BLING KING

The new 300C isn’t much keener on cor­ners than the orig­i­nal but it’s a bet­ter car in ev­ery other re­spect

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Car News - STU­ART MARTIN stu­art.martin@cars­guide.com.au

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.

VALUE

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.

TECH­NOL­OGY

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.

DE­SIGN

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.

SAFETY

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.

DRIV­ING

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.

VER­DICT

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

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