Back in 2004, Chrysler announced news of its new 300C. Soon after, there were trickles of information coming through the media, right up until it was announced that the new 300C would be coming to Australia. After its debut as the V8 Supercars pace car, over 600 Aussies registered their interest in the vehicle, with over 20 people making deposits – before even driving the thing!
Soon after its official release to sale in late 2005, I had worries that Aussies wouldn’t take up this bellowing behemoth that Chrysler had on offer. At the time, there were heightened worries about the cost of petrol and at over 5m in length, I wasn’t sure what to expect.
But alas I was defied, and after driving the 300C, I converted from a mild skeptic into one of the 300C’s biggest fans. I was meant to be steering the 5.7-litre V8 HEMI for the week, but after a slight booking hiccup, I was placed into the 3.0-litre V6 Turbo-Diesel and let me tell you now, I haven’t been this impressed with a Diesel yet.
The inner –
Okay, you won’t be writing home about the quality of the interior. As with most American vehicles, the products used for the interior leave a lot to be desired. Although the dashboard felt quite solid and robust, items such as the centre console and door trims felt quite cheap and meager. Quality of plastics aside, the build of the interior components was quite impressive. Everything was solid in terms of its positioning and didn’t flex when pushed. It felt as though the car would hold its shape quite well over time.
The heated driver and passenger seats were quite accommodating. It’s obvious that they’re generously sized to fit some of the ‘larger’ American passengers; they almost feel like a big armchair, opposed to car seats. They were very comfortable to sit in over long distances and provided ample support for the entire body. The seats feature full electric adjustment, along with two memory presets.
In my opinion, the steering wheel was a bit large; it also didn’t support the driver’s hands as well as it could have. It felt far too bony and could have used a bit more padding. I’m also not too sure about the faux ‘wood-grain’ material used for the wheel; the design almost looked like some of the marbles that I played with when I was a kid! The wheel features several buttons that control all facets of the radio, CD player, trip computer and car configuration settings.
One touch that had me impressed was the analogue clock. Although it’s a bit cliché in luxury cars, I thought it looked like it was meant to be there and best of all, was easy to read when glancing across. I was also quite impressed with the radio controls and climate controls; they were extremely easy to use and didn’t require fiddling. The centre console glove box is one of the biggest I have seen this side of the Toyota Landcruiser, it made storing odds and ends a whole heap easier.
Interior room is something that the 300C Touring is most certainly not short of. Every time I turned my head to look out the back window, I was constantly amazed at just how far away the rear seats looked. I almost had to pull out the binoculars to see the rear seat passengers! Rear seat passengers had masses of leg room and plenty of space to sit side-by-side. The rear seats also fold down flat and feature a centre armrest, allowing for more boot room if required.
Head out the back and you are greeted with a big boot. There are also clever removable storage compartments that allow the room to increase even further. They go right down to the space-saver spare tyre. With the rear seats up, there is 772-litres of volume available, drop the rear seats and you’ll be able to store a mega 1602-litres of cargo.
Although the boot looks awkward and low from the outside, it actually opens along with part of the roof. This type of setup allows a larger opening space to put things inside the boot. In general, I was quite happy with the interior, there were absolute masses of space and if you can deal with the average quality of materials, it’s not such a bad place to be.
Tunes are delivered by an impressive Boston Acoustics® sound system with single-disc CD player. The six-speaker sound system with 276-watt amplifier produces a great sound that left me quite impressed with every beat.
The outer –
Ladies and gentlemen, I challenge you to find me a better looking Aussie built luxury sedan. The 300C simply oozes style and substance – the Touring even more so. I couldn’t drive down a populated street without at least 70% of people gawking aimlessly at the car. I’m of the opinion that the Touring version of the 300C looks even better than the sedan version.
I almost felt like a member of the Yakuza, traffic felt like it would part as I approached from behind.
Driving the 300C is truly a unique experience; you need to be prepared to talk with all the people that want to discuss the car with you. After pulling into the servo to whack some more Diesel in, I had the young female attendant proclaim how beautiful she thought the 300C was, I also have verbal comments from the side of the street, ranging from “Oh my God,” through to “Your car’s sick mate.” Then there are the people that stop you when you get out waiting for a passenger. The day I returned the vehicle, I had two parking officers stop and chat to me about the car for a solid 10-minutes, they couldn’t stop discussing how good the car looks from all angles – seemingly oblivious to the expired parking meter I was associated with!
From front-on, all you see is grille – and lots of it. From there, the headlight clusters are dominated by the Xenon headlights and big indicator bulbs. The front end also features heaps of chrome strips, along with an orange coloured side bulb that lights up with the headlights. The wing mirrors also feature the same chrome treatment.
From side on, the wheel arches are engulfed by the seemingly massive 18” alloy wheels and Pirelli tyres. It’s not hard to see how customers easily fit 21” wheels to their purchase. The roofline flows downward toward the end, whilst the window line follows upward, it gives the car a more sporty and muscular feeling, exaggerating its level of exuberance.
There is no doubt in my mind that this is one of the best looking cars on Australian roads. It just looks so different in comparison to anything else we currently have.
On the tarmac –
OK, one thing that I’m sure won’t surprise you is that the 300C’s handling is average at best. The suspension setup is tailored almost entirely toward comfort and city driving. Hitting big pot holes and blemishes in the road is met with the lightest retardation from the suspension; it seems to soak up bumps extremely well.
On turn in to a corner, the body rolls onto the outside wheel like it’s going out of fashion. As such, pushing through corners with pace isn’t really recommended. The steering is quite vague and lifeless, steering the wheels is met with little resistance, that’s great for parking but can be a bit tedious when trying to maneuver the car candidly with haste due to the lack of feedback.
The brakes have fantastic feel to them. The pedal is quite firm and responds with strong and confident braking. During an emergency brake, the brakes do a marvelous job of pulling up the 1.8-tonne mass in a hurry. The ABS system seems to preference constant locking opposed to an intermittent locking. The dead giveaway to such a preference is the semi skid-like marks left on the road. Generally a vehicle that locks and unlocks the brakes more frequently applies less rubber to the road.
The engine under the bonnet is a real go-getter. The 3.0-litre Diesel common to some Mercedes vehicles and other Jeep models is extremely torque-happy and moves the car along in remarkable fashion. The engine produces 510Nm of torque! To put that into perspective, that’s only about 40Nm short of some HSV, FPV and high-end V8 engines. After a slight hesitation from the turbo-lag, there is a jolt of torque that remains constant through the gear.
Chrysler has even managed to make the Diesel sound quite V8-like, fitting into the 300C’s V8 motif. The tachometer seems overkill to me though, it reads right around to 7000RPM, yet the Diesel engine changes gears well before 5000RPM. Dropping the throttle at 60km/h provides a moment of hesitation before the back bending torque hit takes place, the engine seems versatile enough to accelerate off the line slowly, yet it’s more than keen enough to get down and boogie when asked nicely.
In general, the drive – around the city – is fantastic, it gets a bit pear shaped when you hit the bends, but with any station wagon, I’m sure that such driving would be a limited affair. The engine on the other hand is brilliant and suits the 300C Touring down to a tee and with respectable fuel efficiency; it’s a dead set serious option against the HEMI V8.
Under the hood –
Opening the massive bonnet reveals one of the flagship Diesel engines in the DaimlerChysler family.
The 3.0-litre V6 Turbo-Diesel produces 160kW at 3800RPM and lays down a mammoth 510Nm of torque between 1600-2800RPM. Power is sent through a very easy-going and smooth 5-speed automatic transmission and seems to handle the power with great ease.
Fuel efficiency was remarkable to say the least. With the non-aerodynamic style of the front grille, I would have thought fuel efficiency would be left on the back-burner. Throughout the week with a mix of highway and city driving, I returned a fuel use average of 8.5L/100km…yes, just 8.5! For a 1.8-tonne monster like the 300C, that’s damn impressive.
Price, safety and features –
The 300C range comes with four engine variants. There’s the 3.5-litre, naturally aspirated V6, then there’s the 3.0-litre turbo-Diesel V6, we then move along to the 5.7-litre HEMI V8 and lastly, there’s the monster 6.1-litre SRT8 V8 engine that can literally move the earth with a hearty tromp on the accelerator.
The model range prices start at $53,990 for the V6 sedan and $56,990 for the Touring V6. The Diesel sedan can be had for $57,990, whilst the Diesel Touring is priced at $60,990. The 5.7-litre HEMI V8 sedan sells for $59,990 and the Touring is available for $62,990. The most powerful 300C on the market is the SRT8 and it’s now available both in sedan and Touring, they are priced at $71,990 and $74,990.
Standard features across the range include: Dual zone climate control; particulate air filter; cruise control; single-disc CD player; central locking; Xenon headlights with washers and auto leveling system; front and rear fog lamps; auto-dimming interior mirror; rear parking sensors; security alarm; temperature and compass display; trip computer and automatic windscreen wipers.
Safety features include: Driver and passenger dual-stage airbags; front and rear side-curtain airbags; ABS brakes; Electronic Stability Program (ESP); Brake Assist (BA) and tyre pressure monitors.
I walked away from this road test utterly impressed. The looks are simply to die for and the features are seemingly endless. The engine and transmission combination proved to provide fantastic fuel efficiency, even for such a large vehicle.
Sure, driving the 300C through the mountains may not be as rewarding as some more agile European sports wagons, it certainly rewards the driver around the city and let’s be realistic, if you’re after a sporty wagon, you’ll probably go for the ballistic SRT8. In my opinion, this vehicle is priced extremely competitively and will rival other manufacturers when it comes to engine, features and size.
If you’re in the market for a new luxury family-hauler and love the idea of being looked at by every second person, I can’t think of any other reason not to recommend buying the 300C Touring. The Diesel Touring is capable of towing up to 2-tonnes (braked), so that also gives you the ability to haul a caravan down the coast with the family. If you’re after a gangster-like vehicle that is capable of a stellar burnout and carries the ability to get attention like no other, test drive the 300C, it’s truly an addictive car.
- by Paul Maric
CarAdvice rating (out of 5):