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Chrysler 300C review (2012 onwards)
What - 2012 Chrysler 300C Executive
Where - East Anglia
Date - May 2012
Price - £39,995
Available - June 2012
Key rivals - Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, Mercedes E-Class
Summary - The big Chrysler still looks the macho machine, but the new 300C is mediocre in too many areas
We like - Still highly distinctive design, spacious, strong performance
We don't like - Suspension wallows, fascia not classy enough, seats won't suit everyone.
The 300C was one of the first American cars that you could buy in Europe without needing to make excuses. Its slightly sinister styling coupled to Mercedes engine and transmission made it an informed choice for those who liked to stand out.
This year sees the launch of an all-new model, retaining the proportions of the last saloon that was quietly dropped 18 months ago. Maybe the style has got softer, less aggressive, but you'll still be able to swap the grille for an alternative that will make the 300C look like a Bentley. From the front, at least.
The 300C is a taste of something different
Chrysler's range has greatly expanded in the past six months with the addition of the Ypsilon supermini and Delta hatchback, both a result of the merger with Fiat and both, in reality, re-badged Lancias.
It makes the 'Americana' theme seem somewhat doubtful, but there's no arguing that the 300C is a taste of something rather different. At prices starting at close to £40k, it needs to be.
For Europe there is just a 3.0-litre V6 diesel, a feisty 236hp powerplant that makes you wonder, when did diesel get this good? There's a slightly clattery hum from outside when the engine is first started, but inside the 300C is all quiet sophistication.
It's fast too, picking up speed rapidly as long as the accelerator pedal is pressed firmly. It's all rather pleasing, although there are a few weaknesses.
With five rather than six speeds in the automatic transmission, and no Sport setting, the gearchange doesn't always do what you want, when you want it. The answer is to use the paddle shifters behind the steering wheel, but whichever way you look at it, the six- or seven-speed shifters of rivals are better.
Ride and handling
Chrysler makes no great claims about the sophistication of the suspension. It's a traditional setup for a rear wheel drive saloon, and is acceptable, no more than that.
The 300C is a heavy car that will waft along in the right conditions, but when the road starts to undulate it starts to wallow about. Yet it also fails to adequately damp out small bumps at lower speeds.
The trade-off might have been an entertaining drive, with sharp steering and sporty handling. But the 300C doesn't pull this off either, which is especially a pity when the engine performance is largely satisfying.
Despite the apparent low roofline, the Chrysler 300C offers generously room both front and rear. The driver is obliged to move the seat closer to the dashboard than is usual as the pedals are deeply recessed. However, that's easy to get used to and it frees up space behind.
Right-hand-drive does introduce a minor problem, however. The transmission tunnel between the front seats is simply massive, and there is a bulge on the right that protrudes into space for the driver - although as the left leg is largely redundant with the automatic transmission, you again get used to it.
Expectations for design and quality are high when it comes to premium cars like the 300C, with the German offerings from Audi, BMW and Mercedes, plus Lexus, all offering a very high standard. The Chrysler doesn't quite measure up. The fascia has an ugly oval centre section, and the seats lack sideways support.
But it is packed with gear. Heated and cooled cup holders, leather, real wood accents, radar cruise control, voice control for your Bluetooth mobile. The Executive model gets a dual panoramic sunroof, adaptive cruise control and a collision warning system, although the later was spooked by road signs, which became irritating.
The Garmin power satnav has the largest screen you'll find, says Chrysler, but the display itself cries out for more detail. When it's dark though, the complete instrument area is illuminated in a soothing shade of blue.
Economy and safety
The new diesel engine - it's from Fiat rather than Mercedes-Benz now - has a combined average figure of 39.4mpg. Optimistic, certainly, but we saw close to 30mpg.
Which seems OK for such a sizeable machine, until you note that the German rivals will probably return a good 10mpg more. The CO2 is 191g/km.
On the safety front, the new 300C has already been awarded the maximum five stars in the EuroNCAP crash tests. Seven multi-stage airbags are standard.
The MSN Cars verdict
We had a soft spot for the last Chrysler 300C. The mean countenance and Mercedes engineering made it a thoughtful, leftfield choice of executive saloon. The 2012 model doesn't fare as well, partly because the competition has moved on in leaps and bounds.
Crucially, the 300C's major rivals get the bulk of their sales from two-litre diesel models, somewhere the Chrysler simply can't compete. So while £40k may seem like value for a highly equipped three-litre, we'd reckon that taking a hit on the performance and buying an optioned-up two-litre from elsewhere is the more satisfactory solution.
Need to know
Engine: 3.0 turbo diesel
Torque: 399lb ft
0-62 mph: 7.4 secs
Top speed: 144mph
Mpg combined: 39.2mpg
CO2, tax: 191g/km, 30%
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