BIG Amer­i­can en­dures

Cars­guide takes a look at how the Chrysler 300C, re­leased in 2005, rates as a used ve­hi­cle.

The Weekend Post - Motoring - - Front Page -

THERE was a time when US cars reigned supreme over the Aus­tralian mo­tor­ing land­scape. It was a time when big­ger was bet­ter, when au­to­mo­tive pres­tige was mea­sured by the me­tre.

Many Aus­tralians in the 1940s as­pired to own an Amer­i­can car of the sort be­ing built and sold by Holden and Ford. But by the time Chrysler re­leased the 300C in 2005, there had been a seis­mic shift in the mar­ket and US cars were re­garded as gas guz­zlers that were poorly built and less re­fined than Euro­pean or Ja­panese ri­vals.

But the 300C had a num­ber of things go­ing for it that would help it find its niche: US cars still had a fol­low­ing here, it was built and backed by Daim­lerChrysler and it was dis­tinc­tively styled.

The 300C was a sur­prise hit. With its big, bold chrome grille, tall slab sides and chopped roofline it caught the imag­i­na­tion of a sec­tion of the lo­cal mo­tor­ing pub­lic.

Spend time in a 300C and it quickly be­came ev­i­dent it was a head-turner. Peo­ple might not nec­es­sar­ily have known what it was, but they sure took no­tice of it.

Chrysler was aim­ing to steal a slice of the big-car mar­ket from the Fair­lane/LTD and States­man/Caprice, and it suc­ceeded.

Un­der the bon­net was ei­ther a 183kW 3.5-litre, sin­gle-over­head-camshaft V6 or a 250kW 5.7-litre Hemi V8 that had cylin­der de­ac­ti­va­tion to save on fuel.

Chrysler claimed cylin­der de­ac­ti­va­tion, called MDS, was good for 10 to 20 per cent sav­ings. The V6 was given a four-speed auto; the V8 a five-speed auto with a slap­stick man­ual change.

On the road, the 300C was sur­pris­ingly unAmer­i­can. In­stead of the ex­pected slop­pi­ness, it steered with pre­ci­sion and feel, braked con­fi­dently and the han­dling was well bal­anced and re­as­sur­ing.

Not such a sur­prise was the 300C’s ride, which was com­fort­able and ab­sorbent with good iso­la­tion and lit­tle noise in­tru­sion, even on its 18in wheels and tyres.

Stan­dard gear in­cluded cli­mate-con­trolled air­con­di­tion­ing, cruise con­trol, fog lamps, CD stacker, re­mote cen­tral lock­ing, full electrics and leather trim.

For a V6 pay $30,000-$36,000 for a 2005-2006 model; add $5000 for a Hemi V8. Though style is an at­trac­tion for 300C buy­ers, the al­lure of the Hemi V8 prob­a­bly makes a bet­ter re­sale propo­si­tion than a V6.

It’s early days in the life of the 300C, but own­ers re­port few prob­lems so far. Noth­ing sig­nif­i­cant has come to light; the is­sues re­ported are mi­nor and have been ad­dressed by Chrysler.

The soft­ish ride can re­sult in dam­age to the un­der­body and sus­pen­sion if driven too fast over speed humps, so make note of any noise com­ing from the sus­pen­sion.

Re­plac­ing low-pro­file tyres fit­ted to large di­am­e­ter af­ter­mar­ket al­loy wheels can be ex­pen­sive, so check tyre prices be­fore de­cid­ing on a car with big wheels.

Mass is a great pro­tec­tor when it comes to a crash, and the 300C is well en­dowed in that area. It weighs more than 1800kg with airbags all round.

Be­ing a large car, the 300C is not as ag­ile as a smaller one, but its chas­sis, cour­tesy Mercedes-Benz, is well bal­anced and elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol helps out. The anti-skid brakes are pow­er­ful and its steer­ing lets the driver know what’s go­ing on, so it has a pow­er­ful pri­mary safety pack­age.

A heavy car with a big V8 isn’t a recipe for low fuel con­sump­tion, so be pre­pared for a shock.

The cylin­der de­ac­ti­va­tion sys­tem on the Hemi V8 is a mit­i­gat­ing fac­tor in its favour, but the 5.7-litre V8 will still be thirsty. Ex­pect 12-15 litres/100km.

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