There’s a lot to like about the imposing Chrysler 300C sedan. For one, it is one of the world’s better examples of platform sharing. Be honest now… would you have ever guessed that there was so much of the Mercedes E-Class underneath that vast expanse of sheet metal? Yes sir, the Chrysler 300C certainly has character by the truck load. And much like its aesthetics, the charismatic drivetrain also harks back to the glory days of the American muscle car. What we have here, then, is a (big) slice of nostalgia with solid German engineering underneath. What’s not to like about that? Well… according to the boys over at Chrysler's head office, what the 300C has always needed was a bigger engine. And bigger wheels. Certainly, the saying “less is more” is not applicable here.
Chrysler 300C delivers big powerLet’s focus on the engine first. First Chrysler’s powertrain engineers took the standard 5,7-litre Hemi V8, bored out the block to 6,1 litres and upped the compression ratio to boost power to a total of 320 kW. Then they painted the block orange (as one does) and fitted black rocker covers – both these colour choices hark back to the ‘50s, by the way. The result? Yeeeeeeeha! Or shall we say 5,0 seconds to sprint to 100 km/h, accompanied by an almighty roar. And the acceleration doesn’t stop there. You see, unlike its German cousin, Chrysler doesn’t abide by the “gentleman’s agreement” to limit high-performance sedans to 250 km/h. Consequently, the Chrysler 300C has free reign to run all the way to 270 km/h!
While Mercedes is moving towards the 7G-tronic transmission across its entire model range, Chrysler has decided to stick to the tried and tested five-speed automatic for the 300C. It is by no means the fastest ‘box in town, and the perception of “lag” is reinforced by somewhat tardy throttle response, but it get’s better at speed and does at least offer a manual shifting function (if not a very good one). No, let’s be honest here… The Chrysler 300C SRT-8 is not about driver engagement in the sense of lightning fast gear changes, immediacy and responsiveness. It is all about straight-line grunt, a magnificent exhaust tone and comfort. Cruising along, with the engine barely ticking over, the knowledge that standing on the throttle will result in explosive acceleration and thunder a moment or two later, without any further involvement, is very addictive in its own way.
A word of caution, though. The fuel consumption is atrocious – think 16,8 litres/100 km. Then again, the money you’re saving by buying the Chrysler 300C and not one of the pricey German thunder saloons alone will make up for many years of enjoyable drag racing.
Focus on comfortFor all its speed and fury, the Chrysler 300C SRT-8 is, at its core, a big ol’ softie. Slide into the plush leather/alcantara upholstered seats, grab the (very) big steering wheel and the limo-like qualities of the 300C’s character come to the fore. Those seats are so soft, so plush, that full-throttle action doesn’t seem to be on the agenda at all. As with all 300Cs, the facia design is a mixed bag. There are some older-generation Mercedes controls to be spotted, which is not a bad thing, but the displays look too old-fashioned and lower down the quality of the plastics take a noticeable turn for the worse. But, in its defence, fit and finish is very good indeed.
With a wheelbase of over 3,0 metres, the Chrysler 300C is also very spacious, with particularly excellent rear legroom and a capacious boot (442 litres). But the “chopped” roofline does mean that, at worst, tall folk will have to leave their top hats at home.
Given the SRT-8’s exceptional performance and relatively low price, the standard features list remains very generous, with items such as climate control, automatic headlamps, heated and electrically folding side mirrors, an 8-way electrically adjustable driver’s seat, top-notch radio/CD sound system and cruise control all being standard. It also rates highly for safety, with six airbags and an electronic stability control system being fitted. The brakes are massive, and feature high-performance Brembo callipers.
Riding on Dub-size (20-inch) alloy wheels that are a tight fit for those large wheelarches, you’d not be misguided to expect a harsh ride, but the Chrysler 300C is surprising in that regard, because it retains much of the “standard” model’s cosseting ride comfort. Perhaps, at a push, you can identify better body control on turn-in and a slightly firmer rear end, for example, but overall the SRT-8 remains a good cruiser. The downside is that it’s not terribly impressive in the corners. The steering is light and lacks the accuracy of some other high-performance sedans. At the same time, there’s still considerable “lean” in the corners and you have to be quite aggressive to tempt it into a more rear-end biased cornering stance.
Chrysler 300C - VerdictAlthough Chevrolet’s Aussie-sourced Lumina is similar in technical make-up to the Chrysler 300C SRT-8, the two cars are really very different. The Chrysler 300C is a far more individualistic product, unique in most areas, and boasts such a strong aesthetic character, as well as an old school driving experience, that you can forgive it the areas in which it doesn’t quite live up to the best out there. Also remember, it’s significantly cheaper, too. Ultimately its unique character does limit its appeal somewhat, but for whose who are looking for these kind of kicks, it represents a very tempting proposition.
· Immense character
· Straight-line grunt
· Cabin comfort
We don’t like:
· Vague, overly light steering
· Horrendous fuel consumption
· Well, if you don’t like bling…
Engine: 6,1-litre, V8, petrol
Power: 320 kW @ 6 000 rpm
Torque: 569 Nm @ 4 800 rpm
Transmission: five-speed automatic
Wheels: 20-inch alloy
Top speed: 270 km/h
0-100 km/h: 5,0 seconds
Fuel economy: 16,8 litres/100 km
· Jaguar S-type R V8 : Some British beef… The S-type R is highly acclaimed for its dynamic finesse, and it’s a comfortable daily driver too. About R100k more expensive than the Chrysler and not as powerful. The cabin reeks of old-worlde charm, which is somewhat at odds with its sporty personality.
· Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG: The 300C’s sister car is a magnificent brute but more than R350k more expensive. It’s more powerful, faster, even louder and dynamically a far more balanced offering.
· Chevrolet Lumina 5,7 SS: About R200k cheaper than the Chrysler and admittedly neither as lavishly appointed, nor as powerful, but the concept is similar – big bang V8 in a large sedan. The Chevy also can’t match the Chrysler’s performance, and only has a four-speed autobox.