Back in the 1960s and ‘70s the competition in the Australian family car market was dominated by the so-called Big Three. Always given in the order ‘Holden, Falcon and Valiant’, the big six-cylinder and V8 cars dominated the local market and put on a right royal battle.
Chrysler Valiant fell by the wayside in 1980 when the company was taken over by Mitsubishi, leaving the field to the other two. Now the position has been reversed with the imminent demise of the Falcon and Commodore leaving a big Chrysler by itself in the affordable large sedan segment.
That car is the Chrysler 300C which has been on sale here 2005 and although it’s never been a big seller, everything else about it is big and it is certainly one of the most recognisable cars on the road.
The generation-two model, launched in 2012, was given a mid-life upgrade in 2015 with changes including a new honeycomb infill with the Chrysler wing badge in the centre, rather than at the top of the grille. There are also new LED foglamps and daytime running lights.
In profile the characteristic broad shoulders and high beltline remain but with four new wheel designs in either 18 or 20-inch. Changes to the rear include a new fascia design and LED taillights.
Previously available with either sedan or wagon bodies and with a diesel engine, the latest 300 range only comes with a sedan body and petrol engines. The four variants are 300C, 300C Luxury, 300 SRT Core and 300 SRT.
As the name suggests, the 300 SRT (for Sports & Racing Technology) is the high performance version of the car and we’ve just spent a thoroughly enjoyable week behind its wheel.
While the Chrysler 300C is the entry-level model at $49,000 and the 300C Luxury ($54,000) the higher-specced one, the SRT variants work the other way around with the 300 SRT ($69,000) being the standard model and the appropriately-named 300 SRT Core cutting back on features but also on price ($59,000).
For that $10,000 saving in the price Core buyers miss out on adjustable suspension; satellite navigation; leather trim; seat ventilation; cooled drink holders; cargo floor mat and net; and Harman Kardon audio.
More importantly the SRT gets a number of extra safety features including Blind-spot Monitoring; Lane Departure Warning; Lane Keep Assist; and Forward Collision Warning. These are also standard in the 300C Luxury.
Both models have 20-inch alloy wheels, machine-faced in the Core and forged in the SRT, as well as four-piston Brembo brakes (black on the Core and red on the SRT).
Chrysler 300 has good legroom, headroom and shoulder space for four adults. There’s sufficient width in the centre of the rear seat for another person, though the transmission tunnel steals a fair bit of comfort from that position.
The boot can take up to 462 litres and has a nicely regular shape so can carry bulky items with ease. However, there’s a long stretch under the back window to reach the far end of the boot. The rear-seat backrest can be folded down, in a 60/40 split, to permit long loads to be carried.
Chrysler’s UConnect infotainment system is centred around an 8.4-inch touchscreen colour monitor located in the centre of the dashboard.
ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
The 300C is powered by a 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 petrol engine that generates 210 kW of power and 340 Nm of torque at 4300 rpm. Under the bonnet of the 300 SRT is a huge 6.4-litre V8 Hemi with 350 kW and 637 Nm.
Both engines are now mated with a ZF TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic, especially welcome in the SRTs which had previously used an ageing five-speed gearbox. The gear selector is a circular dial on the central console. Die-cast paddle shifters are standard on both SRT models.
It will come as no surprise that fuel consumption is high. Listed at 13.0 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle, but a very reasonable 8.6 L/100 km on the highway, we averaged just over 15 during our week-long test.
What you hear is what you’re about to get when you press the engine start button on the Chrysler 300 SRT. With a little help from a flap on the dual stage exhaust the car emits that big, bold burble that sends muscle car enthusiasts’ hearts racing.
Driver-calibrated launch control allows the driver (preferably an advanced one – this is not recommended for the inexperienced) to set their preferred launch revs and, although Chrysler doesn’t quote a figure, a sub-five second sprint to 100 km/h is likely.
Three drive modes, Street, Sport and Track are available which adjust the steering, stability and traction control, suspension, throttle and transmission settings. They are accessible through the UConnect system’s touchscreen.
The new eight-speed gearbox is a marked improvement on the previous five-speed –
almost always in the right gear at the right time and with very fast shifts.
Around town it does take some time to get used to the sheer size of these big Chryslers. It’s a long way from the driver’s seat to the front of the car and you’re looking over a very long bonnet so the front and rear sensors and reversing camera really do earn their keep.
On the motorway the 300 SRT is in its element. It provides a smooth, quiet and relaxed ride. Into the hinterland road grip is high, although this is a big heavy car so you don’t get the same cornering enjoyment as you do from smaller, more agile cars.
AT A GLANCE
300C 3.6-litre four-door sedan: $49,000 (automatic)
300C Luxury 3.6-litre four-door sedan: $54,000 (automatic)
300 SRT Core 6.4-litre four-door sedan: $59,000 (automatic)
300 SRT 6.4-litre four-door sedan: $69,000 (automatic)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Chrysler dealer for driveaway prices.
SPECIFICATIONS (Chrysler 300 SRT Core 6.4-litre four-door sedan)
Capacity: 6.417 litres
Maximum Power: 350 kW @ 6100 rpm
Maximum Torque: 637 Nm @ 4150 rpm
Fuel Type: Petrol 98RON
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 13.0 L/100km
CO2 Emissions: 302 g/km
DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 5089 mm
Wheelbase: 3052 mm
Width: 1902 mm
Height: 1478 mm
Turning Circle: 11.5 metres
Kerb Mass: 1946 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 70 litres
Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Ventilated disc
Three years / 100,000 km