Preparing to shoot a few segments of Big Jon in 5 for BEER2WHISKEY in our upstairs studio at Barley's Taproom in downtown Greenville. That's owner Josh Beebe preparing for his closeup.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Tooling Around Texas Hill Country with the Chrysler 300 and Ram ProMaster City

I'm not the kind of guy who blows off a carmaker event in Austin even with a freshly blown-out knee. Nope, that just isn't me. However, I did offer Chrysler the opportunity to delete me from its December roll out of the redesigned 300 after hyper extending my left knee climbing off a ladder during my shed-building adventure. It wasn't that I was in pain or immobile, but I was walking with a cane.

 Despite the fact these events are driving centered, there is often some amount of walking involved. Because I didn't want to surprise the Chrysler folks with my disability, I contacted them offering an out. They wouldn't hear of it. After issuing assurances they would take care of me, they told me I was a key person on this trip and the event would be an utter flop if I was missing. Yeah, no, they didn't say that. Are you kidding? I am but a tiny grain of sand on the miles of beach that is auto journalism.
Meat and bourbon at Austin's Searsucker.
They did promise to take care of me and take care of me they did. My room at the W Austin hotel was right next to the elevator. When the group walked the couple of blocks to dinner at Searsucker the first night, I had my own shuttle. I could get used to the preferential treatment I received. This trip was a twofer. Not only did Chrysler introduce us to the 300, Ram tagged along to present its ProMaster City as well. This was a lot to cram into a two-day program, but it wasn't overwhelming; it was just very busy.

Chrysler continues to take the 300 upmarket. The availability of Nappa Leather, hand-sanded wood accents in the cabin and engine options including a 363-horsepower Hemi V8 are just a taste of possible upgrades.

The price of admission to the 300 is $31,395 for the entry-level 300 Limited. There are three other trims ranging in price from $34,895 for the 300S, $37,895 for the 300C and $42,395 for the 300C Platinum. The standard engine for all four trim levels is a 292-horsepower V6. Chrysler squeezes another 8 horsepower out of it in the 300C. All but the Limited can move up to the V8. Both engines are hitched to a driver-shiftable, eight-speed automatic transmission. In the 300S and 300C Platinum it comes armed with a “Sport” mode. The shifter is a console-mounted dial.

The V6 can be fitted with all-wheel drive. With RWD it delivers an EPA-estimated 19 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. This, Chrysler claims, is the best-in-class V6 highway number. AWD mileage drops to 18 city/27 highway. The V8 is rated at 16 city/25 highway.

Hugely enjoyable to drive, the 300 provides ultimate road manners with loads of interior space and all sorts of technological geegaws to make the driver's life easier and wow the kids – if they happen to look up from their smart phones to notice.

The W Austin served as our overnight accommodations and headquarters for this event. Although it's located downtown, I wasn't able to rally to hit any of the music haunts on 6th. I just wasn't up to hoofing it around from joint to joint. Damn knee!

 Dinner our first night was at Austin's Searsucker. GM introduced me to this meat-intense restaurant at an event in San Diego a few weeks before. If there was one near me at home, I'd spend some serious time there. Good food and terrific bar.

Our 300 drive threaded through the Texas Hill Country. It was a rainy, dreary day of driving. Fortunately, the 300 performed well and kept us entertained. We paused mid-day at the Union on Eighth in Georgetown, Texas. There we chowed down and drove some of the 300's competition.

Returning from the 300 ride and drive, we were handed off to the Ram group for our ProMaster City indoctrination. Things began off site at Austin's Brazos Hall, where we sampled some cocktails and had dinner.

ProMaster City is a smallish work van well suited for urban areas. Reflecting its Fiat roots, its size focuses on the need to negotiate skinny, ancient European trails more than anything else. The panel version's cargo area falls just a few inches short of being able to carry a standard 4x8 sheet of plywood.

Available as a cargo van or passenger wagon, the ProMaster City can be very basic or pretty well contented. Base prices range from $23,130 to $25,665. No matter which version, though, the engine is a 178-horsepower 4.4-liter four-banger. Joining the four cylinder in turning the front wheels is a nine-speed automatic transmission. Together they can haul up to 1,883 pounds of payload.

Ram squeezed our driving of the ProMaster into the morning of our departure day. Pairing up, we drove an example of the ProMaster City to Austin's Troublemaker Studios. Owned by Robert Rodriguez, the movie it's best known for is “Sin City”. A fun place to stage further ProMaster City drives, we were prohibited from shooting any photos because we were basically using the sound stage for a current production. Being the rule follower I am, I complied with the studio's request.

Later that day, we hustled off to the airport for our return flights. I always hate leaving Austin in my rearview mirror, particularly when I couldn't take full advantage of its music scene.

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