CHRYSLER 300C APPEALS ON MORE THAN JUST ITS LOOKS.
Entering a car into a shrinking market against the most prestigious names in the motor industry might seem an act of unbridled optimism to some, folly to others. Normally, I would tend to the latter view but this car is different and has a couple of aces up its sleeve. One is the pricing and the other is its styling. Make no mistake, the Chrysler 300C is a stunning looker, and for those who wish to stand out from the crowd, that will be a big attraction
The Chrysler comes as a breath of fresh air and is a genuine and worthy challenger to the big European names such as Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Jaguar, Saab and Volvo. But it is not just on looks that the 300C will attract sales; fully aware that it lacks brand strength in this market, Chrysler has sensibly gone very aggressive on price. In all its versions, but especially the diesel - which is expected to account for 75 to 80 per cent of the sales - the 300C compares extremely well against its rivals.
Using Chrysler figures, and comparing similarly specified cars, it will cost you 30 per cent less to get into a 300C than a BMW 530D, 31 per cent less than a Merc E Class E280 CDI, 25 per cent less than a Jaguar S-Type 2.7 diesel and 21 per cent less than an Audi A62.7 TDI. There are roughly similar advantages with the two petrol models.
It is an extremely spacious car with more rear legroom than in a BMW 7 Series or Jaguar XJ. The finish seemed quite good and the trim of these right-hand drive, European-spec cars is much better than the early U.S.-prototypes I tried beforehand.. The instruments are very clear. I liked the effective pale green backlighting.
There are three cars in the range, a 3.5 V6 and 5.7 V8 petrol - the latter having the famous Hemi badge - plus the 3.0 V6 diesel built by Mercedes. Of those, I would unhesitatingly go for the diesel, not just because of the CO2 and fuel economy benefits but because it is much better suited to our roads.
The 3.5 is all right once into its stride but does feel a bit flat while accelerating and I couldn't get that excited by the Hemi. As is the way with American V8s it feels quite lazy and not what you might expect from an engine of its capacity. On the plus side, it has an ingenious system called Multi-Displacement System which shuts off four of the cylinders when the car is cruising, saving up to 20 per cent fuel consumption. It cuts back in again within 40 milliseconds and the change is imperceptible.
That's the good news, the bad is that the average mpg figure is still only 23 and I would take even that with a pinch of salt. No, the logical choice has to be the diesel.
It's a big car and the steering feels a bit heavy at low speeds but that turns to an advantage at higher velocities where the Chrysler feels absolutely planted to the road. My test took place in appalling conditions with streaming wet roads and very high winds, yet the 300C felt tremendously stable and safe.
This car and the Touring version will sell on its looks but even without them it is worth a look just on price and value for money.
Prices: 3.0 CRD (diesel) £25,750
3.5 V6 (petrol) £25,750
5.7 V8 (petrol) £32,995
Details for the CRD
0 to 62: 7.6 seconds
Top speed: 143mph
Average mpg: 35
CO2: 215 g/km
Details for the 3.5 V6
0 to 62 9.2 seconds
Top speed 136mph
Average mpg 26
CO2: 262 g/km
Details for the 5.7 Hemi
0 to 62: 6.4 seconds
Top speed: 155mph
Average mpg: 23
CO2: 287 g/km