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First drive: Chrysler 300C and feel it

Rarified: Series II 300C vies only with Statesman following Fairlane's fall.

Chrysler’s revised 300C rights some of the iconic American large-car’s wrongs

Chrysler logo6 Mar 2008

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

CHRYSLER has revamped its big-selling 300C sedan and wagon range with a myriad of minor changes designed to bring the large American icon up to date.

These include new tail-lights, a reshaped bootlid featuring a spoiler on the sedan, and the introduction of soft-touch surfaces on the armrests and door panels.

LED lighting in the front cup-holders and door map pockets, a revised instrument panel and centre console design, and new silver trim, sum up the interior titivations.

The Touring wagon remains the same from the outside, but all models now include front seat-mounted airbags, bringing the SRS count to six.

Mechanically, the 300C remains virtually untouched, save for the base 3.5-litre V6 petrol model.

This now includes a new active three-plenum intake manifold for a plumper spread of power (rated at 183kW at 6400rpm) and torque (340Nm at 3800rpm).

11 center imageUnchanged is the 3.0-litre V6 CRD diesel, which relies on its high-pressure fuel-injection system (1600-plus bar), a variable-geometry turbocharger and Piezo injectors to produce 160kW at 4000rpm and 510Nm between 1600 and 2800rpm.

If you choose the most popular version – the 5.7-litre Hemi V8 petrol delivering an identical 250kW of power at 5000rpm and 525Nm of torque at 4000rpm as before – there is now a ‘Fuel Saver Mode’ display on the dash, as part of the Electronic Vehicle Information Centre (EVIC) display in the instrumentation, which indicates when the MDS Multi Displacement System V8 is cruising in four-cylinder mode.

As introduced in the previous 300C series fitted with the 5.7-litre V8, MDS turns off the fuel supply in four of the eight cylinders when not required to offer up to 11 per cent better fuel economy.

The SRT8 continues with Chrysler’s 6.1-litre Hemi V8 pumping out 317kW at 6000rpm and 569Nm at 4600rpm. While the range-topper offers the same minor level of exterior and interior changes as the other 300Cs, it boasts a different instrumentation display, among other items.

All engines are connected to a Mercedes-Benz-designed five-speed automatic gearbox with a sequential manual mode.

Chrysler has introduced its Adaptive Cruise Control technology as standard on the SRT8 and optional on the other models.

Also new to the range is the availability of a high-output Boston Acoustics audio system and Chrysler’s MyGig Multimedia set-up.

The latter is an integrated Harman/Kardon touch-screen audio, entertainment and hands-free communication system, which features a 165mm display for the optional GPS satellite-navigation system that now offers voice-recognition technology, as well as a 20G hard-drive for music and pictures, a USB port for downloading, a voice memo recorder and a Bluetooth set-up called UConnect.

Chrysler Australia managing director Gerry Jenkins said that the company did not want to mess around with the 300C’s looks, which factor hugely in the model’s international success.

With the small changes wrought on the series, he believes there is still room for the 300C to grow Chrysler’s business in Australia.

And while the company will not disclose sales expectations, it would like to maintain the volume levels of the last two years. Last year the 300C averaged around 137 units per month, against 155 for its first full year in 2006.

Mr Jenkins expects the 2008 model to continue the previous 300C’s sales model split the 5.7-litre V8 accounted for around half of all volume, followed by the V6 petrol at about 20 per cent, with the remaining 30 per cent split evenly between the CRD and SRT8.

While the Touring snares only one-tenth of all 300C buyers, it runs higher than the norm for wagons in the luxury large-car segment, with regional buyers in particular choosing this body shape in CRD guise.

Asked if the demise of the once-iconic Ford Fairlane is helpful to the 300C's fortunes, Mr Jenkins responded diplomatically.

“Certainly there is an appetite for that style of vehicle,” he said.

“And Fairlane did sell well over its lifecycle. Of course it means that the opportunity for the 300C will be better.”

While prices raise $400 for the CRD and $2000 for the SRT8, the V6 petrol and 5.7-litre V8 remain as before.

2008 Chrysler 300C Series II pricing:
3.5 V6 petrol (a) $53,990
3.5 V6 petrol Touring (a) $56,990
3.0 V6 CRD (a) $58,390
3.0 V6 CRD Touring (a) $61,390
5.7 V8 Hemi (a) $59,990
5.7 V8 Hemi Touring (a) $62,990
6.1 V8 SRT8 (a) $73,990
6.1 V8 SRT8 Touring (a) $76,990

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