Chrysler 300C

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Chrysler 300C

Road Test

Chrysler 300C driven

Driven October 2011

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Many moons ago on Top Gear, you might recall Jeremy, Richard and James decamped to the Pendine Sands equipped only with a Winnebago, some tea, and a few cars. One of those was the Chrysler 300C. They loved the looks. They loved the price. They didn't love the handling.

Well, this is the new Chrysler 300C. And it's also the new Lancia Thema, for our European cousins, at least. You see, Fiat now owns Chrysler, and has decided to resuscitate the old American exec. And the first thing to report is: it's still not a driver's car.

Chrysler has retained the old 300C's chassis layout, but all the components are new. So it gets a double wishbone setup at the front and a multi-link, five-arm arrangement at the rear. The steering is of the electro-hydraulic variety, and the whole thing has been designed for us Europeans, traditionally more demanding of our springs and shocks than ‘Mericans.

Underneath that herculean bonnet sits a 3.0-litre V6 diesel - the only engine we'll get for now - in 187bhp and 236bhp trim, mated to a slow-witted five-speed auto. Later, an eight-speed ZF ‘box will be available, and it should be a corker, with shift times of under 200ms. We tried the 236bhp version, with 406 torques and a 0-62mph time of 7.8 seconds.

This setup hasn't positioned the 300C as a proper alternative to the German triumvirate's executive offerings. The steering does feel hefty and is reasonably positive, but there's little coming back. And the big lug - some two tonnes of heft - tends to understeer when you push it hard. Grip is good, though, and doesn't feel as custard-like as the outgoing model.

But, take off your driving gloves and fireproof jumpsuit, and it's totally different. It retains the brutish, old-school mafia-esque looks of the old 300C, tweaked a bit to make it prettier, and gets a massively improved interior, save for a tiny spatter of budget plastics. The chrome dials look fantastic, the new 8.4in touchscreen interface - controlling the audio, climate, communications and car functions - is great, and the ride is lovely. Seriously.

A Chrysler engineer told Top Gear they looked at the Jaguar XF in terms of refinement, and the Audi A8 and BMW 5 Series for ride and handling. While it struggles in handling, it majors on quiet. It simply wafts along effortlessly on a carpet of cotton, with only the worst surfaces making it a tad discomforted. It even took the edge off that V6 diesel; an engine that only shouted when utilising its many torques for easy overtaking.

Chrysler also told us they were never planning to go toe-to-toe with the Germans, but would like to see the 300C as a cool alternative. No confirmation on price yet, but if it sticks close to an estimated £36k when it comes next year, it certainly will be. Just look at it.

Vijay Pattni

We like: Looks great, superbly refined, should be cheap
We don't like: handling could be much sharper
TG verdict: Still a mafia-spec barge, now more refined
Performance: 0-62mph in 7.8 secs, max 143mph, 39mpg
Tech: 2987cc, V6, RWD, 239bhp, 406lb ft, 191g/km CO2, 2,042kg

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