Car reviews - Chrysler - 300C
Diesel’s low-speed torque, fuel economy, cocooning cabin, build quality
Room for improvement
Five-speed needs to be hussled in CDi, huge steering wheel, vague steering, transmission tunnel eats into interior space, some low-rent interior plastics
16 Jun 2006
JUST about every week we’re driving a new turbo-diesel hatch, sedan, wagon or four-wheel drive. They’re everywhere – or they seem like it.
Such is the rush to diesels that they are becoming the norm among an every increasing segment of buyers who appreciate the benefits – and fuel economy – of the latest-generation turbo-diesels.
Even the local brands are looking over their shoulders at the growing move towards modern diesels, which are quiet, smooth, powerful and offer better economy than equivalent six- and eight cylinder engines.
Volkswagen may have helped kick off the latest diesel craze in their smaller cars like the Golf and Polo but credit must go to Peugeot and Citroen for persevering, for many years it must be said, in offering a broad range of diesel sedans and wagons.
Today’s modern-day diesels are also a far cry from the rattly engines of old the ones many of us were familiar with in four-wheel drives, where they needed glow-plugs to warm up before ignition, idled like trucks and spewed out huge black clouds of smoke.
Turbo-diesels have turned a corner.
Take Chrysler’s 300C CRD, which utilises the latest-generation Mercedes-Benz 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel.
The engine has common-rail fuel injection with Piezo injection system, quick-start system, variable geometry turbocharging, particulate filter, all-alloy construction with cast-in grey iron cylinder liners and balancing shafts between the cylinder banks for smoothness.
It develops 160kW at 3800rpm but the real news is torque – 510Nm from 1600rpm to 2800rpm. This puts it just 15Nm behind the 5.7-litre HEMI V8, which delivers its peak torque at a 4000rpm.
Given that the 300C is approaching two tonnes in weight the healthy injection of torque has an immediate impact on the car’s low-speed response and all-round driveability.
At idle there is little to distinguish the turbo-diesel from the V6 petrol.
There is a strong throb emanating from the twin exhausts but it’s thoroughly in keeping with the brutish manner of the 300C’s in-your-face styling.
Around town you’ll be hard pressed to know there is a diesel under the 300C’s bonnet – and anyway, you’ll be basking in the glory of having people stop and stare at the Chrysler just about anywhere you park it.
Having only been on sale here since late last year, the 300C is still a relatively rare beast on Aussie roads and the turbo-diesel is even rarer. Given its bold American styling it makes a statement anywhere you drive it.
Compared to its local rivals, the Ford Fairlane/LTD and Holden Statesman/Caprice, the 300C has a longer wheelbase and is wider, taller and heavier.
Overall length is shorter than either of the big locals but the cabin remains reasonably roomy. The slim windows also have a cocooning effect for both driver and passengers.
But alas, neither of the locals offers a turbo-diesel – yet.
Equipment-wise, the 300C CRD gains all the attributes of the petrol V6, which includes leather upholstery, heated front seats, multi-function steering wheel, trip computer, electric front seats, 60/40 split-fold rear seat, Boston Acoustic CD stereo, 18-inch five-spoke alloys, short-arm and long-arm front suspension and independent five-bar multi-link rear suspension.
Safety equipment too is comprehensive and includes dual front and curtain airbags with front seatbelt pretensioners, rain-sensing windscreen wipers, ESP with brake assist, traction control, anti-lock brakes, Xenon headlights with washers, alarm and rear parking sensors.
Accommodation is relatively good for front and rear occupants. The transmission tunnel does eat into front footwell space and some of the interior packaging could be better but there’s nothing offensive about the 300C CRD’s interior and the odd splash of faux chrome.
So, the equipment levels tick all the right boxes so too the styling and comfort but what about the ride and handling?
As we’ve discovered in the petrol 300C’s the big Chrysler’s ride is a mixed bag.
Around town it is quite absorbent and remains quiet, with little intrusion into the cabin. Small bumps are well controlled but the car will occasionally be caught out over deep ruts.
Larger bumps and undulations do challenge the competency of the suspension. The 300C’s bulk can be felt in sharp corners and there is some pitching and body roll that would not find in a Mercedes-Benz.
The rack-and-pinion – height adjustable only - steering too is a little on the vague side more feedback would be appreciated and there is some rack-rattle over corrugations.
All 300Cs get a Mercedes-sourced five-speed auto.
In the CRD is its silky smooth in operation but requires some dexterous sequential manual shifting – it’s the old Mercedes sideways shifter – to get the best out of the diesel. Chrysler calls the five-speed “AutoStick” but there is no escaping the fact that newer gearboxes have overtaken it.
Many of the latest Mercedes-Benz vehicles use the brilliant seven-speed 7-Gtronic, which mates superbly with the diesel, including the same engine that is in the 300C.
Minor gearbox issues aside, the 300C CRD is a relaxed and quiet highway cruiser. The five-speed box settles into a loping gait at 110km/h and fuel economy is good.
On a recent country drive we bettered the recommended 8.2L/100km, achieving 7.2L/100km over a variety of roads, many of them through demanding mountain country.
There are possibly two aspects to the 300C CRD story.
On the one hand, here’s a car styled with enough American brashness – or crassness if you’re not predisposed to Chrysler’s way of thinking – that could possibly make Paris Hilton blush.
However, this is then reigned in by a superbly smooth, economical turbo-diesel that delivers power and performance without bragging about it.
The 300C CRD very much remains the "King of Bling" on the outside but beats to a different drum on the inside.
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