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
It’s a tricky one, the Chrysler 300C. The last generation did well in the UK thanks to an appealing combination of all-American mafioso style and budget price. So how does it work now that this model gets design by Chrysler, and will in fact be sold throughout mainland Europe as a Lancia Thema?
What's it like?
Well, actually the result is an impressively rounded exec saloon. We drove the 236bhp 3.0-litre V6 diesel, which sends power to the rear wheels via a five-speed auto ‘box. A 188bhp version of the same powertrain will also be available in the UK from launch in spring 2012, and an eight-speed ZF automatic will join the range later the same year.
Despite the 20-inch alloys that our test car rode on, damping over bigger bumps was adequate, avoiding any severe thumping or crashing. It did suffer over high frequency creases and cracks in the surface, where it could get very jittery, but overall the ride was very acceptable.
Cabin space is on a par with the likes of the BMW 7-series and the finish benefits from some nice quality materials. You’d most likely forgive the slightly clunky touch-screen system given that the 300C is so aggressively priced in its class.
The steering offers little feel but satisfying weight and predictable response make it easy to place on the road. Give it a bit more vigour and the chassis responds well enough – there’s lots of grip and stability – but the lethargic gearbox will most likely put you off before you get anywhere near its limits. It’s fine in normal driving but struggles if really pushed.
Ultimately, the new 300C is a likeable and well-judged car. The emissions let it down, so company car users need not apply, and there’s no avoiding the evidence of its budget placement in the market. But the pleasant interior offers enough quality detail and equipment that you don’t ever feel short-changed and it’s a pleasant thing to drive.
Should I buy one?
Prices won’t be confirmed until nearer the launch, but we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the new Chrysler 300C if space is a priority and the distinct image appeals. Waiting for the eight-speed auto to arrive would be a smart move, but if you can’t restrain yourself that long then the five-speed won’t disappoint.
Chrysler 300C 3.0 V6 Multijet II diesel
Price: £39,000 (est); Top speed: 143mph; 0-62mph: 7.8sec; Economy: 39mpg; Co2: 191g/km; Kerbweight: 1963kg; Engine type: 2987cc, V6 turbodiesel; Power: 236bhp at 4000rpm; Torque: 406lb ft at 1800-2800rpm; Gearbox: 5-spd auto