Mainstream sedans are traditionally on the sedate side in style and are aimed at sensible souls who don’t want to stand out from the crowd. Not so the Chrysler 300C, this big American machine is aimed at grabbing attention from any angle and it comes as no surprise it’s been labelled ‘gangsta car’.
Now approaching its tenth year in Oz, the big Chrysler’s 300C matured with the introduction of an all-new model in July 2012, less gangsta, more mainstream – though you still wouldn’t use the sedate word about it. This gen-two 300C got a major facelift in July 2015, adding some interesting details at the front. It obviously won’t be covered in this used-car feature.
As befits a car with an outstanding shape many 300C buyers add individual touches, huge wheels with ultra-low profile tyres being featured on many.
Chrysler shipped us only sedans when the first boats arrived here in November 2005. Butch looking station wagons began to arrive in June 2006 and were immediately welcomed as being something right out of the ordinary, perhaps even more so than the sedans.
The original Chrysler 300C can be awkward to drive until you become accustomed to it. You sit a long way from the front of the car, looking over a large dashtop, then through a smallish windscreen, over a long bonnet. The 300C’s tail is also a long way away and the sedan’s bootlid is not visible from the driver’s seat. Thankfully, rear parking sensors provide handy assistance. The 2012 edition of the 300C is better laid out and simpler to manage.
The 300C has good legroom, headroom and shoulder space for four adults, but interior volume isn’t as good as that of our homegrown Commodores and Falcons. There’s sufficient width in the centre of the rear seat for grownups but the transmission tunnel steals a lot of space.
There’s a huge boot in the tail of the sedan that’s well shaped so that it can manage bulky items. 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 to permit long loads to be carried. Chrysler 300C wagon’s luggage area is reasonably large, but again, not as good as in the Ford and Holden.
Australian 300Cs have what Chrysler calls an ‘international’ specification suspension. However, there are more traces of the traditional American softness than some like. Try for yourself on your private road test. The upside of the softish setup is comfortable cruising, even on rough and ready Aussie backroads. An exception to the suspension is the 300C SRT8 with its muscle car setup.
The 300C’s V8 petrol engine is an old-style pushrod, two-valve unit, but good cylinder-head design and an up to date electronic engine management system makes it work nicely. The V8 can cut-out four cylinders during easy running. It produces plenty of punch and sound and isn’t excessively thirsty.
If the 5.7 litres of the first 300C V8s isn’t enough then go for a 6.1-litre SRT (Sports & Racing Technology) version. Not only do you get more grunt, but also a sports chassis to further increase driving pleasure. The V8 engine was lifted to 6.4 litres in the new 2012 SRT8.
A lower cost SRT called the SRT Core was introduced midway through 2013. It retains the sporty features, but has cloth trim instead of leather; a basic audio system with six speakers not nineteen; standard, not adaptive, cruise control is; and standard, not adaptive suspension damping. The new price of the Core was reduced by $10,000 compared with the full-on SRT, making it a real bargain.
For those who want less performance, such as limousines owners, there are V6 turbo-diesel and V6 petrol engines on offer. Big numbers on the clock may be a clue a used 300C has lived the limo life, on the other hand they are usually driven sensibly and serviced strictly by the book.
Chrysler is reasonably well represented in Australia, though most dealerships are in metro areas. Chrysler was connected with Mercedes-Benz for a while, these days its controlled by Fiat. You may find a crossover in technical knowledge of the European marques at some dealerships.
Spare parts for Chrysler 300C cost more than those for Commodores and Falcons, though not outrageously so.
These big cars have good underbonnet space so working on them is easy. Amateur mechanics can do quite a bit of work due to the simple layout and components.
Insurance is moderately priced. Some companies charge quite a bit more for the SRT8, but there’s a fair bit of difference from company to company in these sporting variants. Shop around, but make sure to study the fine print before opting to a lower premium.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Look for a car with a lot of wear in the rear seat and the boot, which may be a sign of hire car use.
Uneven tyre wear is probably a sign of hard driving, perhaps even burnouts or doughnuts. Check inside the rear wheel wells for evidence of rubber.
Watch out for a Chrysler 300C that has been customised to the max as it may have been driven hard, though many are used only as good looking cruisers.
Lowered suspension and/or huge wheels may have led to a Chrysler 300 crunching on kerbs or bottoming on speed bumps. If unsure, get a professional to put the car on a hoist.
Look for crash repairs: paint that doesn’t quite match and a ripply finish are the easiest to spot. If there’s the slightest doubt call in an expert – or back off and find another one. There are quite a few on the market these days.
Make sure the engine starts easily. The V8 will have a slightly lumpy idle – beautiful! – but if a V6 petrol or diesel doesn’t idle smoothly there may be hassles.
CAR BUYING TIP
Enthusiast cars are often – but not always – looked after like babies. Ask to see the service record.