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Chrysler 300C


Chrysler 300C

Chrysler 300C

Chrysler 300C

Chrysler 300C

Chrysler 300C

Chrysler 300C

Year (of specifications) 2005
Engine 5.7 litre HEMI V8
Transmission -
Max speed 155 mph
0-60 6.3 seconds
Horsepower 340 bhp
weight 1940 kg / 4276 lbs

Return of the Beautiful Brute by Peter Grist

Way back in 1955, Chrysler astounded the automotive world when they unleashed the remarkable C-300. The first in a series of now legendary luxury powerhouse cars, they performed as well on the track as on the road. With its groundbreaking 331ci 'Hemi' V8 engine, the C-300 became the car to beat and was dubbed the beautiful brute.

Now, 50 years on, Chrysler are doing it again with an all new 300 that is wowing American buyers but this time, and for the first time ever, we in the UK are able to get a right hand drive version. The new 300C builds on its rich heritage and offers a unique package to UK buyers of luxury, handling and performance in a refreshingly stylish body.

To achieve the honour of carrying the illustrious 300 badge, DaimlerChrysler have produced what they think is a world-beating car that is refined as it is powerful. The car's bold design exudes a presence hard to find in other vehicles. Stylish, elegant contours with more than a hint of American pizzazz are complimentary. The imposing egg-crate front grill carries the winged Chrysler 'wax-seal' emblem, flanked by round dual headlamps either side and fog lights set low in the bumper. The radius, flared wheel arches accentuate the large 5-spoke 18" wheels, which in turn compliment the restrained use of chrome on the door handles and mirrors. The 300C has a low, hungry stance that could perhaps be described as brutish.

The interior offers spacious comfortable seating for five large people, rear legroom is generous and standard equipment is extensive. The full leather trim is augmented with a stylish art deco inspired dash that features black numerals on dulled silver dials. Items such as leather-wrapped steering wheel with flush-mounted audio, phone, navigation, and trip computer controls, along with dual driver memory system controls for adjustable steering column, driver's seat, mirrors, radio presets and adjustable pedals add to the opulent feel of the 300C. There is no getting away from the fact that this is a car made by DaimlerChrysler, with shared parts from both German and American sides of the company; little things like the indicator stalks and steering wheel are pure Mercedes, which is no bad thing. But it is under the bonnet of the Bentley-esque body that the heart and soul of the car is to be found.

The engine design that powered Chrysler's 'letter series' cars in the 1950s has been re-engineered and reborn as a modern, high-performance, fuel-efficient and durable power plant known as the all-new 5.7-litre HEMI V-8. With 387 lb.ft. of torque, the Chrysler 300C can go from 0 to 60 mph in just 6.3 seconds and reach an electronically limited top speed of 155 mph.

The V8 engine that powers the new 300C uses aluminium cylinder heads with hemispherical combustion chambers for outstanding airflow leading to high power and torque. Dual ignition (two spark plugs per cylinder) increases peak power and torque, reduces exhaust emissions, increases fuel economy and provides a smooth idle. This car will be the first modern volume production vehicle produced in North America to feature cylinder deactivation when it goes on sale here next year. The Multi-Displacement System (MDS) seamlessly turns off the fuel consumption in four cylinders of the 5.7-litre HEMI engine when V-8 power is not needed. This provides a combination of outstanding performance, power and very competitive fuel economy. I was lucky enough to test-drive one of these cars recently when Chrysler brought over two left hand drive examples from the States. I have to admit that I was completely smitten, excited and surprised by the drive. At the turn of the key a mild mannered, smooth note sang from the twin exhaust pipes, almost lulling me into a false sense of security. I selected 'Drive' from the 5-speed automatic transmission shifter, added a pedal full of accelerator and the mild note from the exhaust was replaced with a deep, urgent V8 rumble. Time to drive!

Acceleration is incredibly quick, taking me from 0 to 120mph within a matter of seconds, and achieving that with relative quietness, but the big surprise was in the handling. The car felt so solidly attached to terra firma at all times it belied the speed being read on the speedo. The large, chrome, cast aluminium wheels and Continental tyres gripped the road with a surefootedness that was as surprising as it was reassuring. Underpinnings for this car are again, pure German technology utilising Mercedes' tried and tested independent suspension, steering and even their automatic gearbox on the Hemi version. So in a straight line it was impressive but what about cornering? Time to venture from racetrack surroundings onto country roads.

Although the car appears outwouldly large, the tight European suspension handled the toughest that Cheshire's leafy country lanes could offer. The 300C gave a precise and responsive driving experience. Looking over the long, flat expanse of the bonnet, it would be easy to imagine a typical rolling ride of an American land-yacht. However, the suspension and steering proved athletic and nimble, with front and rear suspension tuned for greater handling performance for the European market, it excelled at keeping me in control. Even in its automatic transmission guise, with the Traction Control System disarmed it was a joy to put it through its paces. The MDS seamlessly alternated between smooth, high fuel economy four-cylinder mode when less power was needed, and V-8 mode when I asked for more oomph from the HEMI engine. As with many other manufacturers of premium and performance saloons, Chrysler has returned to rear-wheel drive because of the superior performance and handling characteristics. The unique steering, suspension and wheel and tyre set-up I mentioned has been tuned exclusively for European roads, which has reduced body roll and improved handling at higher speeds, offering a winning package.

So how much does this premium class car cost? When the 300C went on sale in the UK recently, it was available with a 3.5li V6 and diesel option as well as the Hemi V8. The V6 saloon kicks off at just 26,250 with the Hemi version still at a relatively inexpensive 33,550. If the Hemi doesn't give you enough power, you will shortly be able to buy an SRT-8 race version for 39,750. Compare that to the price of the competition, like the Volvo S80, BMW 5 series, the S-type Jaguar and Audi A6, that's a bargain. The bottom line is that if you are looking for something different to park in your executive parking space, but gets you home in extreme comfort and if necessary, high speed, check out your local Chrysler dealer for the new Chrysler 300-C.

FACT FILE
• The very first Chrysler Hemi engine, the Firepower V8, was introduced in 1951, powering their top of the range cars.
• The 1955 C-300 held the record as the fastest stock car produced in the USA.
• The 300 got its name from the power supplied by its Hemi V8, 300bhp.
• In 1956 the car was numbered 300B, and engine power jumped to 340bhp.
• Letter series 300's ran until 1965 when they stopped with the 300L.
• Rarest 300? Sixteen 1958 300D's were fitted with a Bendix fuel-injection system, which proved troublesome. The sixteen cars were later recalled and replaced with carburettors, although they kept their unique badges.
• In 1959 the 'early Hemi' was replaced with a potent but cheaper to produce wedge-head V8.
• The 'second generation Hemi' was introduced in 1964 for the Daytona 500. The 426 race Hemi powered cars came in 1st, 2nd and 3rd place.
• 'HEMI' is named for the ultra-efficient hemispherical (or lenticular) shaped combustion chambers.

Text by Peter Grist



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