The new 300C isn’t much keener on corners than the original but it’s a better car in every other respect
TODAY, I’m feeling like a rap star.
I’m behind the wheel of the latest Chrysler 300C and, even though it really shapes up as a value-first American alternative to the Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore, it has the head-turning gangsta looks that have always made it special. Chrysler has Italian masters these days following a Fiat takeover, but it’s made no difference to a car that has hit a sweet spot in Australia— and not just with old-timers who want to return to the glory days of the Adelaide-made Charger.
The 300 is an impressive beast after a wheels-up makeover that includes improved cabin quality and new-age V6 and eight-speed autos first seen in the Jeep Grand Cherokee, even though it’s taken more than 18 months to get right-hand drive cars flowing Down Under.
The Big Yank is now available in three models, from the basic 300 through the midlevel C to the stonker V8-powered SRT8, and sales continue to rise as rapidly as the Falcon and Commodore are sliding.
This 300 Limited starts with the price on its side.
At $43,000 its features list is well up to the locals and runs from cloth trimmed poweradjustable (front) seats and a 60/40 split-fold rear seat to satnav, 18-inch alloy wheels, Alpine audio, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio, cruise and trip computer controls and dual-zone aircon with rear vents.
There is also keyless entry and start, three 12-volt outlets, automatic bi-xenon headlights and LED daytime running lights, a tyre pressure monitoring display, parking sensors and a reversing camera.
Optional on this base model, but fitted to the test car, is Garmin satnav in the infotainment package.
The new petrol V6 gets a tick in the Grand Cherokee and nothing changes here. It’s a smooth, quiet and powerful 3.6-litre with twin overhead camshafts and variable valve timing producing 210kW/ 340Nm. Chrysler claims 13.9L/100km around town and 6.7L in highway driving with a 72-litre tank, but the overall figure of 9.4L/100km is well ahead of the 12.0L I returned during predominantly suburban driving.
Still, it’s not thirsty enough to justify the massive $5000 price premium for the more frugal diesel.
Against the Falcon and Commodore, the 300’s trump card is its eight-speed ZF automatic transmission. It gives it long legs on the open road but you need to be careful with the electronic shifter to avoid sliding past reverse and into park. The big sedan feels tighter and stronger than its predecessor, with increased use of high-strength steel in the body structure.
The gangsta car is the same but better than the original 300. It’s still bold, squared-off and handsome, but a little more elegant and refined than its predecessor. It’s a big beasty, measuring just over 5m long and 1.9m wide, but 1.5m tall with a 3.1m wheelbase.
You’ll also need long arms to reach fully open doors from a seated position.
Plenty of chrome, dual exhausts and bling headlights all give it a distinctive look, although more than a few people miss the old Bentleyesque grille.
The cabin is comfortable and roomy, without being as cavernous as you might expect. Four adults are easily accommodated and boot space of 462 litres will carry their gear, although the wheel arches intrude in the boot.
There’s no ANCAP rating on the big sedan yet. It has stability and traction control, rain brake support (which uses slight pad pressure to dry the brakes when wipers are on), ready-alert braking (that moves brake pads closer to the disc face for quicker brake response if there’s a sharp step off the accelerator pedal), hill-start assist and anti-lock brakes.
Airbags number seven: dual front and front-side, a driver’s knee bag and fulllength curtains.
In its US homeland, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives it a
‘‘ good’’ crash rating and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration awards it five safety stars.
Introverts should avoid the 300. It is a definite head-turner and proof that Aussies still like large cars, even if they’re not buying as many.
It’s big but feels tauter and less of a barge than the previous model, without the lumbering lethargy.
That’s partly the new V6 and partly the chassis tune.
The power pack provides smooth and quiet daily commutes without drinking heavily, with open-road manners that are more than acceptable.
The Chrysler still doesn’t have the steering or balance that you might expect from a Commodore or Falcon, but it’s not bad. The cabin is very comfortable, has good storage and the features list is more than worthy, including some clever and not-so clever touches— foot-operated park brakes are not a favourite.
You can control the sound system using buttons on the back of the steering wheel spokes— not a new feature but one worth mentioning as it leaves the wheel less cluttered.
The Chrysler 300 is the likeable leader of an American product charge, big on equipment and value to battle the homegrown Commodore and Falcon.
Impressive: The 300 aims to give the locals a run for their money with its good looks and, below, roomy interior