Having owned a Nikon 300mm f2.8 in the past, the new AF-S 300mm 2.8 VR seems far more compact. I think the hood length has been reduced and this gives the lens a stubbier look.
The lens also feels lighter than I remember from my old 300mm f2.8, but I know this is largely down to the fact that I'm now used to far larger lenses these days, such as 600mm f4 lenses.
This lens was purchased for no other reason than for a handheld VR lens, often with teleconverters attached, otherwise the ubiquitous (and most excellent) Nikon 200-400mm f4 VR lens would've been on my shopping list. Unfortunately the 200-400mm is somewhat longer in length and not as friendly for the roving photographer who doesn't want to be bothered with a tripod.
With a nice Optech strap attached to the lens, you should have no problem walking around with this lens all day.
The Nikon 300mm f2.8 AF-S VR Lens for Aviation Photography
The Moon with Nikon D2x and the Nikon AF-S 300mm f2.8 VR lens + Nikon TC-14E 1.4x
300mm bare = very, very sharp, never had a lens this sharp before now. Backgrounds were totally convincing, natural and smooth fall-off. Stopping down had no real benefit in terms of sharpness.
300mm + TC-14E = Almost identical to above... even wide open at f4 it is very sharp.
300mm + TC-17E = A major surprise to me. Wide open at f4.8 there was little significant degradation to the image, just very minor softening. at f5.6 we were back to images all but identical from the bare lens.