When the first generation Chrysler 300C was introduced in 2004, its unorthodox ‘gangster-car’ styling won over a few fans in the luxury car segment, especially those who frequent the notorious party strip of King’s Cross in Sydney. With high shoulder line and small glass house, it cuts a menacing figure in any rear view mirror. Back then it even had decent dynamics for an American sedan, as it was based on the W211 Mercedes-Benz E-Class platform of the same era.
However, most bought the 300C purely on looks. In 2012, Chrysler introduced an all-new, improved version of the 300 (the C now denotes the mid-range model). It retains the imposing styling but adds new technologies and a vastly improved cabin.
We spent time with an entry-level 300 Limited to find out if the reborn Chrysler has what it takes to edge out a niche in an increasingly small large-car segment in Australia.
Design & Comfort
Despite looking strikingly similar to the first-generation 300C, the 2012 model is all-new. Its brash styling may have been toned down slightly, but its short overhangs, pumped out guards and shallow glass house ensure maximum visual impact on arrival. The 300’s road presence is almost second to none.
Step inside and it becomes obvious the car was designed in the Daimler-Chrysler era, from its interior design, choice of material to finishes. The previous-generation’s depressingly low-rent hard plastics have been replaced with richly textured soft-touch materials, while an 8.4-inch touch screen display controls everything from vehicle settings to sat-nav, freeing up the dashboard from buttons.
The retro-style instruments are classy, especially with the chrome needles, and easy to read. At night, they light up a pale blue that is a joy to behold. A colour information display screen conveys everything you need to know about the vehicle, from fuel economy to tyre pressure status, although switching from one screen to the next is a bit fiddly. The toggle-style electronic gearshift lever takes a bit of getting used to at first, but works beautifully once accustomed.
The 300’s driving position is excellent, thanks to the 8-way powered driver’s seat and electrically adjustable tilt and telescopic steering column. Its generous wheelbase (3,052mm) translates to an abundance of leg and shoulder room. There is also adequate amount of headroom, despite its low roofline suggesting otherwise.
The 300 is fitted with big, indisputably comfortable, soft seats designed for fast food loving Americans (our entry model missed out on leather), lots of storage cubbies and oversized cup holders. Its 462 litre booth space is decently sized but is still 64 litres down on the Holden Commodore sedan’s cargo space. Sadly, the previous-generation’s practical wagon body style has been discontinued.
Performance & Handling
The Chrysler 300 is impressively quiet at cruising. Hardly any road, tyre or wind noise makes their way into the cabin. This can largely be attributed to Chrysler’s use of acoustic glass and foam filled roof pillars.
The 3.6-litre Pentastar naturally-aspirated V6 generates 210kW of power and 340Nm of torque. It mates brilliantly with the ZF 8-speed E shifter that delivers power smoothly to the rear wheels. There is good urge from the get go, with ample reserves of power throughout its rev range.
In normal mode, the transmission is reluctant to downshift. However, select ‘L’ and the 300’s character is transformed. Throttle response suddenly becomes a whole lot sharper, and the linear power delivery is accompanied by a deep growling soundtrack. Kick down is almost instantaneous and preceded with a throttle blip.
It covers ground smoothly but is cumbersome around corners. Any mid-corner bumps will unsettle the car and you are always aware of its heft. Although well weighted and meaty, the car’s steering isn’t overflowing with feel either.
Like most rear wheel drive cars, the 300 also exhibit mild lift-off oversteer from its standard 18-inch 235/55 tyres.
While the exterior design may be evolutionary, the 2012 Chrysler 300 looks decidedly classier. There is a robust feel to the Canadian-built car as well.
The cabin, though, is a big leap forward, both in presentation and built quality, compare to the previous-generation. The elegant interior is clean and free of the thousands of buttons that seemed to plague some of its rivals.
Fit and finish however, is still below class best, with some inconsistent panel gaps. Yours truely is also not a fan of the overly coarse textured material used on the dashboard and upper door trims.
Those who are after fuel economy is probably reading the wrong review. Our drive of predominantly 70 per cent city commute, with freeway and country driving thrown in for a good measure returned 11.4L/100km of 91 RON.
That’s 2 litres off the mark quoted by Chrysler. Of course, our test average was achieved with scant regards for fuel economy. Nevertheless, it sips less fuel than the Volkswagen CC we tested last year with a similarly sized engine. It returned 12.3L/100km of wallet emptying premium unleaded.
The Chrysler 300 Limited is superbly well equipped for the money and an entry-level model. As befitting its American origin, there are plenty of chrome both inside and out.
Standard features include electrically operated front seats and steering wheel column, bi-xenon headlights with C-shaped LED daytime running lights, interior mood-lighting, Chrysler’s Uconnect 8.4-inch touchscreen with Bluetooth and reversing camera, a 276 watt 6 speakers sound system and 60/40 split-folding rear seats.
Our test car is also optionally equipped with an easy-to-use sat-nav system, albeit with rudimentary graphics.
At the end of the day, the Chrysler 300 Limited is an accomplished cruiser most at home devouring long, straight bitumen. Its suspension is too softly sprung for enthusiastic driving. For keen drivers, the 300 SRT8 or a Holden Commodore SV6 might be a better option.
However, its value for money is hard to ignore. With more technologies than an equivalent Holden Commodore or Ford Falcon, together with impressive refinement and supple ride quality courtesy of its Mercedes-Benz E Class underpinnings, it makes for a proper luxury alternative to the mainstream sedans.
|Price (Excl. on-roads):||$43,000. As tested: $44,000*|
|Engine:||3.6-litre Pentastar V6|
210kW @ 6,350rpm 340Nm @ 4,650rpm
|Transmission:||8 speed auto with E shifter; rear wheel drive|
|Fuel consumption (manufacturer’s):||9.4L/100km|
|0-100km/h (manufacturer’s):||7.0 seconds|
|Dimensions:||Length: 5,066mm, Width: 1,905mm, Height: 1,488mm, Wheelbase: 3,052mm|
|Kerb weight:||1,801 – 1,897kg|
Competitors: Holden Commodore SV6, Ford Falcon G6, Mercedes-Benz E Class, BMW 5 Series, Jaguar XJ, Volkswagen CC
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