Road test: Chrysler 300C
What is it?
It's a totally new version of one of the most distinctive and imposing cars on UK roads in recent times. The old 300C carved itself a bit of a unique reputation by being a totally American car that us Brits actually wanted to buy. Saloon and estate models were equally impressionable to a buying public used to buying 5 Series BMWs. This new car aims to take all of those good points but this time add in some handling forte and a dose of good build quality. In America and in the UK, it's known as the Chrysler 300C, while in continental Europe it's badged the Lancia Thema.
What's under the bonnet?
Confused why it's badged differently? Well, the old Chrysler 300C was built when the American firm was in bed with Daimler. But those times have gone and now Chrysler is holding hands with Fiat. As part of the mass exchange of cars to different markets (the UK gets two Chrysler-badged Lancias; Europe gets some Lancia-badged Chryslers) there's a cross-over in engines. Gone is the Mercedes-Benz V6 diesel used in the old 300C and in comes a Fiat Multijet diesel. It's a 3.0-litre V6 unit with 236bhp, 540Nm of torque and gets to 60mph in 7.2 seconds. Top whack is 144mph, while combined MPG is 39.8 (39.2 for range-topping Executive) and the 300C emits 185g/km of CO2 (191 for the Executive).
What's the kit like?
Chrysler has drastically slimmed down the 300C range. So there's just one engine, one bodystyle and, for the time being at least, two trim lines: Limited and Executive. Both are very generous in the best American car tradition with the "entry-level" version getting leather, a DAB radio, bi-xenon headlamps, 18-inch alloys, heated front and rear seats, dual-zone climate control, an rear electric blind and the all-important reversing camera. Limited throws in a 506 watt amplifier, 20-inch wheels, a heated steering wheel, a leather-wrapped dashboard, electric sunroof and much more. Prices are £35,995 and £39,995 respectively.
The small, slitty windows may make the 300C look small, but, my word, it's one big car. It's wider than a Mercedes S-Class and only 40mm shorter than the big Benz. But the 300C goes up against smaller machinery in the shape of the Mercedes E-Class, BMW 5 Series and the Audi A6. As usual, the 300C has price and specification on its side... but not much else.
Is it any good?
The old 300C was never what you called a car that handled well. "Big barge" would have been more appropriate. But this new car has taken some lessons from Europe – no doubt helped by Fiat – and is generally better at going around corners. The steering is pleasingly weighty but the large alloys give a jittery ride on anything other than an ultra-smooth road surface. Overall the 300C is adequate to drive, but lags behind European rivals – however, this probably won't interest the typical, image-conscious 300C buyer.
The AOL Cars verdict
The new 300C represents a marked improvement in quality and a good step towards better driving dynamics – and we can't help but have a soft spot for the brash American cruiser. It's packed full of some great kit – the heated and chilled drinks holders were our favourites – but the cabin design looks cheap, rear headroom isn't good enough and the multimedia screen in the centre of the dash is beyond confusing to use. The 300C is a good car but by Chrysler only offering it with a high CO2-emitting engine, we can't see the 300C appealing to many people other than the old car's customer base.
Model: Chrysler 300C 3.0 CRD V6 Executive
Price: £40,680 (as tested)
Engine: 3.0-litre, diesel
Power: 236bhp, 540Nm
Max speed: 144mph
MPG (comb'd): 39.2