I’ve been driving the new Chrysler 300C. It is a very large car that makes me feel positively diminutive. It reminded me of when I use to go for a haircut and had to sit on two copies of the Yellow Pages. Purportedly a rival to the midsize luxury sedans such as the Mercedes E-Class, BMW 5-Series, Jaguar XF, Audi A6, soon the Maserati Ghibli, the 300C looks and feels like none of those cars.
That aside, the new 300 is just boss. I can’t really describe it any other way. There is some strong psychological evidence that cars are equivalent to masks. They make you feel and act a certain way; for instance swearing and screaming at someone who cuts you off, when you would never do that in the queue at Woolies. This car made me feel like James Gandolfini. If The Sopranos was still around, one of the characters would definitely drive one of these.
But what is it like to live with?
The interiorAcres of leather cover every inch of the cabin and what isn’t covered by hide is lathered in glossy wood trim. Think of the VIP box at a horse racing venue. It’s a bit gaudy but if you’re the sort of person who can afford to do business in a tracksuit you will probably like it very much. The combo trim goes a bit too far though, the steering wheel is made up of one half shiny wood, the other leather. I actually think the slick wood is a safety issue, when your hands sweat even a little it gets very slippery. Also, it looks terrible.
However, it is extremely comfortable in here. Americans do tend to get comfort right, and this is vastly more cosseting than any equivalent German sedan. These feel like lounge seats, and are about the same size. The back bench is definitely larger than first three- seater couch I ever owned. Rear legroom is generous and there is a monstrous boot. Perfect for a few of your enemies to take a nap.
Poor infotainment systemDownsides include having to buy a SatNav to stick to your windscreen, because the in-car system uses maps that look like they’ve been drawn with crayons, by a team of four-year old kids, and scanned in. It is spectacularly useless. Dear America, the world has moved on. We can play Angry Birds in HD for goodness sake, get somebody to build a better infotainment system.
Also annoying is the new gear shift. If you owned one you might get used to it, but I could never select D, N, R or P at a time when I really wanted a specific direction of travel. It’s the sort of new tech which is trying to advance things but just ends up being unnecessary really.
The driveIf you’ve ever flopped into a hot bath after a long day and felt that sense of calm and relaxation wash over you, you might have some idea of what it’s like driving the 300C. Incredibly smooth and quiet. Everything happening beyond your glass and leather cocoon becomes very trivial. The suspension set up is decidedly tuned for comfort, which encourages you to take it easy anyway. You never really feel like you’re in a hurry at all.
Which is a bit of an issue, because the big bruiser can get a move on. Like a sudden and surprising turn of speed from a nightclub bouncer, the 300C doesn’t look like it should mover very fast at all, but planting your right foot calls up all 210 kW and 340 Nm of torque in quite a dramatic fashion. Those aren’t big numbers, especially from a 3.6-litre V6, but the power delivery is smooth and immediate. Perhaps it’s the size and vastness of the interior that makes the speed uncomfortable, but the 0 – 100km/h sprint time is claimed at 7.7 seconds, which isn’t slow in this segment.
Chrysler 300C fuel economyFuel consumption is claimed at 9.7 litres/100km but that’s very optimistic for a vehicle this size, with this sort of engine. I achieved 14.2 litres/100km through mostly town driving.
Two other engines are available, a 3.0 CRD and the loony 6.4litre V8 found in the SRT8. While firebreathing muscles cars are fun, they’re only for 8 minutes, at which point you will have burnt through a tank of petrol and will have to walk to your bank manager’s office to cry on his shoulder.
The 3.0 CRD, on paper at least, seems the one too have. With fuel consumption claimed at 7.2 litres/100km, 177km and a healthy 550Nm of torque, in most driving conditions the car will feel less sluggish and use less fuel. It is a good deal more expensive though (pricing below).
RivalsI’m going to keep the comparison strictly petrol-powered.
From BMW, you could look at the 535i Luxury. It’s lighter on fuel than the 300C, has slightly more power and torque, but comes in at R773 948, and that will likely be with very little of the Chrysler’s standard kit.
From Mercedes, E400 Elegance is a solid choice. With a 3.0l V6 and substantially more power and torque, the Merc claims better fuel consumption as well. But at R764 769, it is pricier and again, most likely won’t have all the kit the 300C comes with.
I’m going to throw a spanner amongst the pigeons here with the Audi A5. I think it’s one of the best Audis you can buy and while it is a segment below, it looks fantastic and you won’t want too much for interior space. For R646 000 you can have the 3.0T Quattro, which has very similar figures to the 300C, but is lighter and more agile so will be a more rewarding drive. Watch that options list though.
Chrysler 300C SummaryIn spite of all its foibles, most noticeably the infotainment system made by a kindergarten development team, I like the 300C. It is very comfortable, and very quiet. I imagine if you were having a very bad day, a drive home in one of these will make you feel better about life.
I think the reason I like it so much is that it has that indefinable, intangible sense of character. Perhaps because our roads are inundated with Germans, the 300C stands out as something a bit different.