CHRYSLER 300 REVIEW
Vehicle type: Upper Large Sedan
|3.6 litre petrol V6||210kW/340Nm||7.0s||9.4l/100km|
|3.0 litre turbodiesel V6||176kW/550Nm||7.8s||7.1l/100km|
|6.4 litre petrol V8||347kW/631Nm||4.8s (US)||13.0l/100km|
Chrysler’s new 300 sedan comes with a degree of expectation. Three years into the Fiat-Chrysler strategic alliance, the group is on a bit of a roll.
A first look at the new car reveals an evolution of the previous 300C’s styling. It has the same high beltline, low roof and wheel-at-each-corner proportions, but with more contemporary detailing than the semi-retro of before.
Engine options range from the 3.6 litre Pentastar petrol V6 and 3.0 litre VM Motori turbodiesel V6 found in the Grand Cherokee, to a newly enlarged 6.4 litre Hemi petrol V8 in the range-topping SRT8.
The diesel and SRT8 engines continue to use the previous model’s Mercedes-sourced five-speed automatic.
The petrol V6 models employ a version of the ZF eight-speed auto found in several Jaguar, BMW, and even Rolls-Royce models.
All models come impressively specced and prices range from $43,000 for the 300 Limited V6 petrol, to $66,000 for the SRT8. Opting for the diesel in Limited, C, and Luxury grades carries a $5,000 premium.
TMR was able to rack up plenty of kilometers in all spec levels and drivetrains at the 300’s recent launch at a very wet Phillip Island.
Those familiar with the cheap-feeling plastic and retro-styled interior of the previous 300C will be very impressed with the new model.
Like the Grand Cherokee, the influence of ex-Mercedes Chrysler interior design boss Klaus Busse is obvious in the quality of material choice, colours and overall aesthetic.
A centrally-mounted analog clock remains, but contemporary colours and soft touch plastics are the order of the day.
At the top end of the range, the wood inserts on the Luxury are real wood, and the carbon fibre inserts in the SRT8 interior are real carbon fibre.
These come as a welcome surprise, given that the 300’s US home market is the faux-wood capital of the world.
The base Limited comes with cloth trim, but C, Luxury and SRT8 all come with genuine Nappa leather seats, with the SRT8 incorporating perforated suede.
The toggle style gear-selector for eight-speed models looks and feels just great, making the more traditional (Mercedes inherited) staggered gate arrangement on the five-speed models look positively old fashioned.
Headroom for the three rear passengers is more than the low roof profile suggests, and legroom is plentiful if not quite the dancefloor its 3052mm wheelbase (43mm longer than Holden Caprice) suggests.
Cargo capacity is rather limited at 462 litres, though the rear seat splits 60/40 to reveal a generous passage through to the cabin if needed.
All models come equipped with stability control, ABS, seven airbags, reverse camera and parking sensors. Luxury and SRT8 models add (optional on C) blind spot monitoring, rear cross-path detection, forward collision warning and adaptive cruise control.
ON THE ROAD
The launch route chosen by Chrysler featured a good variety of bitumen surfaces, including pot-holed country lanes and highway stretches with some nice curvy sections to concentrate the mind.
Much of the route was wet however, prohibiting a definitive dynamic analysis.
The changeable surface quality certainly favoured the taller tyre sidewalls of the 18-inch wheel-equipped Limited and C spec levels, with the 20-inch equipped Luxury and SRT8 more prone to jarring.
Road noise was also more pronounced on the 20-inch wheels, highlighted by the near absence of wind noise at highway speeds - likely a result of Chrysler’s use of acoustic glass and foam-filled roof pillars.
The ‘Sport’ mode facilitated by the SRT8’s new adaptive dampers made little difference to bodyroll and dynamics in the wet conditions, but ride comfort deteriorated noticeably when deployed.
On smooth tarmac surfaces though, there’s little to distinguish the models in these areas.
Limited, C, and Luxury models are now equipped with electro-hydraulic steering assistance, while the SRT8 maintains a traditional hydraulic system.
6.4 litre SRT8 five-speed auto
All models are equipped with generously-sized disc brakes, but the larger Brembo units fitted to the SRT8 felt clearly superior underfoot.
The SRT8’s Sport mode also changes the shift behaviour of the SRT8’s transmission to permit higher revs between shifts, but even without Sport selected, the five-speed transmission’s shifts are more definite than in diesel models.
This more aggressive shift behaviour suits the SRT8’s performance-oriented character, but it also highlights the five-speeder’s relative lack of ratios - particularly alongside the petrol V6 models’ eight-speed unit.
True, the SRT8’s stonking 347kW and 631Nm 6.4 litre V8 masks this compromise somewhat.
Chrysler isn’t quoting local performance figures, but the model lists a 4.8-second 0-100km/h time in overseas markets - not bad for a two-tonne sedan.
Overtaking, or getting away from the line quickly, will have you pinned back into the seat.
The SRT8 engine also musters up a proper big-capacity petrol V8 concert - it makes a wonderful bellow when asked. Otherwise, under light throttle, it can happily fly under the radar with just the distant growl hinting at what lurks under the toe.
3.0 litre Turbodiesel V6 five-speed auto
The 3.0 litre turbodiesel V6 also comes with just a five-speed auto. Its lusty 176kW and 550Nm of torque however also manages to overcome the five-speeder’s ratio deficit (despite the relatively narrow maximum torque band of 1800-2800rpm).
Chrysler quotes a 0-100km/h figure of 7.8 seconds for diesel models, which is a mere 0.8 seconds behind that claimed for petrol V6 models.
Despite being a diesel, the engine is near silent when underway, with noticeably less turbo whistle than in Grand Cherokee guise.
Even under full-throttle overtaking manoeuvres, the diesel felt and sounded more refined than the previous 300C’s 3.5 litre petrol V6 - quite an achievement for an oil-burner.
3.6 litre petrol V6 eight-speed auto
The new model’s 3.6 litre petrol V6 is a vast improvement over the previous base engine, in terms of refinement, performance and efficiency.
The engine’s design is hardly cutting-edge, still using port (as opposed to direct) fuel injection, but featuring 24 valves and aluminium construction.
Its 210kW and 340Nm are developed quite high in the rev range (6350rpm and 4650rpm respectively), and it emits a pleasing induction roar when its doing it.
But this engine’s trump card is the eight-speed transmission it is attached to, even in the entry model Limited.
And the abundance of ratios helps cater to the 3.6 litre’s lofty power delivery.
The result is that it feels quicker than its raw numbers might suggest. Two-up on test, the 3.6 litre felt every bit capable of hauling its 1800kg to 100km/h in the claimed 7.0 seconds.
It might need to use its transmission more under acceleration or up hills than the diesel V6, but with three more ratios to choose from, it sure gets by.
FIRST DRIVE VERDICT
Chrysler’s new 300 range delivers on the high expectations of new Fiat/Chrysler products. The range is vastly improved overall in performance, quality, efficiency, and value.
Whether the Australian market will embrace another large, rear-wheel-drive sedan remains to be seen, but there are definite highlights among the range that could put yet another dent in Falcon and Commodore sales.
At $66,000, the barnstorming SRT8 is a cheaper, more powerful, better equipped and likely faster alternative to FPV’s GT or the HSV Clubsport R8.
The diesel V6 is a nice drive, and delivers impressive economy considering the 300’s significant weight.
But, for $5000 less, we agree with Chrysler’s expectation that the petrol V6 will be the volume seller, and the eight-speed auto is a nice little bonus to boot.
- 300 Limited - 3.6 petrol - $43,000
- 300 Limited - 3.0 diesel - $48,000
- 300C - 3.6 petrol - $46,500
- 300C - 3.0 diesel - $51,500
- 300C Luxury - 3.6 petrol - $51,000
- 300C Luxury - 3.0 diesel - $56,000
- 300 SRT8 - 6.4 petrol - $66,000
Note: prices exclude on-road costs.
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