Steve Sharpe test drives Chrysler’s refreshed and redesigned 300C
THE Chrysler company has had a chequered history in this country, and enjoys more popularity in its home country, the US.
Now, though, thanks to a partnership with Fiat, the brand is beginning to make an impact, with a raft of cars, like the Ypsilon supermini, the Delta family hatchback and the Grand Voyager MPV, all aimed at increasing their foothold in the market.
The 300C, the company’s huge luxury cruiser, has been around since 2003, but this year it has been extensively refreshed and rejuvenated.
Chrysler say it’s new and improved in every respect – better to drive, more luxurious and better equipped than ever before.
If you’re looking to stand out in the crowd and make a statement with your motor, then the 300C should be pretty high on your list.
It pretty much looks like nothing else on the road.
It’s big, bold and brash and there’s not a subtle bolt in its body.
Wider and longer than the previous version, which was no dwarf itself, it’s the closest we’ll get to an American cruiser this side of the pond.
Yet this is a more refined version than its predecessor.
A more raked windscreen increased its aerodynamics, the large grille has been slimmed down and there are new LED running lights front and back. The Chrysler badge, has been refreshed, too, giving a smoother look.
But despite this it’s still tall and bulky, with a huge rear end and a big, bold front. This is not a car for the shrinking violet. It gets looks and comments wherever it goes, some good, some bad.
Inside the cabin things are equally brash. The driver’s seat electronically slides forwards to a pre-programmed position when the push button start is pressed, and the doors open so wide that it’s hard to reach the handle from the rear-most position of the seat.
The quality of the interior has been upped, though. The materials are soft to the touch and stitched, with the console given a leather-look finish. There are also real wood inserts in the dashboard along with chrome touches around.
It’s smart and classy but it does lack the sheer opulence of some of its rivals, the expensive wood and stitched leather that provide the wow factor.
The dashboard is dominated by a huge touch-screen which controls the satnav, stereo, heating and more.
It’s possibly the biggest screen I’ve come across and it’s simple to read and operate on the move.
The lighting scheme is a stunning blue, which looks beautiful and fills the inside of the car with a ghostly glow.
Anyone driving in front of the 300C at night must see a spectral glowing face behind the steering wheel.
You’ll not be left wanting for space in this executive car. This is a big car and there are acres of room inside. There is loads of legroom in the front and masses in the rear, and there’s plenty of headroom, too.
The boot’s a good size, too, although actually smaller than some of its main rivals
The seats are big and comfortable and you can just sit back on long journeys and watch the countryside go by.
The 300C comes powered by one size of engine, a 3-litre V6 diesel.
For such a big, heavy car the Chrysler has a great amount of pull when needed.
If gentle acceleration is required then the big cruiser eases forward comfortably but if a bit of power is preferred then the diesel engine responds rapidly.
The five-speed automatic gearbox is smooth at cruising speeds but it can take a while to change gear at higher speeds.
But an executive car is going to notch up the miles up and down the motorway and refinement is a strong point in the Chrysler.
The engine is nicely hushed with a pleasing tone at higher revs, and there’s little wind noise or road noise coming through. Cruising at motorway speeds is a relaxing experience.
Although it is a big brute, the 300C isn’t difficult to handle around town.
There’s a decent turning circle and rear cameras and parking sensors aid parking. Be prepared, though, to drive by those spaces in the car park that you would normally have a go at. It’s such a long car that you often leave an overhang, too.
Out on country lanes the Chrysler handles itself pretty well.
The steering’s a bit woolly and you don’t get much feedback from the road but the huge wheels have good grip and because of the sheer width of the car there’s not too much body roll around corners unless you take a fast one. But the 300C is not a car built for taking hairpin corners at breakneck speed.
This new version might have upped the levels of luxury and performance but it’s also upped the pricetag too.
Unlike many of its German rivals which have a multitude of versions and trims available, there are only two trims in the range.
The Limited trim is £35,995 and the Executive version is a fiver under £40,000.
But Chrysler have made sure that there are plenty of goodies even in the lower trim version.
The Limited has the big touch-screen sat-nav, climate control, automatic headlights and wipers, loads of leather trim and quirky little things like cupholders that will cool or heat your drink.
Executive gets cruise control and bigger alloys, a panoramic sunroof, a fabulous upgraded stereo system and bits and bobs more.
Entry-level rivals won’t be as well equipped for the price.
Running a big luxury car is never going to be a cheap affair but you will get nearly 40mpg with the 300C.
That’s not the best in its class but it’s not the worst either. The emissions are on the high side, though, which will bump up road tax.
A distinctive car like the 300C isn’t going to appeal to everyone and it’s true that big name rivals from Audi, BMW and others have the edge in many departments.
But that individuality means that many people are going to love the idea of owning a big, brash, car that is going to turn heads and raise eyebrows.
What’s more you won’t see that many on the roads so there is an exclusivity factor.
Love it or loathe it, you can’t ignore it.
Chrysler 300C Executive
Engine: 3-litre diesel
Transmission: five-speed manual
Top speed: 144mph