Base Price: $30,345

Price as Tested: $38,325

This week, we're driving the flagship of the Chrysler family, its 2013 Chrysler 300. This full-size, rear wheel drive luxury sport sedan is high on handling, power, roominess and fuel economy, with 31 highway the EPA estimate.

Powered by Chrysler's heralded 3.6-liter 24 valve V6, there's more than enough power to outweigh the advantages of ordering your 300 with a Hemi V8 engine instead, where EPA highway numbers drop to 27.

All of the new Chrysler 300s come with an eight-speed automatic transmission, something Chrysler has perfected way before the other American manufacturers. Nowadays, and even more so than the actual engine, it is the transmission that allows for both peppy acceleration and the low rpm excellent highway EPA numbers.

Not surprisingly, former co-op owner Mercedes-Benz offers eight speed automatics, as does Porsche and BMW. However, the best to expect from the other two of the "big three" stateside builders is that General Motors and Ford will have 8-speeds by 2016. Chrysler, thus, has everyone beat again just like they did with their minivan back in 1984.

This ZF designed 8-speed transmission was first used by Chrysler in the 2012 Chargers and 300s with the same 292-horsepower V6 engine offering 260 lb. ft. of torque. ZF is a worldwide corporation with roots back to Germany in 1915 producing gearwheels and transmissions for the Zeppelin airships up to a present-day international group supplying driveline and chassis technology to the automotive industry. (ZF recently built a new plant in South Carolina)

Our tester 300 achieved zero to 60 in about seven seconds, and then cruised the freeway at 70 mph with the engine at about 1500 rpm's. All through the eight speeds, our 300 was a joy to drive and is way faster than expected.

And what's in Chrysler's future, you might ask? How about a Chrysler ZF designed nine-speed automatic that is right around the corner. Notable is that all Chrysler transmissions will be built in Kokomo, Indiana with ZF blessing.

Our tester came with $4,185 in options, specifically a $3,000 customer preferred package that adds 20-inch tires and chrome wheels, an upgraded touring suspension (loved it), two-tone leather seats; $1495 522-amp Motown power and sound group with 10 speakers, backup camera and more; and a $995 Uconnect Navigation with one year of Sirius Satellite.

Another 300 series high mark is the four wheel independent suspension, regardless of tune. We gave our 300 a firm and aggressive ride on a closed road circuit and there was no lean in the corners, the rear drive planted the car properly (no push anywhere) and the comfort expected in a Chrysler's 300 nomenclature car is there for sure. Overall, Chrysler's 300, even in the base model we drove, is a driver and a performer.

As for safety, 300 receives top ranked 5-Star results from the NHTSA, which is a tribute to Chrysler's dedication to safety. All airbags you can think of are standard, as are features like 4-wheel ABS discs, stability and traction control, and much more. Your Chrysler dealer will gladly explain all safety features in person, along with the long list of amenities and standard features. And if you live in snow country? No problem, as an AWD Chrysler 300 starts at just $35,345 and is ready for any inclement weather you throw at it.

With all this said, Chrysler 300 is one of the best test drives we've incurred this year, and it receives a 5-Star "Test Drive" recommendation.

Important numbers include a wheelbase of 120.2 inches, 4,029 lb. curb weight, 19.1 gallon fuel tank, 16.3 cu. ft. of cargo room, 19/31 EPA numbers and a 1,000 lb. tow capacity.

One irony? The fact that Chrysler markets the 300 as a "Motown" or "Imported from Detroit" vehicle when it's actually constructed in Canada-which is right across the river from Motown so no real harm done.

Likes: Transmission, looks, room, performance, economy, 300 legacy.

Dislikes: Console shifter takes some time getting used to, no steering wheel paddle shifters.

Greg Zyla is a syndicated auto columnist.