Chrysler 300C 3.0 CRD V6 Executive Auto business car review

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The second-generation Chrysler 300 saloon: it might remind of the Mk1 - It could be mistaken its dramatic road presence for a Bentley. (Source: Business Car Manager)

The second-generation Chrysler 300 saloon: it might remind of the Mk1 - It could be mistaken its dramatic road presence for a Bentley.

But this is essentially an all new version of the good value, executive-cum-luxury car which was a smash hit for Chrysler in North America on its debut in 2003 (but which ultimately failed to save the company) and which has helped it gain a tiny foothold alongside Jeep in the sophisticated business user-chooser markets of the UK and Western Europe.

With Fiat now at Chrysler's helm in place of Mercedes-Benz, the Chrysler 300C leans heavily on Fiat Group powertrain and body engineering technology; not least the 3 litre V6 VM/Fiat turbodiesel which replaces a former Mercedes-Benz unit and which will be the only power plant offered to UK buyers when the car goes on sale on June 14.

Not the usual British exec's favoured badge
The 300C represents a complete culture shift from the British executive business users' staples of BMW, Mercedes and Jaguar - although precisely which models of its European competitors is difficult to define.

In terms of interior room, perceived overall size and road presence, it seems to sit vaguely between BMW 5 and 7 Series, Jaguar XF and XJ and Mercedes E- and S-Class.

But the really important differences lie elsewhere. The 300C might not seem particularly cheap - £35,995 for the "Limited" specification model and £39,995 for the so-called "Executive" - when a similar-power BMW 530d SE can be bought for £41,095.
The car is new from top to bottom and comes loaded with goodies.

But in sharp contrast to its European rivals, there is very little on the options list. Anti-collision radar, even keeping the brake pads dry in wet driving conditions, all come within the Executive's price tag and precious little else is optional on the Limited version as well. Spec-for-spec against its European rivals, the 300C emerges as indeed significantly cheaper.

The approach to driving dynamics, however, of the eastern Canada-built car also differs sharply from the European executive car norm and may prove more contentious.

An Audi or BMW driver can choose to enjoy (albeit usually as an option) a virtually seamless 8-speed automatic transmission. The 300C driver must settle for a five-speeder with no alternative.

The Audi or BMW driver can select assorted driving modes, from comfort to outright sporting, in which engine, gearbox, suspension and steering responses can all be altered. The engineering team on the 300C has itself developed what it considered to be the best ride and handling for the car - and that, and that alone, is what the driver gets.

With a kerb weight of nearly 2.2 tonnes the 300C can be expected to set no new, business user-friendly CO2 or fuel consumption benchmarks. Nor does it. The Executive model tested (price premium over the 'Limited' model made up largely of better trim and sound system, full length sunroof and bigger wheels and tyres) has EU combined economy of 39.2mpg and CO2 output of 191 grammes/kilometre.

So if anyone want a new Chrysler 300C as a company car, expect a 32% company car tax banding on a P11D price of £39,480.

What's hot?

It's not a BMW...
Or an Audi...
Or a Jaguar
Impressive size and 'presence' for money
Impressive 'all-in' specification for money
Lusty, refined engine - one of the best
Surprisingly fast, competent, agile 'B' road performer
Overall refinement a match for Europeans
Pleasingly simple yet functional cockpit layout and controls
Interior aesthetics won't jar with most British business users
Full-length, dual-pane sunroof
Class-leading active safety systems...
...including collision-avoidance radar
to curb unsafe speed through bends

What's not?

It's not a BMW...
Or an Audi...
Or a Jaguar
Residual values unlikely to match up to Euro-executive car levels
Only average fuel economy, too high CO2 emissions
Styling will not be to all tastes
...but that may be the main attraction for individualists
Business Car Manager road test verdict

There is one question asked endlessly by casual observers of the first-generation Chrysler 300C which will be asked no more about its successor:

"I say, isn't that a Bentley?"

Few are likely to be ready to admit it. But there is more than a motor trade suspicion that the sight of the original's imposing grille, sweeping up imperiously behind "lesser" traffic, was a significant factor in the original 300C finding 1,000 or so individualistic, mainly business- user buyers in the UK for each of the six years it was on sale.

Gone is the Bentley-esque grille that was a feature of the Mark 1 pictured here
The grille has gone; replaced by a smaller, more anodyne and wholly anonymous opening flanked by headlamps which, to a casual eye, might have been lifted from an Audi. Only the side profile of the new car bears strong resemblance to, and immediately identifies, its parentage.

It is a styling decision Chrysler/Fiat may well come to regret; or would were its sales target for the car in the UK not so relatively unambitious: just 750 units a year.

And that would be a shame; for the 300C Mk 11 has a great deal to recommend it. It is pleasingly styled, even if the main 'icon' styling factor has been ditched.

Better yet, it is thoroughly competent in terms of ride and handling - no sports car, but a remarkably swift, spacious and safe miles-swallower on both good and indifferent roads. It may not have multi-mode dynamics gadgetry, but when the suspension team has done this well it is reasonable to question whether such gadgetry in rivals has already gone a step too far.

Not least, its interior will not offend most European tastes and it is very refined; the engine a gem, the body - made largely from extra-high strength steels - impressive in its torsional rigidity.

As with its predecessor, for company car management the Chrysler 300C's Achilles heel is likely to prove poor residuals vis-a-vis its European "prestige" competitors, with all that implies for leasing rates, along with its CO2 and fuel consumption disadvantages in terms of VED and BIK.

The true individualist business car owner or company car driver however, may view it as still well worth a punt.

businesscarmanager.co.uk

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Conrad Swailes