The Chrysler 300C CRD

A quick trawl through Google will drown you in the nouns and adjectives that reviewers consistently use to describe the Chrysler 300 C. “Gangster”, “Brawny” and “Muscular” are seldom missing, though sadly, superlatives often are.
The problem is that you can’t just design an attention grabbing car, load it with goodies, toss in an engine the size of a small English town and expect the people in the land cheap petrol forgot to start handing over the motoring awards. You see, while European fuel prices remain at about treble that of the US, a thirsty 3.5-litre V6 or an even more parched 5.7-litre V8 will win you few friends. So how about a Diesel?
Well, given that the Americans know little of the existence of diesel outside of Kenworth Trucks and a second rate Hollywood actor, a quick trip to the Daimler Benz parts bin was in order. Chrysler’s engineers returned, pockets stuffed, with an engine and gearbox combination to be proud of and now the reviewers can at last reach for the superlatives again.
The 300C CRD’s 3.0-litre V6 215bhp diesel and a 5-speed automatic are straight out of the Mercedes M Class and E Class ranges and are sublime. The engine delivers its power smoothly across the rev range and can accelerate the car’s two tonne bulk up to 60 mph in just 7.6 seconds. The torque is truly amazing and at 510Nm, is not too far behind the 5.7-litre V8 Hemi which boasts 525Nm. Maximum power comes between around 1600 and 2700rpm, low enough in the range to make overtaking effortless.
With the 5-speed automatic gearbox‘s well spaced cogs mated to all that power, the car moves with a quiet grace and makes long distance motorway driving almost enjoyable and in my view, embarrasses both of its petrol burning siblings. From inside the cabin, you’d be hard pressed to tell it was a diesel. One nil to the Germans I’d say.
However, the design is “All American” and is much the better for it. Love it or loathe it, no one is ambivalent towards the 300C, it’s just too outrageous, too in your face and downright big to ignore. You simply have to have an opinion about it – when I drove it to my mother’s house, she called the Police. The high waistband body and small windows combine to give it that “straight from the chop-shop” look much beloved of low-riders everywhere. The 17” polished alloy wheels, blunt styling front and back and that great big chrome waffle of a front grille force people to look at the car. If you want one, buy it in black to show off that chrome to full effect.
During the 4 days I had the car, I got more “looks” than with anything else I have driven in this price range and quite a few thousand more if the truth be told and that is really the heart of the matter with the 300C. There are huge plusses with this car in terms of styling and affordability. With the CRD you can also add economy and performance. However, you have to look at the downsides, the compromises necessary when you build a car to this kind of price and decide what you value more – style or substance?
I said that the engine and gearbox came straight from the Mercedes M Class and E Class, well sadly, the interior build quality came straight from the A Class. Cheap plastics, ill fitting in places comprise most of the make-up of the car’s interior. Storage space is limited, the switch gear does not look like it will last the course and the (interior) front door handles look like chromed meat hooks recessed into a cave. I know you can’t see cars for this price without some compromise but just take a look at the sunglasses holder by the interior lights and tell me that would not look a whole lot better with $5 more invested. Come on Chrysler – it’s only injection moulded plastic!
That said, the overall effect is not unpleasant to the eye and the leather seats with their 8 adjustable settings do give a good level of comfort. There were also little touches to like – the brake and accelerator pedals adjust electronically – very useful if you share my Napoleonic stature.
The car’s handling could best be described as nautical based on a level of body roll not uncommon among US designed cars. A quick series of bends in the 300C is more likely to induce sea sickness than exhilaration but if you are less interested in screaming down winding country roads than you are in the view outside, then this car will do very nicely indeed.
Overall, the car leaves you with a tough decision. The handling and build quality bear no comparison with the likes of Audi or BMW but then neither does the price. There are few cars out there that offer this quality of engine/gearbox, great performance and 35mpg. The equipment level is top notch with very little of worth missing and then finally there are the looks. The car simply oozes character and seems to take you to a different place and time. True, you may only be going to Burger King for take out but to everyone watching you slide by; you’re probably off to meet Capone. Style or substance? Hand me my shades!
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