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Car reviews - Chrysler - 300C - sedan range

Launch Story

Chrysler logo8 Nov 2005

By MARTON PETTENDY

CHRYSLER'S first large sedan since the 1981 Valiant has been launched Down Under, bringing a new dimension - and monstrous V8 mumbo - to the brand in Australia from this month.

Unlike the humble Valiant, which was powered by a 4.0-litre inline six, the first HEMI V8-engined Chrysler car for 50 years will offer both V6 and V8 urge to rival Australia's two big rear-drive sedans.

As previously announced, Chrysler's new flagship will be keenly priced, with the V6 opening Chrysler Jeep Australia/Pacific's auto-only 300C range at $53,990. It will become available just after the V8 in mid-November.

That's up slightly on both Holden's $53,290 Calais V6 and Ford's $52,860 Fairmont Ghia - but significantly undercuts the biggest Aussie six-cylinders in Statesman ($56,550) and Fairlane ($58,625).

Meantime, the 5.7-litre HEMI V8-equipped flagship will sell at $59,990 which, again, positions it mid-way between Calais V8 ($57,990) and Statesman V8 ($61,390), and Fairmont Ghia V8 ($57,105) and Fairlane V8 ($65,405).

With a longer wheelbase but shorter overall length than both Statesman and Fairlane, CJA/P claims 300C will also vie for customers with HSV and FPV models as well as European large cars like Audi's A6, which sells from about $80,000 in 2.4-litre V6 guise.

The 183kW/340Nm 3.5-litre SOHC V6 version falls short of the 190kW of peak power offered by both Calais/Statesman and Fairmont Ghia/Fairlane, though it matches the Alloytec V6's torque output.

And while a claimed fuel consumption figure of 11.0L/100km suggest it's more frugal than both Calais (11.5L/100km) and Statesman (12.0L/100km), it's neither as torquey nor as economical as Ford's new six-speed auto-equipped Fairmont Ghia (10.2L/100km) or Fairlane (10.4L/100km).

However, with 250kW available at 5000rpm and a stump-extracting 525Nm of torque on tap from 4000rpm, the HEMI V8 makes a far more compelling argument.

For starters, it delivers more power and torque than Fairmont Ghia (220kW/470Nm), Fairlane G8 (230kW/500Nm), Calais V8 (235kW/460Nm) and Statesman V8 (245kW/465Nm).

But the 300C range-topper's Multi-Displacement System (MDS), which shuts down up to four cylinders when not required, also helps the 5.7 HEMI return 20 per cent lower, V6-like fuel consumption of just 12.1L/100km.

While that's not as efficient as the 4.2-litre V8 fitted to the $145,900 A6 4.2 quattro (11.8L/100km), it's substantially better than Statesman V8 (12.9), Calais V8 (13.4), Fairlane G8 (13.2) and Fairmont Ghia V8 (13.3).

Despite a hefty kerb weight of 1920kg (V6: 1815kg), a Mercedes-Benz sourced five-speed auto with AutoStick manual-shift mode propels the 300C V8 to 100km/h in a blisteringly quick 6.4 seconds (V6: 9.2 seconds).

Based on the popular "Letter Series" Chryslers first launched in 1955, the 300C's bold, wheel-at-each corner stance is backed up by an extensive standard safety and equipment list.

The former comprises ESP stability control, TCS traction control, anti-lock brakes, brake assist, twin multi-stage front airbags, front and rear side curtain airbags and front seatbelt pretensioners, all of which helped 300C to gain a maximum five-star National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) crash rating in the US. The 300C is yet to be crash tested by European NCAP.

Further occupant safety systems include rear parking assistance, Xenon HID headlights with washers, rain-sensing wipers, one-touch indicators, a security alarm with interior monitoring, battery saver and 18-inch double-five-spoke alloy wheels with a tyre pressure monitoring system.

Convenience features standard on all 300Cs include full leather trim, heated front seats with lumbar and eight-way power adjustment, driver's seat/mirror/radio preset memory, dual-zone climate control, electrochromic interior and driver's mirror, auto up/down front windows, trip computer and a 500-litre boot accessed by a 60/40-split folding rear seat.

While 300C V6 offers a 276-watt six-speaker Boston Acoustics sound system, a premium seven-speaker version with 368-watt output and six-CD stacker is standard in the V8.

Similarly, in place of the V8's "California walnut" interior highlights (steering wheel and armrests), the V6 gets "patented tortoise shell" interior accents. The only options are premium paint and a sunroof.

Based on a dedicated new platform and built in right-hand drive exclusively at Magna Steyr's Graz plant in Austria (alongside the Grand Voyager and Jeep's new Grand Cherokee) 300C is built for North American markets in Chrysler's Ontario plant in Canada.

Though some of its components - including its short and long arm front and five-link rear suspension units, wiring and rack-and-pinion steering - are based on Mercedes-Benz designs, 300C is the first volume-production model designed completely under the Chrysler Development System.

Claimed to be the most awarded new car in US history, 300C has attracted more than 200,000 customers globally since its April 2004 release in the US and Europe, and has generated unprecedented interest in the Chrysler brand locally.

Interest in the model has consistently spiked following its appearance as the safety car at this year's V8Supercar rounds, with the 300C website attracting a total of 51,000 visitors and peaking after the reveal of pricing prior to Bathurst.

CJA/P says that interest has boomed despite rising fuel prices, and that the HEMI V8 version is forecast to attract 60 per cent of the 1400 buyers it expects in the first 12 months of sales, which will make 300C the brand's biggest seller in Australia.

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