Car reviews - Chrysler - 300C - SRT-8 Touring
In-your-face style, capacious interior, easy V8 power, surprisingly large load area considering the seemingly low-slung proportions
Room for improvement
Gulps fuel without too much provocation, suspension gets easily confused on rough roads
1 Dec 2006
By CHRIS HARRIS
IT’S a little hard to believe Chrysler introduced Australia to its radically styled 300C sedan barely more than 12 months ago.
And it’s a little hard not getting excited about the fact that the big, bold Chrysler has been an unmitigated success right from the beginning. With its instant blanketing of the large-car market virtually from the moment of launch, it has brought the American brand out of relative obscurity. Voyager and PT Cruiser are nonentities by comparison.
This is all because the 300C is a 100 per cent genuine representation of what an American car should be. Blatant, big and V8-powered.
The latter has been pivotal to the car’s instant acceptance here, even if the lesser turbo-diesel and petrol V6 versions also figure in the sales Chrysler has conquested against Holden’s Statesman/Caprice and Ford’s Fairlane/LTD.
Owing a lot to the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, the 300C brings not just American glitter, but also an underlying integrity that cannot help but engender confidence. It’s a big car that more than matches the locals in terms of size while delivering high levels of safety and on-road ability.
And now we have the station wagon "Touring" version of the 300C, which looks every bit as outrageous as the sedan while offering practical load-carrying abilities in a package bigger than any other like-minded car in Australia.
The 300C Touring, like the sedan, is available with V6 petrol or turbo-diesel engines, as well as the Multi-Displacement System (MDS) 5.7-litre Hemi V8 and comes with five-speed automatic transmission. A 6.1-litre SRT8 version, as already offered in the 300C sedan, is on the way.
Beginning at an entirely reasonable $57,000 for the 3.5-litre V6 petrol, the 300C Touring progresses up the price list through the $61,000 CRD 3.0-litre turbo-diesel to $63,000 for the 5.7-litre Hemi.
With its E-Class underpinnings, the 300C Touring offers plenty of dynamic assurance. Electronic stability control, all-speed traction control and ventilated four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and EBD are standard on all 300C Touring models.
Passive safety elements include dual, multi-stage front airbags, as well as full-length "curtain" side bags. Similarly to the Chrysler Voyager, thorax side bags aren’t used in the 300C.
There’s little holding back on standard equipment in the Touring, with all models getting climate-control dual-zone air-conditioning, leather seats with power adjustment and driver’s side memory up front, rear park-assist, cruise control, trip computer, Xenon headlights and alloy wheels.
The Hemi V8 version adds an in-dash six-CD stacker to the upmarket seven-speaker Boston Acoustics sound system.
Self-levelling rear suspension, a two-level load area in the back which can conceal valuable items, 60-40 split-fold rear seats and a security blind are features specific to the Touring.
Once you’ve marvelled at the almost caricature styling, the Touring presents a more versatile range of applications than the sedan. The luggage area behind the rear seats, for example, offers more space than the sedan with 545 litres available when all seats are in place. Fold the rear seats and it expands to 1602 litres.
Although the 300C’s persona is all-American, there’s a little bit of cleverness in there too. The rear floor, for example, folds back to reveal a quite generous, if a little shallow, area for concealing things you don’t want others to see. And, of course, there’s the usual roller blind to cover the main cargo area.
And if you thought the low roof might introduce some loading difficulties, you’re wrong. The 300C Touring’s tailgate hinges from way forward on the roof, enabling it to swing open not only without clouting an errant head, but also revealing a wide-open space for easy loading. Probably the only deficiency is that it doesn’t offer any decent shelter for those outside trying to keep out of the rain.
Considering its seemingly low-slung profile, the Touring doesn’t appear to suffer any problems with headroom, front or rear. Like the sedan, it provides an exceptionally good rear-seat deal, even with a beefy football player or two sitting up front.
The cabin overall has a closed-in, private ambience that is entirely in keeping with the tinted rear side and tailgate glass. It continues to feel luxury limo-like, even with the open wagon configuration.
The driver experiences essentially the same things as in the 300C Hemi sedan.
With a weight penalty of only a 50kg or so, the Touring retains most of the familiar easy V8 power, although the zero to 100km/h time is down half a second - to 7.3 seconds - and the fuel consumption creeps up from 12.1L/100km to 12.5L/100km.
That latter is not really one of the 300C’s strong points because, as you can imagine, 5.7 litres of relatively simple, pushrod V8 and an all-up weight close to 1.9 tonnes don’t exactly conspire to produce outstanding economy – even with the multi-displacement technology which has the engine running on four cylinders on light throttle. On test our Hemi-engined 300C Touring rarely dropped below 14L/100km and typically sat at 15L/100km in everyday driving.
But the delivery is smooth, quiet and easy and the five-speed auto is never in trouble finding an appropriate ratio for a spot of acceleration.
The ride and handling, like the sedan, is generally sound but compromised in certain situations. High-speed irregular bitumen is not coped with particularly well and we even experienced an occasion where the underbody scraped when the car was being driven with due care over a speed hump.
The Touring steers well enough though, despite the big-diameter wheel, but the small glass area and the unknowable extremities make parking difficult. Thank goodness for the rear park assist.
On the open road, the Touring cruises with quiet ease, trimming back the average fuel consumption readout and always having plenty of torquey punch in reserve when needed. A great up-country cruiser.
What a car the 300C Touring proves to be.
Not exactly the right vehicle for shy, retiring types, it delivers exactly what it promises, and at a price that remains remarkably competitive. Some prefer the sedan’s styling, while others reckon the wagon looks even more outrageous and is thus even more desirable. Whatever, there’s nothing around, in this part of the market, that has anything like the presence of the big Chrysler.
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