|Photos by Ulysses Ang|
When the 300C first bowed in 2005, it brought a new-found element of menacing appeal to the executive car segment thanks to its “gangster” style. Elements such as the high shoulder line, chopped roof, and vertical grille all made it a stand out next to the soap-bar aesthetics of its competitors. Some point to Bentley influences, but owners were more than happy to embrace the ultra exclusive association. So when Chrysler had to pen the all-new 300 C, the expectations were certainly high. Can the all-new 300C break new ground while connecting would-be buyers to Chrysler’s illustrious past?
Despite being all-new, the second-generation 300C holds on to the basic ingredients that made the first model so successful. It remains in-your-face, aggressive, and totally masculine. At first glance, it’s hard to discern the new 300C from its predecessor, but put them side-by-side and there are things that pop out. First, the fender flares are now more pronounced, and there’s also some nice detailing behind the rear wheel. Next, the rear portion has been smoothened allowing for neater integration with the rest of the car. Aside from these detail changes, Chrysler has also peppered the 300C with more maturity and class by its LED trimmed headlamp cluster, touches of chrome, and a classier looking grille. Even the tail lamps, fitted with LEDs, shrine much more beautifully at night.
While the exterior of the 300C may seem derivative of its predecessor, the interior benefits wonderfully from Chrysler’s interior renaissance. Cheap plastics and clunky controls are shown the door and its place is a one piece, soft-touch dash that stretches through the entire length of the cabin Undoubtedly though, the centerpiece of this new dash is the 8.4-inch touch screen that integrates the 300C’s audio, climate, Bluetooth, and vehicle settings. All of the buttons and stalks are classy and befitting a luxury sedan perhaps bar the climate control which still feel flimsy.
Going back to the touch screen interface dubbed “uConnect Touch”, the interface is a little cumbersome when it comes to managing media players such as the iPod, but the climate and radio settings are all intuitive and blistering quick. In addition, the driver is treated to attractive and easy-to-read gauges highlighted by blue accent lighting. This lends the 300C a much classier, much more cohesive look compared to the white-faced gauges on the previous generation.
The 300C comes standard with seats that feel like they’ve been lifted straight off the Lay-Z-Boy factory as they’re ludicrously huge and envelope the passengers in a loving embrace. It’s finished in high-quality leather as well with cooling fans built in for the front occupants for the final say in comfort. The rear seats afford the kind of space that only a car of this physical size can deliver with ample room for three, maybe even four, adults.
Equally appreciated is the generous equipment level of the 300C. Aside from the full-featured sound system (with Alpine speakers no less), this car has powered front seats, a powered rear sun blind, a moon roof, automatic swiveling HID headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, and a dual zone climate control with rear seat vents.
Although the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 is still available, the bigger news is the all-new 3.6-liter V6 which Chrysler dubs as “Pentastar”. This new engine effectively replaces the old 2.7-liter and 3.5-liter V6, and as such is expected to offer both the fuel economy of the 2.7-liter while delivering the performance of the 3.5-liter unit. Thanks to dual overhead cams and variable valve timing for both intake and exhaust, the Pentastar V6 is rated at 292 horsepower and 350 Nm of torque. It is then mated to an all-new 8-speed automatic transmission that debuted at the 2012 Manila International Auto Show last April.
On the road, the 300C is quick with brisk acceleration. The engine is happy to rev, and it needs so since majority of its power is available at a high 6,350 rpm. Nonetheless, the engine is always kept at its power sweet spot thanks to an all-new 8-speed automatic. Whether attempting hard acceleration passes or cruising for fuel efficiency, the gearbox easily adopts and makes short work of whatever you ask of it, despite lacking any paddle shifter or manual override function. The fuel economy is excellent. A relatively traffic-free weekend resulted in a mixed city/highway consumption of 10.52 km/l. If there’s one criticism you can level at the gearbox is the engagement of the shifter itself. The actuation’s all electrical but the notches between the PRND are confusing, often resulting in the engagement of the wrong gear.
The neatest way to describe how the 300C drives is that it’s a grand tourer. The more you pile on the kilometers, the more it shines. It absorbs kilometer after kilometer of concrete and asphalt with ease while giving the occupants one of the most quiet and serene experiences in a modern car. This car is quiet at most speeds, while the interior is free from any squeaks and rattles that could arise from plastic-on-plastic action. Clearly, if packing some serious mileage every single day, then the 300C is your car.
Despite the rear-wheel drive configuration, the 300C is not a tossable driver’s car. First, there’s little denying that this car has heft. At 5,044 mm in length and 1,908 mm in width,the 300C barely fits a standard Philippine parking space. And though there are attempts to improve visibility such as a more ranked windshield and thinner pillars, piloting this car needs some adjustment, especially because of the long hood and tiny side mirrors. Second, the steering seems to be only casually associated with the hardware out front, resulting in a vague and lifeless feel. Trying to command the 300C through aggressive manoeuvres is like attempting to pluck a stuffed animal from one of those infuriating claw games. Despite being able to see what needs to happen, the machinery often misinterprets the desired input. Thankfully, the brakes don’t suffer from the same impotence. Despite its heft and size, the 300C’s brakes do a great job in slowing this beast down.
Equally appreciated by Chrysler 300C owners is the sheer amount of safety equipment that comes standard. The basic airbags, anti-lock brakes, and traction control are joined by front and rear proximity sensors, a rear parking camera, blind spot monitoring, speed adaptive cruise control, and emergency brake assist.
In the end, the second generation Chrysler 300C continues the tradition set by its predecessor. At a price in the region of P 3-million, there’s a price bump compared to before, but at least the all-new 300C looks as good as it feels, offers impressive comfort, and returns pretty decent fuel economy. It’s still not the enthusiast-centric car as one would have hoped and it won’t deliver the fuel economy with cars equipped with four-cylinder engines. However, the 300C ultimately carves a bold statement for Chrysler--one that reflects a new renaissance.