2012 CHRYSLER 300 REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Large luxury sedan
Price: $56,000 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy claimed: 7.2 l/100km | tested: 9.5 l/100km
Chrysler has gone less “gangster” with its new 300 large sedan. Some will like that, some won’t. But what everyone will like is that it has simultaneously lifted interior quality and equipment levels.
The result is that the new 300 is a much finer offering than its predecessor - easier to live with, better on road, and with lots of gadgets to entertain and pamper.
The CRD model also puts a robust and understressed diesel V6 under the long bonnet to hustle the show along.
As we found out, while the 300 Luxury CRD isn’t perfect, it’s a compelling buying option, especially for the style-conscious.
Quality: The upper dash is tastefully trimmed in leather and there’s black hide on all key touch points. The black headliner is a nice touch that helps elevate the ambience of the interior, and all pillars are also trimmed in black fabric.
The perforated leather seat upholstery is also smooth and with an upmarket feel.
However, while overall things are improved, it’s let down by poor attention to detail. There are a number of uneven panel gaps (such as where the steering column enters the dash), and the cubby closure at the base of the centre stack feels especially rickety.
Comfort: The front seats feel well bolstered around the thighs, but lack lateral support in the backrest. They’re spacious though, and the electrically-adjusting steering column has enough range of movement to accommodate drivers of any size.
It’s a shame though that the steering wheel buttons and manual shift paddles are mounted so close to the edge of the rim - it doesn’t take much to accidentally press either when turning the wheel.
Outward vision is greatly improved over the old 300C. The glasshouse is now larger and with lower shoulder lines. The 300’s thick C-pillars however hamper over-the-shoulder vision, making the Luxury’s blind-spot monitoring system a godsend.
You’d think a car this large would have a commodious back seat, but that’s not the case with the 300. While it’s not exactly tiny, the limited headroom created by the panoramic sunroof gives the 300’s back seat a slightly claustrophobic feel.
The transmission hump also means centre-seat passengers will struggle to get comfortable.
On the plus side, each rear outboard passenger in the 300 Luxury gets to enjoy heated seats, and face-level air vents. There’s also a power retractable fabric sunblind to keep the sun off rear occupants.
Equipment: The highlight of the 300 Luxury experience is its overwhelming array of luxury features.
Besides power-adjustable front seats, dusk-sensing xenon headlamps and auto-on wipers, the 300 Luxury gets a proximity key, leather upholstery, sat nav, seat heaters for both front and rear, a heated steering wheel, power retractable rear sunblind, radar active cruise control and a blind-spot monitoring system.
The front seats are also ventilated, the front cupholders can be either chilled or heated, the rear view mirrors automatically dim and there’s USB, 3.5mm and Bluetooth connectivity for the 9-speaker audio system.
Options include a panoramic glass sunroof and a 19-speaker stereo with 900-watt amplifier.
Storage: The boot is on the small side for a large sedan, with only 462 litres of space. Beneath the floor there’s a small storage pocket next to the inflator kit (no spare tyre here), but larger items can be accommodated by folding the 60-40 split rear seatbacks.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The Chrysler 300’s 3.0 litre turbo diesel V6 is a stout engine with plenty of pulling power.
It develops 176kW of power at 4000rpm and 550Nm of torque between 1800rpm and 2800rpm, and it relishes being lugged around at low rpm.
With a kerb weight of over 2.0 tonnes, the diesel’s substantial torque output makes it the best powertrain option in the 300 range.
There are a couple of downsides to the 300 diesel’s mechanical package though. One is the significant throttle-lag off idle, which we suspect is a deliberate measure to reduce wheelspin rather than any shortcoming of the engine itself.
Another is the antiquated five-speed automatic. It does a poor job of keeping the engine in its powerband, and besides slow kickdown response it also takes forever to shift down a gear when tackling steep hills.
A huge shame, then, that the ZF-sourced eight-speed auto used in the petrol V6 300 is not offered on the diesel.
Refinement: Noise and vibration suppression are superb in the 300 diesel. In fact, the smoothness and quietness of the 300’s diesel V6 shames even some petrol engines in the large car segment.
The unsophisticated transmission, on the other hand, occasionally thunks through gearchanges.
Happily, the rest of the 300 experience is as refined as you’d expect it to be. Even the car’s blocky profile and 20-inch rims don’t generate much in the way of wind or tyre noise, and the cabin seems squeak-free even on rougher roads.
Suspension: It weighs a lot, there’s a heavy engine up front and the suspension is designed to cosset its passengers, not cut through corners. There’s no getting around it: the 300 handles like a boat.
But for a luxury car, that’s perhaps not such a bad thing. The soft suspension floats over harsh bumps and passengers are very much isolated from the outside world.
The slow steering rack will discourage anyone from even thinking about attacking a winding road. If they do, they’ll discover the 300’s heavy body roll and early onset of understeer.
Braking: The 300’s firm pedal and good braking performance hauls up the big sedan with relative ease. But it’s not as confidence-inspiring as some and you’re always aware of the physics of all that weight to pull up.
SAFETY | RATING: 5/5
ANCAP rating: 5 Stars
Safety features: ABS, EBD, brake assist, traction control, stability control, active cruise control and blind spot monitoring are standard. Front and rear parking sensors as well as a reversing camera are also standard.
Passenger protection is provided by three-point seatbelts and seven airbags (front, front side, full-length curtain and driver’s knee).
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km. Includes three years of roadside care.
Service costs: Maintenance intervals for the 300 Luxury diesel are set for every 10,000km. Costs can vary, so consult your local dealer before purchase.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Holden Caprice V6 ($61,990) - Quite a good drive, and effortless on road. Rear seat room is abundant, but interior quality falls short in this company. It is also well beaten by the 300 Luxury in the gadget stakes. (see Caprice reviews)
Jaguar XF 2.2D Luxury ($78,900) - You don’t get as many luxury features in the Jag as you do in the 300 Luxury, but you do get a bona-fide prestige badge on the bonnet and drop-dead gorgeous body styling.
The XF’s 140kW/450Nm engine isn’t as willing as the Chrysler’s, but the XF is a much more competent handler. Is that enough to offset the $22,900 price gap? Not really. (see XF reviews)
BMW 520d ($80,700) - The option list is extensive (and expensive) and the 520d’s 135kW/380Nm 2.0 turbodiesel is well short of the 300 diesel’s outputs, but the 5 Series has far more impressive build quality.
It’s eight-speed automatic is also a segment-leader for drivetrain refinement and driveability. Incredibly expensive compared to the Chrysler, though. (see 5 Series reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The Chrysler 300 Luxury scores highly for its impressive equipment list, comfy ride and outstanding diesel engine. It loses points however for its lacklustre transmission, wallowy handling and some sub-par details to the interior.
It’s better than it was, but those shortcomings mean it’s still got a way to go before it can rival the premium European and Japanese marques.
The Caprice and G6E are far sharper on road, and the Caprice has far more room for rear-seat passengers. But, for limousine-luxury - if not handling - we’d put the 300 CRD in front.
It offers more luxury per dollar, is more refined and, to these eyes, just looks incredibly cool. At $56,000, it really is a lot of car for your money.
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- 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.