"The 300C is a stylish alternative to mainstream luxury saloons, offering huge space and keen value"
The all-new Chrysler 300C is available with a single 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine that produces 236bhp. While it retains its predecessor's muscular body styling, it is definitely more understated, boasting a different grille design and slimmer headlights. The latest version gets a five-speed automatic gearbox, while the top-spec Executive model is fitted with 20-inch alloy wheels and Chrysler's Forward Collision Warning system. The interior displays a more luxurious feel than its predecessor, while the 8.4-inch colour touchscreen is a generous addition. The new Chrysler 300C goes on sale in June 2012 and will go head-to-head with the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 5 Series and Audi A6 - with prices starting at around £35,000.
In the UK just one engine is available, but fortunately it's a talented all-rounder. The 3.0-litre V6 diesel comes with 236bhp, and is punchy and smooth, making the 300C an excellent cruiser. It has an impressive 144mph top speed, and gets from 0-62mph in 7.4 seconds, good figures for a car this size. The steering is well weighted, if a little numb, and it handles well considering its above average weight. The only dynamic issue is the five-speed automatic gearbox, as its slow responses quickly become frustrating on more demanding roads.
For this new model, Chrysler introduced plenty of extra insulation, so the new 300C is more hushed than ever. Even at high speed on the motorway, very little wind or road noise intrude the cabin, which makes it a very relaxing car to drive over long distances. Ride comfort is good too, although the optional 20-inch alloy wheels can make it feel jittery over more uneven road surfaces, and the standard 18-inch rims are a better option for UK drivers. The electrically adjustable drivers seat makes finding a good driving position simple, and all-round visibility is excellent.
The new model improves on the old model in terms of build qaulity, and generally, it feels well screwed together. The only issue is that parts will be expensive to replace if things do go wrong. The 300C is fitted with lots of innovative safety kit, with over 70 active and passive systems, including a feature that removes water from the brakes in wet weather for better stopping performance, and blind-spot indicators for the first time. The new 300C scored a full five-stars when crash tested by independent body Euro NCAP.
The 300C is still a seriously big car - in the same league as the BMW 7 Series and Mercedes S-Class - but it's not as practical as you might think. There's a huge amount of space inside for passengers with lots of legroom, but headroom will be a little tight for anyone over six feet tall. There are lots of storage cubbies, and the cupholders in the centre console can be heated or chilled depending on whether you’re drinking a hot or cold beverage. Despite clever touches like this, the boot is disappointingly small. At 481 litres, it's smaller than both the BMW 5 Series and Audi A6, and the odd shape of the loading bay and lack of a flat floor make fitting bigger items difficult. Also unlike the outgoing model there are no plans for an estate model in the future.
Value for money
The new car marks a big improvement in terms of interior quality, with many more soft touch plastics and better quality materials than before. The standard equipment list is impressive too, with several items that would be optional on rivals fitted as standard. However the 300C now costs significantly more than the previous version, with high-end models close to £40,000, which is a lot for a car that lacks the badge appeal of other brands. Similarly, there are areas of the cabin further away from the driver that still feel cheap - disappointing in a car that's now positioned as a premium product.
The 300C's big diesel engine doesn't come equipped with any modern fuel saving technology like start/stop or energy recuperating brakes, but returns 39 - 40mpg and 185g/km. That puts it several tax brackets above its rivals from Audi and BMW. Opting for the bigger 20-inch wheels pushes the carbon output even higher, to 191g/km. Other costs should be manageable though, and servicing should undercut German opposition.