Road Test: Chrysler 300C 3.0 V6 Executive
Sector: Executive Price (March 2013): £39,995 Fuel: 39.2mpg CO2: 191g/km
Amid global financial turmoil who could have predicted that not only would Fiat turn its own fortunes around in recent years, but that a manufacturer with very little success selling large cars in Europe could be manning the purse strings of the second-generation Chrysler 300C?
Stranger still, it’s being sold alongside its Italian counterparts. Continental Europe gets the same car badged as a Lancia Theta, but UK buyers get the reverse – a 300C sitting alongside the diminutive Ypsilon and Delta. Teething troubles from the merging of two very different companies.
The old model was a surprise success for Chrysler in Europe. Sharing its platform and diesel drivetrains with the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, it mixed Bentley-esque styling with vast American proportions and looked totally unlike anything else in its class. Chrysler’s keen pricing meant also meant it didn’t look like anything else for the same sort of money. But with CO2-based taxation and most of Europe downsizing, are the conditions still there for the 300C in 2013?
This is a vast car. Executive cars tend to be large, but even bracketing it with the E-Class, 5 Series and A6 understates its dimensions. The 300C is only 30mm shorter in length and 17mm shorter in wheelbase than an S-Class, and it’s 30mm wider. It’s long enough to fill out most UK parking spaces, wide enough make getting into multi-storeys a bit of a squeeze and at 2.1 tonnes it’s also 150kg heavier than a diesel S-Class.
Footprint aside, the 300C has retained its predecessor’s muscular three-box silhouette with its shallow roofline, large upright grille and bulbous wheel arches filled out with 20-inch wheels on the Executive trim. It’s not quite as distinctive as the first-generation car, but it still looks like it’s been inspired by a Batman comic sketch. If it’s on-road presence you’re seeking, few tick that box as well as the 300C.
The updates are most obvious inside. In the States, the 300C is the best-equipped version of the 300, which is a fairly cheap saloon car. The first-generation 300C hid its downmarket roots, very effectively, but only under a thin veneer of luxurious refinement. Huge strides have been made here, with much better quality materials used throughout and several dashboard controls moved to the touch-screen infotainment system to avoid blanks on low-spec cars.
But the old car’s large, soft front seats remain and very comfortable they are too. Even the tallest driver could get comfortable in a 300C, elbows spread wide to use the armrests. Rear seat legroom and boot space isn’t that generous for a car of this size, though.
Despite the visual similarities, Chrysler has developed a new platform for the 300C, and it uses an Italian-built 3.0-litre V6 in Europe instead of the Daimler unit in its predecessor. With 236bhp on tap it’s effortlessly quick and very quiet, and despite only having a five-speed automatic gearbox it’s not over-revved on motorway trips. Official figures of 39.2mpg are far from class-leading in this segment, but driven carefully it’s easy to come close to them.
The problem is, carbon-based taxation means this isn’t quite the cut-price luxury car it once was. There’s no small diesel option, and at 191g/km for the top-spec version tested here it can’t match equivalent German models on tax efficiency either. You’d struggle to find any other new cars with this sort of on-road presence at £40,000, but with no estate version and mounting running costs it’s a car for those who love the looks and are prepared to live with the faults.
Improvements in build quality, efficiency and a slightly softer, less garish appearance add up to a comprehensive package of updates for the new 300C. But its fleet appeal against the Germans is limited by comparatively high whole-life costs, reserving this as an exclusive choice for those who have fallen for its muscular American proportions.