Tennessee, factory. The facility currently produces the Passat and the Atlas. Production will start in 2023, Digital Trends can reveal.

Infiniti previews its leap into one of the hottest industry segments

Infiniti will unveil the QX Inspiration concept at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show. The design study is an electric crossover shaped by Infiniti's newest design language that may point to a future production model.

Hyundai’s Veloster N hot hatchback will prove its mettle on the track

The Hyundai Veloster N will go racing to prove the credibility of Hyundai's new N performance division. Unveiled at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show, the Veloster N race car will compete in a class with other small cars.

Nissan IMs concept teases a future long-range, autonomous electric car

Debuting at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show, the Nissan IMs is an electric car with a 380-mile range, autonomous-driving capability, and a backseat designed for being chauffeured. Too bad it's just a concept car.

The 2020 Lexus RC F goes on a diet to run faster and hit harder

The Lexus RC F has been one of the heavier cars in its competitive set since its introduction. The Japanese firm's engineers set out to shed weight as they gave the model a mid-cycle update.