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    Two Muscular Cars to Rev Up Your 2015

    car1Work out more: that’s a common New Year’s resolution. Even if you’re off your routine, your car could feel like it’s been doing squats while you sleep. Two cars I drove recently, the Chrysler 300S and Nissan 370Z Nismo, had that kind of burly strength.

    Both the Chrysler and Nissan start at around $30K in their cheapest trims, and options can take them both well into the $40K range. The tested Chrysler 300S was just under $41K, and the Nissan was mid-$46K. The Chrysler is a large four-door sedan; the Nissan is a purposeful two-seat sports car.

    Both cars trace their basic designs to the previous decade, and have been upgraded over time. The Chrysler 300 debuted in 2005 and was refreshed for 2010. In 2015, it gets another round of refinements, like electric power steering, although the John Varvatos designer edition disappears. The 370Z enters 2015 with minimal changes, like standard Bluetooth and a new Sport trim level.

    car2Driving the 2014 Chrysler 300S shows why this car has the staying power of Neil Patrick Harris. I was impressed with the first 300C and its 363-horsepower, 5.7-liter HEMI V8 engine. That setup is still available, but this 300S, with its 292-horsepower, 3.6-liter Pentastar V6, was plenty powerful with a quick fire off the line, and swift shifts from the eight-speed automatic transmission. The V6 is worth exploring, especially since the 2015 models post a four-mpg overall gain over the V8. And unlike the larger engine, it does not specify mid-grade gas.

    Handling is a longtime favorite aspect of the 300. Even the skinny-tired rental versions have a responsiveness that’s a cut above. The tested 300S felt like a guy you aren’t quite sure is doing steroids. Everything this 300S gave back felt beefy and strong. A feeling of invincibility occasionally crept in.

    The Nismo is the top 370Z, but it is not necessary. Its engine has only 18 more horses than the standard 332-horsepower, 3.7-liter V6. The Nismo’s handling tweaks extend the 370Z’s bleeding edge, but I wouldn’t find myself out there much, and most other drivers won’t either. The Nismo has its fans, but for me, it reinforces the standard Z’s intrinsic worth. I did like the Nismo’s grippy Recaro sport seats, though.

    If I bought either car and drove it in SF, I wouldn’t kid myself that it would get anything close to the EPA city mileage rating. Moving the 300S’s two tons up the hills drives the numbers down, and my inability to keep the boot out the Nismo’s accelerator did the same. I’d expect to get 10–15 mpg under those conditions, and go higher for more reasonable highway consumption, with the Chrysler claiming 31 mpg.

    Both cars have distinct identities with their own definitions of American and Japanese muscularity. And both are exhilarating, like a good workout. The 300S and 370Z Nismo make you feel capable and strong, which are desired feelings, however they come.

    Philip Ruth is a Castro-based automotive photojournalist and consultant at Check out his automotive staging service at