Car reviews - Chrysler - 300 - range
11 Jul 2012
CHRYSLER Australia is back in the game after this week launching its new 300 sedan range, featuring sharper pricing, an advanced eight-speed automatic transmission, a greater range of features and technology and claimed advancements in interior quality.
The range kicks off at $43,000 plus on-road costs for the 300 Limited with a Pentastar V6 petrol engine, but the undoubted star of the show is the new $66,000 SRT8 flagship, which is powered by a revised 6.4-litre Hemi V8 engine with 347kW of power and 631Nm of torque.
Chrysler has high hopes for its performance leader as a rival to HSV and FPV, with initial interest running nearly as high as on the forthcoming SRT8 Grand Cherokee, for which Australia is the world’s second-largest market.
The company says it has taken 250 pre-orders for the new 300 SRT8, and expects it to account for 25 per cent of total range sales.
After almost disappearing from local sales charts – it has sold just 51 vehicles this year, nearly all Voyager people-movers – Chrysler is relying on the new 300 range to revive sales here.
The new rear-drive sedan range is available from launch in four specification levels, with a pair of V6 engines – a 210kW/340Nm petrol and 176kW/550Nm diesel – alongside the SRT8’s Hemi V8. The standard 5.7-litre Hemi V8 offered on the old model has been dropped.
Chrysler has capitalised on the strong Australian dollar by trimming prices across the range, with V6 petrol and diesel versions starting more than $10,000 below those of the previous generation and the SRT8 almost $8000 cheaper.
While the retro styling is reminiscent of the old model, the changes underneath are claimed to be more significant, including enhanced suspension, new electric steering, a stiffened version of the existing Mercedes platform and – on the petrol V6 – the addition of an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Chrysler Australia has also dropped the ‘C’ moniker here, simply calling the new model the 300, while the wagon body-style available in the previous-generation is not available on the new model.
The company says it benchmarked the new 300 on a host of more prestigious rivals, setting out to match the Lexus LS460 for noise and vibration levels and the BMW 5 Series for ride and handling.
Chrysler Australia CEO Clyde Campbell described the latest 300 as a viable alternative to the Australian-built Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon.
“Once Australian enthusiasts experience the performance, quality and value of the new Chrysler 300 range, they’ll realise that this is a world-class car, equally capable of taking on Australia’s best home-grown large rear-drive sedans as it is at tackling the very best from Germany, Japan and Korea,” he said.
“For too long, Australians wanting a large, powerful rear-wheel drive sedan priced below $70,000 had little to choose from other than Commodore or Falcon.”
Mr Campbell said the new 300 had the potential to stir up more public interest in Australia’s shrinking large-car segment by offering a point of difference, and would occupy a place in the market between fleet-oriented base Falcons and Commodores and premium European players like the 5 Series and Mercedes E-Class.
Making its debut in the 300 is the 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 petrol engine that also features in the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Wrangler, matched to the same ZF eight-speed automatic transmission used in cars including the BMW 5 Series, with the top-spec 300 Luxury variant also featuring wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
The new engine produces 210kW at 6350rpm and 340Nm at 4650rpm, pushes the 300 from 0-100km/h in 7.0 seconds and returns 9.4 litres per 100km on the combined fuel cycle.
The diesel engine option is an Italian-made, direct-injected and Euro 5-compliant VM Motori unit courtesy of Chrysler’s tie-in with Fiat, producing 176kW and 550Nm (between a relatively narrow 1800 to 2000rpm band).
Matched again to a Mercedes-designed five-speed automatic transmission, the diesel consumes 7.1L/100km on the combined cycle.
Despite charging a seemingly exorbitant $5000 extra for the diesel over the identically specified V6 petrol model, Chrysler expects the oil-burner to account for 35 per cent of sales.
Undoubtedly the headline act is the 6.4-litre Hemi V8 used in the SRT8, a stroked version of the 6.1-litre unit used in the previous version. The new version produces 347kW at 6100rpm and 631Nm of torque at 4150rpm.
The revised engine features a new electronic throttle system, lightweight aluminium cylinder heads, a higher compression ratio, two spark plugs per cylinder, revised cylinder-deactivation technology and variable valve timing.
Despite efforts to trim fuel consumption, its official combined figure is still 13.0L/100km.
Chrysler Australia has not provided official 0-100km/h sprint times, but expect something around 5.0 seconds.
Inside, the cabin features a completely redesigned fascia, a wider use of soft-touch plastics, ambient LED interior lighting and real leather, wood and carbon-fibre inserts.
Standard safety features across the range include seven airbags (dual front, seat-mounted side, driver’s knee and full-length curtain airbags), electronic stability and traction control, ABS brakes with brake assist, anti-whiplash front head restraints and a reversing camera.
The $43,000 entry-level 300 Limited ($48,000 with the diesel engine) gets standard features including heated seats, bi-Xenon automatic headlights, 18-inch alloy wheels, proximity key with keyless start, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, a large 8.4-inch touchscreen and USB/Bluetooth connectivity.
The next step up is the confusingly named 300C, which retails at $46,500 for the V6 petrol ($51,500 for the diesel) and adds features including 20-inch wheels, rain-sensing wipers, ingenious heated and cooled cupholders, Nappa leather seats with memory (also heated in the rear), satellite-navigation and voice recognition.
The 300 Luxury, which Chrysler expects to be the top-seller, accounting for around 35 per cent of sales, costs $51,000 for the V6 petrol ($56,000 for the diesel) and adds safety systems such as adaptive cruise control, Forward Collision Warning and blind-spot warning, plus more chrome trim inside and out.
The range-topping SRT8 at $66,000 features high-performance Brembo brakes (360mm front, 350mm rear), a traditional hydraulic steering system (the other variants feature electric), a rear spoiler, mesh grille, adaptive dampers, transmission Sport mode with paddle shifters, carbon-fibre cabin accents and a powerful 19-speaker 900W sound system with 10-inch sub-woofer.
The 300 rides on a 3052mm wheelbase, is 1905mm wide and 5066mm long (the SRT8 is 5089mm long), making it slightly larger than its predecessor.
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