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It's been all too long since a new American sedan created anything more than an apathetic yawn from consumers. Between relentless Japanese competition and America's seemingly endless obsession with trucks and SUVs, the idea that a domestic four-door could be the "it" car of the year seemed laughable. Then along came Chrysler's new 300 sedan, a car so unabashedly nontraditional in both its style and its substance that it makes the competition look hopelessly bland in comparison.

Chrysler veered from the usual route of designing a car that would appeal to the broadest swath of the general public and instead went for a look that's original at best and polarizing at worst. Like it or not, there's no denying that it has a presence on the road that no Camry or Taurus could ever hope to duplicate. Backing up its sinister looks is the performance of a rear-wheel-drive chassis and a suspension design shared with some of its more expensive Mercedes cousins. And not only does the outrageous exterior look good, it surrounds a cavernous, well-trimmed interior that's as spacious as any sedan on the road.

Built to straddle the lines between upscale family car and entry-level luxury sport sedan, the 300 offers both a base V6 (190 horsepower) and a midlevel V6 (250 hp), depending on your budget. As surprisingly adept as these V6s are at getting the big sedan up to speed, it's the top-of-the-line Hemi-engined 300C that gives the car its star power. With 340 horses running through a five-speed automatic transmission, the 300C is in a class of its own. And if that's not enough, you can always step up to the high-performance SRT-8 version that packs a 425-hp Hemi under the hood along with larger wheels and a lowered stance.

Chrysler took a chance when it decided on such a radical design for the 300 and the results speak for themselves. Along with an award like Most Significant of the Year, the 300 will also serve to garner the respect of car buyers who always yearned for something a little different but couldn't justify something exotic to fulfill their wishes. The 300 not only gives them something to aspire to, it gave fans of the American sedan something to be proud of -- a most significant feat indeed.



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