Wednesday 17 January 2018

Hip-hop artists help put revamped Chrysler on the map

Bored of default executive car choices? Fancy something more interesting? This new 300C saloon will soon be here, writes Shane O'Donoghue

Hip-hop music and the over-the-top gangsta lifestyle are inextricably linked in the USA. Even unknown 'artists' roll around in big Benzs, high-end Aston Martins and Rollers. With that backdrop it was a bit of a coup for Chrysler to have its 300C saloon accepted into the fraternity.

I'm not exactly a fan of the music, but even I've seen countless music videos featuring the big four-door.

In Ireland, our most famous, elasticated hip-hop stars sing about Honda Civics and there is only a handful of Aston Martins and Rolls-Royces in the country, so a car like the 300C really stands out.

The old model still grabs your attention, but this new version features a restyle that distances it further from contemporary executive car design in Europe. Chrysler doesn't expect to outsell the likes of the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class or the Audi A6, so it may as well offer an interesting alternative.

Saying that, one peek inside the cabin of the new 300C confirms that this Chrysler is comparable to the best from Germany, Japan and Britain in some ways. For starters the interior is huge -- bigger than most cars you'd consider to be competitors. That helps with the feeling of luxury, but so too does the new model's overhaul. There's leather on the seats as standard, but Chrysler has also redesigned the dashboard and instruments using good quality materials all-round. There's something Jaguar-esque about it in fact.

That's true under the bonnet as well, where a new 3.0-litre diesel engine resides. It's uncannily similar to the latest V6 turbodiesel offered by Jaguar. What I mean is that it's smooth, refined and quiet for the most part, sounds good when you want a bit more poke and has the ability to throw this big saloon down the road at an unholy pace. Buyers could specify a cheaper 190hp model, but it's expected that most will go for the faster car (236hp).

With the more powerful engine comes the 'Limited' specification, which is a bit of a misnomer, as it seems to have everything but the kitchen sink, including 20-inch alloy wheels, satnav, heated and cooled leather seats and even a leather dashboard. The cheaper 300C hardly scrimps on the equipment though, with 18-inch rims, electrically adjusted and heated leather seats, a large touch-screen monitor for the infotainment, a reversing camera and adaptive Xenon headlights. That's all very impressive, but our favourite parts of the car are the heated/cooled cup holders. Genius!

This is where you might expect the review to go awry for Chrysler, as we make excuses for the American-bred chassis and its allergy to corners. You'd be wrong. It helps that the 300C is based on a Mercedes-Benz E-Class chassis of old. The outgoing car did wallow about a bit, but it wasn't all at sea in bends and the new model builds on that. Its number one priority is to cosset its occupants, but it makes a good fist of stringing a few corners together. Driven enthusiastically it does feel much larger and less wieldy than the most dynamic of the German alternatives, but it's not bad at all.

The five-speed automatic gearbox is smooth, though the car will benefit from an upgrade to a new eight-speed transmission before too long, which should reduce fuel consumption and emissions further. Other plans for the future include a sportier looking 'S' grade with firmer suspension. On one hand this sounds like a bad idea. Why try to compete with the likes of BMW M Sport and Mercedes-Benz AMG? On the other, it's an apology for not offering the ballistic SRT version in right-hand drive. We can't imagine too many people crying into their cornflakes over that one in Ireland, though real fans of the 300C might lament the loss of the eccentric 'estate' version, called the Tourer. Not sure if that one ever made it into a hip-hop video mind you.

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