Chrysler 300C big car in little America

Chrysler has raised the image of its 300C which makes a very big impression, says Andy Russell.

It was a trip to little America when Chrysler launched its new 300C flagship saloon in the UK.

Starting in the American aircraft hangar at Imperial War Museum Duxford with a presentation under the wing of a Vietnam War Boeing B52 Stratofortress bomber, the test route became a whistlestop tour of American servicemen's haunts during the second world war.

A highlight was Nuthampstead, near Cambridge, once home to an airbase built by the Americans for the 8th Air Force's B17 Flying Fortresses and P38 Lightning fighters. Here The Woodman Inn, said to be the only UK pub actually on an airbase, now houses fascinating photographs of the Americans 'over here'.

Little wonder then that the 300C, despite being a long way from Chrysler's Detroit base and the Toronto factory in Canada where it is built, felt very much at home.

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The Americans have had a major influence in this part of the world and Chrysler is looking to built on that with the new 300C albeit in small numbers with a target of 450 sales this year and 750 to 1,000 next year – fairly conservative given the previous 300C sold 9,500 in six years.

Chrysler reckons the new model has moved on two generations when you take into account advances in equipment and technology which explains the price hike to �35,995 for the Limited model and �39,995 for the Executive. It also says the 300C is far better able to compete with the likes of the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class with better build quality, prestige and finesse.

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The 300C is imposing and should appeal to individuals wanting to make a statement with a luxurious, high-spec alternative.

The 300C is a lot of car for the money and comes loaded with standard kit and Chrysler is keen to protect residual values with strong finance offers and no heavy discounting.

On the safety front the 300C has nearly 70 electronic aids while even entry Limited gets ventilated front and heated rear leather seats – powered at the front, infotainment system with Bluetooth, dual-zone climate control, 8.4in touchscreen display, adaptive headlights with washers and auto high beam, mirrors that darken automatically to cut headlight glare, cruise control, 18in polished alloy wheels, parking sensors all round and reversing camera and even heated and cooled cupholders with red and blue lighting respectively. Executive adds blindspot monitoring system, adaptive cruise control, a huge two-panel panoramic sunroof, forward collision monitoring system, steering wheel gearshift paddles and 20in alloys.

Only one engine is offered – a 236bhp 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel developed with parent Fiat Group and used in Jeep Grand Cherokee – mated to a smooth five-speed automatic. There are no plans for a big V8 petrol engine nor, at the moment, smaller diesel engine.

With a hefty 540 Newton metres of torque between 1,600 and 2,800rpm there's plenty of shove in real-world driving and little need to work it hard. It's quiet and refined with a pleasing growl when kicked down for brisk acceleration. But while there will be no complaints about its power and performance fuel economy falls short of rivals.

The 300C is a big car that likes a big long road – stick it on a good main road and this mighty, mile-muncher wafts along at barely a whisper. On narrow country roads its size tells but it copes well with the twists and turns although the soft suspension, tuned for European roads and self-levelling, can be bouncy on undulating roads until it regains its composure, and the steering is a little numb and too keen to self-centre.

Get inside and the over-riding impression is again one of size with a huge interior with decent legroom but a big central tunnel impedes a central passenger in the back. Rear seats are snug and shapely but the front ones, while comfortable with multi-electric adjustment, feel flat so you sit on them rather than into them and they lack side support. But with electric adjustment for steering wheel, and even the pedals can be adjusted, you can tailor the driving position regardless of your stature.

There's no plan for an estate this time but the saloon's large 481-litre boot has wide, deep access but the boot floor slopes up towards the back. Rear seat backs split 60/40 and fold flat for longer loads.

Compared to the previous 300C the new model looks and feels far more upmarket with smart leather and a neat leather-effect covering for the fascia but some plastics lower down, especially the big doorbins, feel cheap and flimsy.

The fascia is dominated by the touchscreen display and big recessed instruments, with soothing soft blue backlighting, and tastefully finished with alloy and wood trim although there is a too much of the latter for my liking. Controls and switches are generally logical and well placed.

The new Chrysler 300C certainly makes a big impression and attracts a lot of attention and for someone who wants to 'do different', likes gadgets and is after an executive car with exclusivity it's got to be worth considering.

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