At last, a new version of the slice of Americana that stole our hearts but couldn’t quite sway our heads has arrived at local dealers. Introducing the new Chrysler 300C. First off, you’ll notice it is pleasingly less shiny. Bling has lost its sting as the previous car’s brightwork has been replaced by a satin-effect chrome. New 300 is also smoother, more executive, but no less substantial, especially from the rear. Overall, the car’s detailing – lamp units, grille and badging etcetera – is less studded belt, more fine jewellery. Those who loved the old one will quickly get over their initial disappointment, don’t worry, there’s still plenty ‘hoodlum street cred’ in the styling, while those who hated its bold exterior style will be less offended now. Win-win.
The real shocker is the new cabin. It’s taken an Olympian leap forward. There’s a beautifully lit instrument cluster with a glassy blue glow reminiscent of recent Aston Martin efforts, a double-stitched leather-covered dash and liberal splashes of yet more satin chrome. Some of the plastics aren’t quite up to the very best in the class, especially noticeable on the lower half of the door panels while the huge touchscreen display could be less gaudily-coloured in sat-nav mode and the panel housing the gear shifter’s a touch ‘floaty’. Other than that, it’s hard to fault. I love the thick, sumptuously padded chairs and commend the brave choice of low sheen real wood inserts that fly in the face of all the glossy faux wood that passes for ‘luxury’ these days. How easily it scratches and how long it’ll look its best remains to be seen.
Beneath the bonnet you’ll find either the 210kW, 3.6-litre V6 petrol, a VM Motori-sourced 3.0-litre turbodiesel good for 176kW or the 6.4-litre, 347kW Hemi V8. Both of the latter are allied to an old-school five-speed auto, but the base 3.6 benefits from ZF’s new 8-speed transmission.
Standard equipment across all three models is comprehensive, including all the obvious luxuries such as dual-zone climate control, park sensors, reversing camera, powered heated and ventilated seats, but also includes unusual items such as 20-inch rims, steering wheel-mounted paddle-shifters, powered rear sun blind, tyre pressure monitoring, the aforementioned touch screen sat-nav and a dual-pane sunroof, to list but a few. The topline SRT version also includes adaptive suspension, plus adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning and blind spot monitoring as part of a Driver Confidence Group package – optionally available on lesser engine derivatives.
On the road, drivers of all models will appreciate Chrysler’s detailed noise reduction efforts including strategic acoustic cladding and laminated acoustic glass in the side doors and for the windshield. The effect is immediately apparent, although you’re left wondering how much quieter it’d be on smaller rims. You won’t die wondering about the ride, which feels genuinely adept over just about everything SA’s roads could throw at you. The new 300 is pretty handy dynamically too, despite its two-tonne mass. Keen drivers would no doubt like quicker steering (on the SRT) and a touch less lateral body roll, but really, this is a 5-metre-long executive family car, not a track day special.
There’s very little not to like about any of the derivatives. With all three, you get sophistication without much complication. Take the SRT for example. Whilst stuffed to the gills with all the latest safety kit, its monster natasp motor offers an utterly linear power delivery to the rear wheels via a three-setting traction control system, allied to a sporty, yet forgiving suspension. It all adds up to loads of simple old-school driving thrills in a large luxurious saloon. American muscle without the premium price tag.
The ‘entry-level’ 3.6 Luxury model is priced below the crucial R500k mark fully kitted, while the sledgehammer SRT will only set you back R630k. That’s a little over 600 grand for a Jaguar XFR rivalling 0-100kph sprint time of five seconds. Buy the XFR though, and you’ll be down more than a million.
Look out for a full road test of the Chrysler 300C in the October issue of topcar magazine.
FOR: Locomotive-chic style, equipment, brilliant value
AGAINST: Not for the shy exec
PICK OF THE RANGE: SRT8
ALTERNATIVE CHOICES: Jaguar XF, Lexus GS, Audi A6, Volvo S80
TOPCAR RATING: 8/10