What is it?
American as apple pie.

What’s in it?
A 176-kilowatt turbo diesel V6 with a five-speed auto.

Is it thirsty?
I used 9 litres per 100 km in the city, 6.8 in the country. The official combined figure is 7.1.

Drive away

Thumbs up
It’s American but it’s nicely economical. And great at country cruising.

Thumbs down
It’s far from subtle. The steering gets heavy when parking.

How can you tell you’re in an American car? The experienced can pick the vital clues.

Chrysler 300

If it has a foot-operated park brake there’s a high probability it was either made in America or made for Americans. If the suspension and noise suppression cocoons you from the outside world, placing you in your own little microenvironment, if it rides beautifully but slops around a bit when challenged, well you’re getting hot.

And if the audio thumps out heaps of doof even when the bass is wound back and the speedometer has a miles-per-hour subtext you’re spot on the money.

If you dislike foot-operated park brakes you can at least comfort yourself with the knowledge that at least it’s better than the old umbrella-handle one under the dash of the last Chrysler 300C.

This second incarnation of the car that was going to bring us all back to Detroit hasn’t changed much. There’s less bling around the headlights, more around the tail lights. The narrow glass area between roof and doors remains meaning the big Chrysler retains all of its gangster imagery. Once in you’re an instantly bad mother.

I’ve had a trot in a couple of these. The diesel V6 is a ripper; fast, responsive, smooth and reasonably quiet, and beautifully mated to a five-speed auto. Both engine and gearbox were inherited from Mercedes-Benz when it briefly owned Chrysler back when car companies were all buying other car companies and then selling them again.

But real American cars have V8s and the one in the 300 SRT is a monster. 6.4 litres, 347 kilowatts. It sounds fantastic to anyone with the bloke gene, goes like a cat in a dog pound and uses 16 litres of petrol for every 100 km in the city, 12 in the bush.

The five-speed auto in this one isn’t as smooth as the diesel’s transmission. Doesn’t matter, get behind the wheel of one of these and you’re not into finesse, you’re a bootlegger running ’shine down the mountain, the G-men in hot pursuit in their government-issue six-cylinder Chevrolets. They don’t stand a chance.

The interior is pretty ordinary although the equipment level is good. The dash surfaces are hard plastic (leather in the $74,970 SRT) and there’s a huge console screen which, unless you have navigation, seems like overkill. Head and leg room in the rear isn’t bad, it’s just less than you expect in a car of this size. The boot is huge and so is the spare wheel well under it. What a pity there’s only a space saver at its bottom.

But the Chrysler is comfortable and good value, and an easy way to rack up long distances with the least possible effort. I’d be happy to recommend it to people who either live in the country or spend of a lot of time out there, but for city folk it’s a bit fat and a bit challenging to park, and for enthusiast drivers it’s far from precise.

Published May 2013


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