First DriveThe new Chrysler 300C is the sister car of the Lancia Thema, and continues to offer a unique charm, even if its detailing fails to match the class best
First DriveStill lacks a little polish next to the established rivals, but seriously competitive and likeable nonetheless
What is it?
Chrysler’s Sopranos-on-wheels take on the executive car market has just been given a mild facelift after nearly 3 years on UK roads.
When we say mild, we really mean it: there are no changes to the front of the car, and only subtle tweaks to the boot lid and rear light clusters. Not that the visuals needed much top and tailing, for it’s mainly due to them that the 300C has found 6,000 homes in this country since it launch.
Inside, there’s a more European feel, with black leather and dark plastics in the place of the previous typically light American interior. There’s also the new SRT Design model tested here, which takes the blinged up features of the SRT-8 performance version, and applies them to the real-world charms of the 3.0-litre V6 CRD.
What’s it like?
Much like a 300C actually, as you’d expect. Only the most committed of Chrysler devotees will be able to spot the aesthetic changes on the move.
Inside, however, there’s a tangible improvement, with better wood or faux carbon fibre (on this SRT Design) trim on the centre console and softer touch materials. It’s a matter of personal choice, but we imagine few will mourn the loss of pale grey plastic.
Chrysler is also proud of its new ‘MyGig’ infotainment system, fitted as standard on the Design model. This features a 20gb hard drive for storing your tunes on, along with touch screen navigation and Bluetooth phone technology - all on one unit with a high-resolution screen. It offers plenty of functionality, and looks far more attractive than the old unit as well.
The SRT extras – 20” wheels and chrome mesh grille most noticeably on the outside; plump ‘sports seats’ and leather steering wheel instead of the usual part-wood affair on the inside, are mostly good news.
After all, if you’re attracted to the 300C’s general deportment, it’s a fair bet the grille and wheels are likely to impress. You also get the new infotainment system and a powerful hi-fi as standard, along with all the other usual items of standard equipment, of which there are many.
Thankfully, apart from a noticeable but not excessive deterioration in the low speed secondary ride, those large rims don’t spoil the laid-back feel of the big Chrysler.
This is a large and heavy car, and feels it on the road, but the absence of any sporting pretension is to be admired, because in general it is a relaxing way to consume miles.
The Mercedes 3.0-litre turbo diesel engine is still the car’s star turn, offering decent economy with good torque and refinement. Without it, Chrysler would be in trouble.
Should I buy one?
Our experience suggests the 300C is still a love it or loathe it car, but precisely because of this, and because it does still attract plenty of attention, it’ll still have it’s own niche appeal.
Behind that chrome grille sits a mildly improved car, still founded on decent Mercedes mechanicals and at a bargain price when viewed against the German opposition.
Chrysler confidently point to proven impressive residuals for the diesel model, and there’s no reason to believe the SRT Design will be any different. If you’re looking for a striking big exec barge at 3-series money, this could be for you.