CHRYSLER SA has launched its new 300C in SA, and it seems to have moved a rung up the luxury sedan ladder.
The previous model, which featured an imposing façade, had many onlookers likening it to a Bentley of sorts, which is a compliment to Chrysler.
While that may be, the interior seemed to take an about turn with below par materials and a spartan cabin for what is essentially a luxury E-segment vehicle. It was a little underwhelming and came under fire by both the motoring media and public at large.
Thankfully, the designers have found fitting to dispel any of the predecessor’s shortcomings by making the model’s perceived quality that much better. Though still based on the same floor pan as its forbear, which in itself was based on the previous generation Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Chrysler set out to make it that much more compliant over uneven roads without feeling overly wallowy.
The design is a touch more upmarket and will no doubt attract an even wider market. From its narrower grille to the satin finish chrome, there is an air of elegance about the vehicle. Even the bi-Xenon headlights with LED daytime driving lights look the executive part while still lending the model an imposing road presence. As opposed to the previous model’s 18-inch wheels, the new model is shod with 20-inch alloys as standard, which truly fill those arches with great intent.
The rear has vertically stacked light clusters, but with revised innards that also boast LED light technology. There also seem to be more character lines — both side and rear — breaking the large sheet metal to give the vehicle a more dynamic look.
The interior is also a marked improvement over its predecessor, a trend not dissimilar to what I recently experienced in the company’s Jeep Grand Cherokee.
There are more sumptuous materials used throughout, particularly on the dash and door panels. Even the steering wheel is swathed in leather and is more ergonomic than the truck-like helm of the outgoing model.
The perceived quality may not quite be at the lofty levels of its German counterparts, but the rest of the cabin is well laid out with high levels of specification standard. This includes a built-in navigation system, heated front and rear seats and heated and cooled cup holders. Also part of the standard equipment is the panoramic roof, which adds an airy feel to the cabin. However, it does move into headroom space, which will affect slightly taller passengers.
Three engine derivatives are available in the form of the 3.6l V6 (210kW and 340Nm) and a 3.0l turbo diesel (176kW and 550Nm), while the fire-breathing SRT8 boasts a 6.4l V8 Hemi pushing out 347kW and 631Nm. Interestingly, only the V6 petrol is offered with a ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic transmission, while the diesel and SRT models have to make do with a five-speed automatic gearbox.
According to Mark Chittenden of Chrysler SA, the high torque outputs of the latter models were not suitable for the transmission.
I managed to spend time behind the wheel of the V6 petrol and diesel derivatives and, while the former is a far cry from the previous model, I felt the diesel was more usable with large reserves of torque.
It is a very refined motor that perfectly suits the persona of this model. It is no slouch either with a claimed 0-100km/h time of 7.8 seconds and a top end of 232km/h, all the while returning an average fuel consumption figure of 7.2l /100km.
In the instance of the V6 petrol model, the 0-100km/h sprint is dispatched in 7.7 seconds with a top speed of 240km/h, while fuel consumption is pegged at 9.7l /100km.
However, for sheer numbers, the SRT8 harbours the bragging rights. With a 0-100km/h sprint of about five seconds and a top speed of 280km/h, this model has a great deal of attitude. Thankfully, unlike the previous model, the three-stage stability control now also gives you the option to disengage the nanny completely.
Without a doubt, the previous model wore a great deal of charm on its sleeve, particularly the SRT8 Touring that we had the opportunity to review a few years ago, but the interior left much to be desired. With the new model, I have a distinct feeling that the company will net a much wider audience who like the façade of the 300C, but lust after the mod cons that typify a vehicle in this segment. At this price level, the range certainly offers a great deal of car as it manages to undercut many of its German and Japanese rivals by quite some margin. If this is a prelude of things to come, then this American car maker is one to keep a beady eye on.
Pricing: 3.6l V6 R479,990 3.0l V6 CRD R539,990 SRT8 R629,990
Also part of the standard equipment is the panoramic roof, which adds an airy feel to the cabin