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300C burns Chrysler’s midnight oil

Texas tea: Chrysler is set to strike oil in Australia with its diesel 300C prestige sedan.

Turbo-diesel technology will be part of Chrysler 300C’s arsenal in 2006

8 Jul 2005

THE conspicuous new 300C sedan will become Chrysler Jeep Australia’s first turbo-diesel passenger car when it arrives here in early 2006.

To be available here from November with 3.5-litre V6 and 5.7-litre HEMI V8 motivation, the large sedan’s local line-up will be bolstered by a state-of-the-art DaimlerChrysler diesel within six months.

Chrysler Jeep Australia hopes to open 300C pricing lower than expected at under the Australian luxury car tax threshold of $57,009 for the V6 and, according to CJA managing director Gerry Jenkins, the 300C CRD will be priced somewhere between this and the 300C V8.

"It depends on currency," he said.

"If the Australian dollar stays where it is (against the US dollar), we’ll be okay." The 5.7 HEMI may not be the flagship 300C for long, however, following news that the stove-hot SRT-8 version about to be launched in the US is likely to arrive here around mid-2006.

Like the new Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT-8 that will go on sale here around the same time if its business case is approved, the 300C SRT-8 will be powered by a 317kW/570Nm 6.1-litre version of the HEMI V8.

The Grand Cherokee SRT-8 is claimed to be quicker than Porsche’s Cayenne Turbo super-SUV.

Similarly, the 300C will employ the same new-generation diesel technology that will appear here in the third-generation Grand Cherokee from August – and it will be no slouch.

To be launched in Europe late this year and delivering 160kW at 4000rpm and a 5.7 HEMI V8-beating 510Nm of torque from just 1600rpm, the 300C’s all-alloy 3.0-litre V6 oil-burner will feature double overhead cams, 24 valves, common-rain direct injection with 1600 bar of pressure and a variable-geometry turbocharger.

The 300C Touring has also been green-lighted for Australian sales, but CJA is yet to decide when to release it here.

"It’s been approved – it’s just a question of when we bring it in," said Mr Jenkins.

Like all right-hand drive versions of the Grand Cherokee, Voyager and 300C sedan, the 300C wagon will be built at Magna Steyer’s Graz plant in Austria.

The luxury wagon will employ the nose and trim of the left-hand drive-only Dodge Magnum, and will be available with all-wheel drive in Europe.

Mr Jenkins hopes the Touring will add small but incremental sales volume for the 300C range, which is expected to attract at least 1500 sales to rival Grand Cherokee as CJA’s top-seller in 2006.

But while he is encouraged by the interest generated by the modified 300C safety car at V8Supercar rounds, Mr Jenkins admits the big new Chrysler – especially the diesel version – is very much an unknown quantity in Australia.

11 center imageTraffic on Chrysler’s 300C mini-website continues to spike following touring car races, with latest figures after the weekend’s Hidden Valley round now standing at 60 firm orders and more than 1100 hand-raisers.

The 300C will launch here around the same time as Chrysler’s facelifted PT Cruiser, the Cabrio version of which is also due on sale here around April 2006.

It will be priced in the low $40,000s to compete with Holden’s popular Astra convertible.

CJA remains on target to launch the Dodge brand in Australia at next year’s Sydney motor show, with sales commencing in 2007.

Initially only the production version of the Caliber concept will be available – a front-wheel drive five-door small car priced well below $30,000.

Much larger than the unpopular Neon it replaces, Caliber will also spawn a sub-$35,000 RAV4-rivalling compact soft-roader from Jeep, based on the Compass show car.

The Dodge range will be supplemented by a new model every three months thereafter, including a yet-to-appear medium sedan codenamed Avenger to be positioned below 300C, plus the Grand Cherokee-based Nitro 4WD already shown in concept form.

If global right-hand drive demand is sufficient, the Australian Dodge range should culminate in the coupe-styled Charger sedan, which Mr Jenkins says is the subject of at least one letter a week he receives from fans of the original Chrysler Charger coupe.

"But if the UK doesn’t want it then we’re screwed," he said.

WHAT’S COMING
Jeep Grand Cherokee turbo-diesel August
Chrysler PT Cruiser facelift November
Chrysler 300C V6 and HEMI V8 November
Chrysler PT Cabrio April 2006
Chrysler 300C CRD May 2006
Chrysler 300C SRT-8 June 2006
Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT-8 June 2006

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