Restyled Chrysler 300 reaches back into the past to bolster its (slightly) more upmarket future.
WHAT IS IT?
A mid-life facelift of the chunky, second-generation ‘modern’ 300, inspired by the greats of Chrysler’s famous ‘letter series’ models and bedazzled with a beautifully embellished front end. There’s also more bling inside, though the model range has been rationalised, meaning the entry-level Limited and turbo-diesel have been home-schooled to the northern hemisphere.
WHY WE’RE TESTING IT?
Well, why wouldn’t you when it also includes a flick at Sydney’s original, and only remaining, drive-in – Skyline in Blacktown. Yep, the updated 300 launch included a movie, a burger and chilli-cheese fries. But what better way to showcase the new 300’s brilliant (optional) 18-speaker Harman Kardon stereo with 900-watt amplifier and subwoofer than to pump the Ant-Man movie soundtrack through it? But we also enjoyed a stint through the national park, demonstrating the 300’s new electric steering and tweaked chassis.
Traditional rear-drive Aussies with bling, like Ford Falcon G6E Turbo and Holden Calais V, but potentially also Honda Accord V6L, Hyundai Genesis, Infiniti Q50, Mazda 6 Atenza, Skoda Superb Elegance and Volkswagen Passat V6.
THE WHEELS VERDICT
PLUS: Styling presence; tight chassis; slick instrument pack; cranking stereo; 300C Luxury’s supple leather
MINUS: Needs the SRT’s adaptive dampers for suitable ride comfort on 20s; not entirely cohesive interior treatment; cosy rear-seat room considering its size
A slicker, sexier, more appealing Chrysler 300, but one that’s crying out for the velvety torque and personality of a V8. Decent as the Pentastar V6 is – particularly for hire-car operators chasing maximum economy – it lacks the effortlessness that Chrysler’s 5.7-litre Hemi V8 would deliver. And there’s a niche waiting to be filled by the 300 S that Americans get – a sub-SRT sports model with V6 or V8 power that, in the US line-up at least, sits below the 300C in price.
THE WHEELS REVIEW
AMERICANS used to be experts at making big, luxurious sedans with unique flair and flamboyance. And Chrysler was among the best, serving up expressively styled, hugely powerful monsters, the best of which were inspired by Europe but sized by Detroit.
It took Chrysler more than three decades to rediscover its own aesthetic, and it did so with such success that the reborn 2005-era 300, with its ‘chopped’ roof style and aggressive front end, was barely messed with when generation two lobbed in 2012. Now Chrysler has taken this retro-tech flavour to a new level with the extensively updated 2015 300.
It’s essentially the same car but much has changed. A new front fascia with a rather lovely fine-mesh grille and LED fog lamps to match the adaptive bi-xenon headlight’s C-shaped LED running lights gives the revised 300 a techy, ‘white light’ look and a striking rear-view-mirror presence. Not sure the ‘rectangular-doughnut’ LED taillights achieve the same effect – they look very Fiat-like – but the new Chrysler 300 remains a mean-looking son of a bitch.
At launch, the model range is down to just two models – the $49K 300C and the $54K 300C Luxury. The entry-level Limited has been turfed, as has the turbo-diesel V6, while the updated 6.4-litre Hemi V8 models – the 300 SRT Core and SRT - each now with the same eight-speed automatic as the petrol V6, are still six weeks away from showrooms.
We drove the 300C Luxury. With lovely diamond-stitched Nappa leather, a pretty new steering wheel with paddles, and a new retro instrument pack with a beautifully rendered central TFT screen fulfilling nav, speedo and trip-computer duties among other things, the refreshed 300 cabin has its good points.
But it’s not the most cohesive effort. The 60s-inspired dials and ultra-modern TFT screen are partly shared with other US platform buddies like the Dodge Challenger, and visually that doesn’t quite gel with the chrome-edged climate control, the matte Mocha wood (which does a great impression of 70s woodgrain) and the carryover Uconnect centre touchscreen. Picky, yes, but that’s the reality of the situation.
In the Luxury, the front seats each have heaters and coolers, but they lack sufficient lateral support to complement the new 300’s tidy handling. Its new electric steering set-up (bolstered by a Sport mode in the Luxury, that makes steering weight a bit meatier and sharpens throttle response), is accurate and consistent, while the 300’s chassis continues to surprise with its cornering competence.
Chrysler says the 300 has cast-aluminium axles and rear axle housing to “reduce parasitic friction”, but it might have been smarter to engineer the top SRT’s adaptive dampers into the 300C Luxury because, on its chunky polished 20s, the Luxury’s ride is anything but luxurious. It’s quiet though, and that’s some compensation.
As for the carryover 210kW Pentastar V6, it’s a solid, if slightly thrashy companion, and does a pretty good job teaming with the eight-speed auto in either Drive or Sport modes. But Chrysler’s new rotary transmission dial (think Jaguar but without the Tardis-style rising theatre) is a bit cheap-looking and no improvement over a regular shifter. Why not push-buttons like the Torqueflites of yore?
While reasonably well-mannered, what the V6 lacks is effortlessness. At 1862kg, the 300C Luxury puts all eight ratios to good use, yet it’s a busy worker, shuffling about the place in an attempt to deliver some muscle. But with Chrysler’s 250kW 5.7-litre Hemi V8 tied to the ZF eight-speed, the posh 300 would be so much more convincing as a luxury car.
Still, maybe that isn’t what all those hire car operators are after. What they will appreciate is the new 300’s vast suite of passive safety kit, including switchable adaptive cruise control with the ability to slow to a complete stop, advanced brake-assist, blind-spot monitoring, auto high-beam, forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking (at speeds below 32km/h), lane departure warning and lane-assist.
While we lament the absence of a velvety Hemi V8, and reckon there’s a market for a sub-$50K entry-level sporty variant, the refreshed Chrysler 300 is even more car for the money than it ever was. Our inner petrolhead says the forthcoming $69,000 SRT range-topper will be the one to have, but there’s still plenty to like in this tough-looking, neat handling slice of distinctive Americana.
Model: Chrysler 300C Luxury
Engine: 3604cc V6, dohc, 24v
Max power: 210kW @ 6350rpm
Max torque: 340Nm @ 4300rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
0-100km/h: 7.0sec (estimated)
Economy: 9.7L/100 (combined)
On sale: Now