CAR has driven the new Chrysler 300C in CRD V6 diesel form to see if it's a credible rival to German exec expresses like the Audi A6 and BMW 5-series. And can it possibly run as a possible half-price alternative to a Mercedes S-class? Read on for the full verdict.
Not much change on the styling front for the 2013 Chrysler 300C?
Chrysler is sticking with the tried (and trampled) US invasion plan for the UK car market: lots of car for lots less cash. The 300C is wider and taller than a Mercedes S-class, and almost as long. Its only engine is a 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel, and the two-trim range starts at £35,995. In isolation, that looks precipitously pricey, but it’s actually not far off half the price of a base S350 Benz.
The company is also sticking with the tried (and triumphant) proportions of the first-gen 300C. It looked fresh and brilliant because of the ratio of slitty sideglass to bulging bodywork, like a letterbox cut into a rhino. The poor man’s Bentley lamps and grille are now thankfully gone, replaced by beadier eyes and a mouth that’s the lovechild of Batman’s latest nemesis, Bane, and Hannibal Lecter. German limos can only dream of being this menacing and extrovert.
First impressions of the Chrysler 300C's interior
My word, it’s big. Slide into the driver’s comfy armchair, and to reach the open, enormous door, you have to dangle forward using your seatbelt as a trapeze artist’s safety wire. The 300C needs a Rolls-Royce-style motor to close the door for you. Now Chrysler is owned by Fiat, some of that Italian DNA is coming through in the pedal positions, which don’t appear to be in the same postcode as the footwell. Another bugbear is the massive foot-operated parking brake, which is perfectly positioned to clonk your shin and obstruct the footrest: genius.
But is the Chrysler 300C better built than American cars of old?
Every other sentence in the press pack boasts of a quantum leap forward in quality. The cabin certainly feels robust and well-built, but the perceived quality still looks budget, not Benz. Although Chrysler swears not, the wood appears synthetic: it has the look of elephant hide that’s been rotated on a doner kebab grill for months. And the plastic armrest supports and doorbins are nasty.
There’s plenty to like though: the Uconnect touchscreen is more intuitive and faster than Jaguar’s, and it has a rare Apple Genius-type function that selects types of songs to play. The flagship Executive trim heaps gadgets upon the base car’s generous spec, adding adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warning system, a double sunroof, emergency braking and a leather-wrapped dash. And as you’d expect, the 300C lavishes space on occupants: there’s decent room to stretch legs in the back, though headroom is tight if you’re beyond 6ft.
What's the Chrysler 300C V6 CRD like on the move?
On the go, the standout feature is the 300C’s blissful refinement. Triple door seals, wheelarch linings, acoustic glass and underbody panels combine to smother wind and tyre noise. The ride isn’t Yank-tank cushy: it’s quite brittle, and sharp bumps can send shivers through the chassis. If you can live with that, the 300C makes a sweet motorway cruiser. It’s too big, lumbering and heavy (some 160kg beefier than a S350) to feel comfortable in corners, with the nose a bit wallowy and reluctant to turn in. And the electro-hydraulic steering has a mind of its own, dragging its feet about leaving the dead-ahead, and hell-bent on self-centering. The Executive model’s 20-inch tyres can make the steering tug over cats’ eyes too.
Is the 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel engine any good?
The V6 turbodiesel has Fiat’s latest MultiJet injection system to optimise power and economy. Combined fuel consumption of 39.2mpg and 191g/km of CO2 are easily eclipsed by the Germans and Jaguar. Peak torque of 399lb ft comes on stream at 1600rpm, for brisk rather than ballistic acceleration. Standstill to 62mph takes 7.4sec; such bursts are tempered by the V6’s bovine soundtrack and the five-speed automatic’s languid shifts. The brakes are great, biting hard and progressively.
It’s hard to make a rational case for buying a 300C; indeed, Chrysler only expects to sell about 750 cars a year. But it’s a car that’s truly greater than the sum of its parts. That sticker price is pretty tempting, and the 300C oozes American charm.