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Car reviews - Chrysler - 300C - sedan range

Our Opinion

We like
Distinctive exterior road presence outright performance tractability, (V8) engine note neutral handling high-speed stability ride comfort interior accommodation, presentation and space cabin quietness quality feel safety features standard equipment value for money
Room for improvement
Kerb weight no steering wheel reach adjustment too-small front seats no full-size spare no front grabrails tiny glovebox restricted vision reflective LCD panel

8 Nov 2005

CHRYSLER'S new flagship and its first model aimed at a global market has swaggered into town, brandishing more than just a bold, all-American look.

For beneath the 300C's striking, love-it-or-loathe-it styling - which commands a formidable road presence whatever your point of view - lies the same stonking 5.7-litre HEMI V8 that propels the 300kg-heavier Grand Cherokee with flippant prowess.

Forget about the 183kW/340Nm 3.5-litre SOHC V6 version, which was unavailable at launch because it lands here a couple of weeks after the 250kW/525Nm HEMI in November.

Chrysler Jeep Australia/Pacific forecasts the V6 will attract 40 per cent of 300C sales, but we suspect the V8 take-up will be far greater than 60 per cent.

Priced at $59,990 - just $6000 more than the V6 - the 300C V8 is the first ridgy-didge alternative to the hegemony of Statesman in the luxury car segment, and is also cheaper than Fairlane.

At only $2000 and $3000 more than a Calais V8 or Fairlane Ghia V8 respectively, it offers undeniably good value in terms of both performance and space.

But wait, there's more: 300C also brings a taut, well-sorted chassis with an accomplished ride/handling package, first-class safety features and a plethora of standard equipment.

Shorter than a Statesman or Fairlane but riding on a longer wheelbase, 300C feels decidedly big and solid, with enough stretching room for five adults and a neatly crafted (and incredibly quiet) interior with neat classic touches like the analogue clock and classy instruments.

Occupants are well catered for via standard leather trim, heated front seats with lumbar, eight-way power adjustment and driver's memory, dual-zone climate control, a trip comuter, power windows/mirrors, rear parking assistance, Xenon HID headlights with washers, rain-sensing wipers, one-touch indicators, electrochromic interior and driver's mirror, tyre pressure monitoring and a security alarm with interior monitoring.

The 300 V8 gets a seven-speaker 368-watt Boston Acoustics sound system with six-CD stacker and California walnut interior highlights, while the V6 makes do with a 276-watt six-speaker item and patented tortoise shell interior accents.

Vision is somewhat compromised by the high-waisted, narrow daylight opening exterior design and three fixed rear head restraints.

While we're complaining, where is the steering wheel reach adjustment, full-size spare and front grabrails?

And why do US car-makers persist with reflective panels over green LCD displays, tiny gloveboxes and seats that are too small, but at least in this case reasonably well shaped, well bolstered and highly (power) adjustable?

There end the negatives for 300C, however, which comprises an impressive array of safety features, including traction and stability control, ABS, brake assist, twin adaptive front airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and front seatbelt pretensioners.

Which is just as well because at around 1900kg, the V8 300C cannot disguise its corpulence and presents plenty of potential for things to turn nasty.

That said, the rack-and-pinion steering feels distinctly Mercedes-like in the way it's highly responsive right off centre, but returns only average feedback and a even a hint of rack rattle through the wheel when turning over bumps.

And with good weight distribution, a super-long wheelbase and wide wheel tracks with 18-inch rubber, 300C offers both rock-solid straightline stability and unshakable cornering finesse.

Body control is generally impressive for such a large vehicle and though there's a suggestion of floatiness under rebound from surface lumps approached too fast, 300C solidity and poise remain in a different league to the long-wheelbase locals.

Combined with an intuitive and sweet-shifting Benz-sourced five-speed auto (who needs seven ratios with this much torque?), the HEMI offers real muscle car performance, deceptively rapid all-speed acceleration and effortless high-speed cruising. Oh, and a glorious V8 rumble at wide open throttle.

With an intoxicating mix of brutal bottom-end punch and seeminglyu endless reserves of responsive, usable power, the Multi-Displacement System-equipped HEMI isn't as voracious as we expected, with (regular unleaded!) fuel consumption 12L/100km easily achievable on the highway, creeping well into the 13s after reasonably hard driving. All of which is totally acceptable - and competitive - for the blistering performance on offer.

The 300C gobbled up 400km of southwest Victorian roads (including some of the Great Ocean Road) during its press launch, causing open-mouthed heads to swivel everywhere it went.

Unique design is scarce in large luxury sedans these days, but the rear-drive 300C harks back to a time when Chrysler's famed Letter Series cars were big, bold and downright daring.

This time, Chrysler has added first-class safety, quality ride/handling, all worthwhile modern conveniences - including the practicality of a 500-litre boot accessible via a split-folding rear seat - and a big, brawny V8 that's both highly effective and relatively frugal.

If that's not enough for Chrysler to attract a modest forecast of 1400 connoisseurs of large, rear-drive sedans in its first year on sale, we'll be surprised.

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