Car reviews - Chrysler - 300 - Luxury
Steering and suspension mods lift its character, Luxury variant presents good value
Room for improvement
V6 Pentastar works hard to move the 300C around, front seats too hard and flat
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23 Jul 2015
By TIM ROBSON
THERE’S no in-between with the 300, and no room to sit on a fence. Its bigger-than-Texas style is a genuine love-it-or-hate-it proposition. Born during the Daimler-Chrysler era and launched in 2005, its retro-esque boxy styling and simple, robust underpinnings and powertrain won it a lot of fans.
It nearly disappeared at the end of 2011 with the demise of the first generation car, victim to the swings and roundabouts of an imploding relationship between Daimler and Chrysler, currency fluctuations and the winds of fashion. A change of heart – and owners, from Daimler to Fiat – saw the second generation 300 arrive in Australia in 2012.
The arrival of the MkII’s facelift has also seen a clearing of the decks for the 300 locally, with three diesel variants, as well as the entry level petrol and a recently added 300 Sport model, shown the door. With the revised SRT8 a little way away, the 300C Luxury is currently the top of the pile.
With relatively minor cosmetic surgery on the nose (new headlights, cool quad LED fog-lights and a big, black grille) and the tail (LED surrounds in new tail-lights and nicely integrated exhaust garnishes), the major work on the $54,000 (plus on-road costs) 300 has been on the electronics.
Electric steering has replaced the hydraulic set-up, while the full gamut of passive and active safety electronics has been added to the big sedan. On the inside, a rotary dial – a la Jaguar – has replaced the eight-speed auto’s shifter, and a bold 7.0-inch TFT screen nestles between the tacho and the speedo. It’ll show the driver everything from turn-by-turn nav, speed, infotainment info, tripmeter data… it’s easily accessed, super visible and very cool.
There’s also a large 8.4-inch screen to run the Uconnect infotainment set-up.
It can be a little overwhelming to use, but by and large it works well.
Chrysler claims that it’s worked hard on keeping noise outside the 300 and improving the quality of noise inside it – and we’d believe them. The audio set-up in the Luxury is pretty special loud, crystal clear and vibrant. Our example threw its Bluetooth toys out of the pram a couple of times, but once the car was restarted, things returned to normal.
One thing is immediately apparent while the Nappa leather looks great, especially in the darker colour option, the front seats are sadly too firm and lack support through the torso and beside the thighs. It’s long been an issue with the 300 and unfortunately it’s still something to point out.
The large diameter wheel, too, sports raised stitching where thumbs might normally rest, which grates (literally) after an extended period. A brake pedal that sits too proud of the throttle pedal is also an ergonomic anomaly that makes itself felt after a few hours in the car.
Putting the revised steering and recalibrated suspension tune to the sword through a series of roads not necessarily suited to the 300 proved a revelation, though. The steering feel is, on balance, a few shades lighter than it could be, but the 300 could be directed at a corner with a surprising degree of accuracy.
Grip is prodigious thanks to the big Goodyear 245/45 ZR20s, and body roll is minimal. The overall ride quality gets a tick it’s firm, yes, but the dampers tame the worst of the brittleness, and the smaller 18-inch rims that come standard on the regular 300 would negate the stiffness even further.
The powertrain is great for relaxed cruising, with sufficient torque from the Pentastar V6 available when needed. Given it’s being asked to use its 210kW to push 1862kg of rear-drive sedan around, though, it can become breathless and recalcitrant if leaned on a bit hard (though it sounds good while doing it).
Over 200-odd kilometres, our fuel reading of 11.7 litres per 100 kilometres was more than the claimed 9.7L/100km figure, but we’d expect that number to improve in a regular commute or long-distance run.
The eight-speed auto, too, is well behaved for the most part, but can jolt the car from a standing start if you’re even a little too eager with the loud pedal.
Covering distance, though, is the 300’s party trick. It’s quiet and refined, with impressively low levels of wind noise and road noise getting into the cabin. The extra suite of electronics includes active lane-keeping and smart radar cruise, which will bring you to a complete stop in traffic, or it can keep you rolling through thick traffic without the driver intervening.
Sure, there are a few niggles in the 300, but its presence and its value for money can’t be denied. It’s a big car, with a huge boot, a comfy back seat, a great interior (too-firm front seats aside), a load of high-end spec and a look that no other car on the road can match. If you march to the beat of a different tune, the 300 may well be your Big Gulp-sized cup of joe.
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