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Driven: Range reduction for facelifted Chrysler 300

Diesels, entry-level models cut from refreshed Chrysler 300 sedan line-up

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Chrysler logo24 Jul 2015

By TIM ROBSON

FIAT Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Australia has streamlined its facelifted MkII 300 model range, eliminating a trio of slow-selling diesels and trimming its V6 petrol range from four to two variants.

Gone are the V6-powered 300 Limited and 300S, along with the 300 Limited, 300C and 300C Luxury diesels.

In dealerships now, the facelifted 300 range – which made its debut at the Los Angeles motor show in November last year – now comprises of just two variants the 300C from $49,000 and the 300C Luxury at $54,000, both prices are before on-road costs.

FCA Australia president and CEO Pat Dougherty told GoAuto at the media launch in Sydney that the 300 allows the company to appeal a broader market, but acknowledges that it is not a volume seller for the brand.

“At present it’s not a massive volume play for us – we probably sit fully a level above where the volume is for that vehicle,” he said. “But there is a certain portion of the population that likes to have a little more luxury without having to go up to a German or a British brand that’s going to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“It’s great value. Our dealers really like to have to have a flagship model.”

Mr Dougherty said that the three-model diesel line-up was dropped due to slow sales.

“From a complexity standpoint, if you’re selling a very small portion of your volume range in a diesel, it only confuses the matter a little bit, and it’s more expensive,” he noted. “We’re not selling a lot of them, so we said let’s simplify things and push harder on what we can sell.”

Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge product specialist Callum Maynes also pointed out the lack of penetration of diesels in the 300’s segment.

“The segment as a whole, including the premium brands, diesels only accounted for six per cent of the large and upper-large segment last year, so there’s really no demand for the diesel,” he told GoAuto. “We’ve have this car in market since 2005, so we have a really good idea of where we want this car to sit and also what the customer wants.”

Mr Maynes also explained why the entry level Limited and the sports-orientated 300S were dropped.

“We rationalised the range, coming back to what we can deliver best, which is that premium luxury at an attainable price point,” he said. “The Limited was the entry grade, and we’ve looked to step that up and elevate the premium image of the car.

“We’ve done that with the C and the C Luxury. The 300S was more of a sports performance car, but we’ve got the SRT range to do that.”

The SRT8 range will still sit atop the 300 tree, with an updated version of the Hemi V8-powered sedan due later in 2015.

Both 300s are powered by an unchanged version of Chrysler’s Pentastar 3.6-litre V6 petrol engine that makes 210kW and 340Nm of torque, backed by an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Fuel economy is rated at 9.4 litres per 100 kilometres in 300C trim and 9.7L/100km in the 300C Luxury. The stock car emits 219 grams of CO2 per kilometre, while the heavier Luxury emits 227 grams. Weights for the 300 are 1838kg for the standard car and 1862kg for the Luxury.

The 300C has jumped in price by $2,500, while the Luxury has increased by $3,000.

It sits in the middle of the large and upper large sedan segments, and its V6-powered competitors include Holden’s Calais V at $47,990, the long-wheelbase Caprice at $59,490 and the Lexus ES350 Luxury at $62,000, while the nearest equivalent European competitor is the Mercedes-Benz E200 and BMW 520i, both at $80,400. All prices are before on-road costs.

“We have a clear middle space where we’re not mainstream and not premium we capture that market really well,” said Mr Maynes. “That’s exactly where we sit.

We’re trying to get the customers the best blend of that attainable premium luxury vehicle. We’re not trying to compete with Mercedes or BMW, but we want to elevate ourselves above the mainstream guys, as well.”“Mainstream buyers view Chrysler as premium, while premium buyers view Chrysler as mainstream,” added Mr Dougherty. “The most important comment about the car is that it’s trying to be everything that it is, but it’s not trying to be something that it’s not. We’re really not trying to be more than what we say we are, and I think the car delivers on every front.”

Chrysler officials declined to nominate a sales target for the updated car, which has posted 486 sales so far in 2015.

The 300 has been updated with a new front end, including twin LED fog-lights, a deeper grille with floating emblem and a profiled lower valance. On the rear, a tweaked rear fascia is complemented with LED tail-lights and new exhaust garnishes.

Chassis-wise, the 300 has been updated with speed-variable electric power steering, lighter rear axles and axle housings and a revised suspension tune, while the Chrysler-developed TorqueFlite auto has been updated with a rotary dial and paddles replacing the traditional t-bar shifter.

While both variants feature a sports mode for the transmission, the 300C Luxury adds a sports button that firms up the steering feel and sharpens both throttle and transmission responses.

The interior has come in for a sizable makeover, starting with a series of measures to improve acoustics and reduce noise. Nearly three metres of acoustic insulation reside underneath the car, while acoustic glass and triple-sealed doors also reduce noise intrusion.

Along with the rotary shifter, a new 7.0-inch TFT screen sits between the tachometer and speedometer, partnered with an 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen infotainment system that controls everything from audio and telephony to satellite navigation and safety system settings.

A pair of USB ports has been added to the rear of the centre console for back-seat passengers, while a single USB port and a pair of 12-volt sockets are fitted up front.

The entry level 300C comes standard with Nappa leather interior, 18-inch polished alloy rims, a nine-speaker stereo, rearview camera and front/rear parking assist, adaptive bi-Xenon HID headlights, acoustic windscreen and front side glass, heated steering wheel, heated front and rear seats with ventilation on the front pair, DAB+ radio, keyless entry and driver memory.

Dual-zone climate control, auto-dimming internal and external mirrors, automatic headlights and heated/cooled front cup-holders are also standard.

The 300C Luxury adds 20-inch rims, quilted Nappa leather upholstery, adaptive cruise control with full-stop function, lane departure and guidance, full-speed forward collision alert, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross alert, automatic wipers, automatic high-beam adjust and the aforementioned sports button.

Both cars are fitted with seven airbags as standard, while no ANCAP rating has been issued for the latest iteration of the car.

Chrysler has moved 486 300Cs so far in 2015, a drop of 53 per cent year on year. It trails the Holden Caprice by 128 units, which despite the travails of the local Commodore line-up, has managed to slightly improve its sales over its figure of 604 units shifted to June 2014, to record 618 for 2015.

Chrysler 300 pricing*
C$49,000
C Luxury$54,000
*Excludes on-road costs

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