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Car reviews - Chrysler - 300C - sedan/wagon range

Our Opinion

We like
Styling, smoothness, ride quality, higher quality interior, MDS fuel cut-off 5.7L V8, CRD economy, SRT8 performance, value, image
Room for improvement
Cabin is still no work of art dynamics a tad soft for keener drivers, image

Chrysler logo6 Mar 2008

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

CYNICS might say that it is a credit to the enduring engineering of Mercedes-Benz that the 2008 Chrysler 300C still has competent ride and dynamic qualities, even though it is based on the W210 E-class sedan introduced a dozen years ago.

But that would be missing the point completely, because people buy this Chrysler in big numbers mostly because of the way it looks.

So, a little over two years on after launch in Australia, we reckon the plaudits should go Chrysler’s way for giving its lively large car a timeless style.

Whatever you point of view is, jumping into and driving the Series II 300C reminded us why this car has such a big following.

All the traits of the MY06 and MY07 models are there – distinctive, even iconic, styling that is as proudly American as a Starbucks Coffee, a frat house party or Donald Duck.

Without a Series 1 car on hand to compare new with old, we struggled to see the changes Chrysler’s designers have wrought upon the sedan’s rear (the wagon remains the same visually), except that it remains a cleanly presented and assertively different looking car.

The story remains pretty much the same inside. The shape of most things is the same it’s just that the material that some of the items are swathed in is softer and looks less cheapo.

In all honesty, the 300C’s interior is never going to warm the quality cockles of your heart but it is not offensive either. And all the switch and control placements, as well as the instrumentation and ventilation, are placed where you would expect them to be in a modern car.

We sampled the 300C SRT8 first, and the overwhelming impression of this beastly sounding machine is how smooth and absorbent it is on a variety of road surfaces while you’re traversing them at very high speed.

Complete with its nifty adaptive cruise control technology that slows and then speeds you up again according to how fast the vehicle ahead is travelling, and the SRT8 is a born tourer.

There is ample acceleration at the mere thought of an overtaking manoeuvre, accompanied by an appealing exhaust baritone, strong and progressive brakes, and sufficiently eager steering and handling responses.

But, like all 300Cs, the SRT8’s wheel is not awash with feel or tactility, and is a tad too low-geared for some keen drivers. Solid and stolid is how we would best describe this car’s cornering capabilities.

Chrysler hasn’t messed around with the styling at all. But the proportions are the same too, so buyers are bound to be slightly disappointed by the amount of rear legroom on offer in a car as large as this.

And while there are now nicer materials scattered around the cabin, there is still a fair amount of road noise that permeates inside, so you won’t be mistaking the 300C for a lush-riding Lexus either.

But what Chrysler has done is added a few more features (such as an extra pair of airbags), and changed the styling just enough for aficionados to notice and perhaps get motivated enough to go out and buy one.

Prices for the sweet-performing, volume-selling 5.7-litre V8 Hemi and base V6 petrol are at 2005 levels, while the strong CRD diesel and better-equipped SRT8 rise only slightly, reflecting the Chrysler’s enduring value proposition.

Plenty has changed since the 300C burst onto our market in late 2005.

Yet the car still has the look and engineering substance to keep it competitive against the far-newer, dynamically crisper but somehow less theatrical local offering from Holden.

And for that, both Chrysler and Mercedes should be proud.

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