2006 Chrysler 300C Review


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THE AUTO PAGE
By
JOHN HEILIG

SEE ALSO: New Car Buyer's Guide for Chrysler

SPECIFICATIONS

MODEL: Chrysler 300C
ENGINE: 5.7-liter V8
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 340 hp @ 5000 rpm/390 lb.-ft. @ 4000 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 5-speed automatic
WHEELBASE: 120.0 in.
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 196.8 x 74.1 x 58.4 in.
TIRES: P225/60R18
CARGO VOLUME: 15.6 cu. ft.
ECONOMY: 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway/21.8 mpg test
PRICE: $38,840 (includes $675 destination charge)

Every time I see a Chrysler 300 I’m amazed that the same company that invented “cab forward,” perhaps the sleekest embodiment of front-wheel drive technology, can come right back and re-invent the rear-wheel drive box. Of course, in the time since the Concorde, Chrysler became a part of Daimler Benz, and there is a certain resemblance to the classic Mercedes-Benz profile in the 300. And if you’ll notice, there’s a certain Concorde resemblance in the Mercedes CLS. Life gets curiouser and curiouser.

We had the 300C for our traditional trek to see the grandbabies down in Virginia. We needed a large car because of things we were transporting in both directions. The 300C was ideal. For one, it has the longest wheelbase in its class at 120 inches. The only vehicles with longer wheelbases are the long wheelbase versions of “premium large cars” such as the Audi A8L, BMW 745iL, Jaguar XJ8L and Lincoln town Car L. Only the Mercedes-Benz S-Class beats it in its normal configuration.

As a concession to modern efficient design, though, the 300C is actually shorter than a Toyota Avalon. And because of its boxy design, it offers excellent front and rear headroom. Again, in a concession to the past, male passengers can wear fedoras in it.

I think I drove the 30C for all of a mile before I fell in love with it. This car is so comfortable to drive. Everything feels right to this old-timer. I liked the comfort in the seats, the position of the steering wheel (it does tilt and telescope), the adjustable pedals to make the driving experience as perfect as I could make it. On the road, the ride is soft without being too soft, yet the car takes hard and soft corners easily. This is a great package.

We had a 15.6 cubic foot trunk, not the largest possible, but the rear seats folded to increase trunk volume. The 15.6 listing also seemed low for the actual volume, but who am I to question Chrysler? I think we could have gotten by without folding the rear seats, but it did make life more convenient.

Later in our trip, we had to put three child seats in the rear. Except for some confusion trying to find a seat belt receiver that had fallen into the seat when the seat was folded, there was no problem installing these seats. All three fit across the rear seat. We never did try to put three adults back there, but the experience with the child seats proved we could have put three adults there. Legroom was very good.

There is no way you can avoid knowing this car is powered by a Hemi V8. There are HEMI logos all over the car. The 5.7-liter engine develops a healthy 340 horsepower that, working through a five-speed automatic transmission, was a great combination. We could cruise comfortably, but when we needed power to pass, all we had to do was hit the accelerator and we were in high-speed territory quite quickly. Like other ultra-powerful cars we have driven lately, it was comforting to know we had enough power under the hood to get us out of any trouble we might have encountered.

But what we even more comforting was the economy. The Hemi engine uses Chrysler’s Multi-Displacement System, where four of the eight cylinders are deactivated when the car is in cruise mode. This is designed to save fuel.

When we received the car, the fuel computer rear 15.6 average mpg. When we gave it back, it read 21.8 mpg. This is extraordinary. Here we had a big car that was giving us mid-size car economy. Despite this, I still had my first $50 fill-up with the 300C.

The instrument panel was as classic as the car. Dials were black on silver with pale green lighting at night. There was an information readout in the center of the tach and speedometer dials that informed us as to low tire inflation, which tire, and to what the pressures were in all four tires. We also figured fuel economy this way.

Our vehicle was equipped with a navigation system ($1,495) that was accurate enough to find dirt roads and paved streets in small towns. The screen also provided a nice display in audio mode. The audio system was excellent and included Sirius satellite radio. In the rear was a DVD player with a screen that was neatly concealed in the rear of the center console.

Chrysler put some retro design thought into the steering wheel and shifter. Both were leather-and-tortoise-shell. The tortoise shell looked more like semi-clear Bakelite to me, but it was a nice change from the almost standard wood and leather. This same material was used on the door pulls, but it wasn’t overdone, as some wood trim is.

Seat shoulder belts were adjustable for height, which made the threat of being strangled by the belt in an emergency less. And the seats were heated.

One feature I didn’t like was the Mercedes-Benz style cruise control, It was located just above the turn signal/wiper stalk, and we often confused the two.

Our tester had more than $5,400 in options, but for a semi-luxury large car, these didn’t seem excessive. I was very pleased with the 300C, both in performance and size.

2005 The Auto Page Syndicate

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