They don't make them like they used to. Oh wait, yes they do. Don't tell the Yanks, but the last great American land yacht sets sail from Brampton, Ontario, wearing a Chrysler badge and looking a little bit like a Bentley Flying Spur. Sort of. If you squint.
The 300C is not what you'd call a shy vehicle. It's enormous, it's chrome-laden, it's got a bluff front prow dominated by a gaping grille and blingy polished alloy wheels.
The 300C is not what you'd call a shy vehicle. It's enormous, it's chrome-laden, it's got a bluff front prow dominated by a gaping grille and blingy polished alloy wheels. These ones rate the full 20-inch, making the 300C the kind of car rappers used to brag about before everybody autotuned to Maybach music.
It's a big car for a small niche, begging the question, “Why is Ford even half-considering making a Lincoln Continental?” Cadillac already takes the fight directly to the big sedans from BMW and Mercedes, so what's a Lincoln going to do? The blue-accented paint (Jazz Blue Pearl) of this week's tester is even a similar shade to Ford's concept, and while sales of large four-door domestic cars are relatively small in Canada, the 300C has the market cornered.
Slightly updated this year, Chrysler keeps their 300 recipe straightforward. Sport models get the designation 300S. Luxury models get the designation 300C. Base models get a Budget Rental Car sticker on the back.
All cars benefit from reworked front and rear valences, new headlights and a bigger, rounder grille. Mostly, the big Chrysler looks much the same: a little box stacked on top of a big box, with the minimum amount of greenhouse sandwiched between.
For the most part, that's a good thing. This is an older style of car, meant to appeal to those who might not remember the Chrysler “letter-cars” but certainly remember the panache. Of course it should be big, burly, and showy. Of course parallel parking should feel like a tug boat might be necessary. Of course it should have a honking eight-cylinder engine. Well, “maybe” to that last one; more on that in a bit.
Inside, the 300C matches its large-Marge exterior with plenty of space for driver and passengers. This is the sort of interior the showroom brochure would undoubtedly refer to as “upscale.” It's certainly nice enough, and the two-tone blue and white leather also feels like a throwback to past times without being dated.
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However, if you sit and start poking and prodding at things, the takeaway impression is that this is a less well-executed effort than the 300's own stablemate, the Charger. The Dodge, while theoretically less of a luxury proposition, just feels like its ergonomics were more sensibly worked out. The centre armrest on the 300C is too short, and the huge sea of black plastic surrounding the rotary shifter seems like not the best use of space. I don't need big lateral bolsters for the seats in a car like this, it should be an interior set up for Trans-Canada lounging, and it feels like a few more tweaks are needed to make it a proper road-going rocket-propelled sofa.
Still, you can't fault the infotainment for being easy to use, with large, easily identified icons and a hard-to-fool voice command system. Funny how Cadillac, the “true” American luxury option, hasn't got this right yet.
Legroom and headroom are good enough for your whole goon squad. The trunk's big enough for ex-member Jimmy the Rat. The gunslit windows make it hard for people to snoop in, but make it hard for you to see out. Make sure you check the box on the optional parking assist.
On a typically wet weekday, the 300C's long, low profile gave it the demeanour of a mid-level mobster. After cruising up and down the highway, I took it down to the backside of Hastings Raceways, the kind of place where maybe a little illicit side bet wouldn't raise too many eyebrows.
On the highway, the 300C was largely well behaved. The open road is this car's raison d'etre, and it handles sweeping curves better than any of its ancestors. However, this chassis is showing its age a bit, and those enormous wheels transmit just a few too many bumps (and a bit too much road noise) to rate as a fully luxuriant ride.
New for 2015 is a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic that illustrates just how good the modern automatic transmission has become. Combined with the 5.7L V8's 363 hp at 5,200 rpm and 394 lb-ft of torque at 4,200 rpm, it fits the character of the 300C perfectly. Rear-wheel drive, V8 up front, a rumbling soundtrack when she picks up her skirts and scoots; this is a very likeable car.
But again, there are some niggles. When cold, the transmission thumped into gear roughly from a start. Once would have raised a single eyebrow, but it happened multiple times during the not-very-chilly week.
Further, Chrysler giveth with one hand and taketh away with the other. Yes, you now get the eight-speed to shift up early and manage the V8's thirst (fuel economy for the V8 is 9.3 L/100 km on the highway and 14.8 L/100 km in the city), but all-wheel drive is no longer an option. You have to think that's a deal-breaker for most Canadian customers.
Driving around town on rain-slicked pavement, the 300C broke the rear tires loose often and early. While that's a little bit fun, I can imagine that it'd be a handful and a half with even a light dusting of snow on the ground.
On one hand, I'm glad they make this car. It's got that old-school, ol'-blue-eyes charm that you just don't see around anymore. Whenever another V8 becomes a twin-turbo six, whenever a sweet-revving six becomes a turbo'd four, we shed a little tear for the character lost to the demands of emissions and economy; with the 300C, wipe your eyes because it's still the same big blunt leather cosh it's always been.
But on the other hand, while I like a car with character, a duffle bag full of $50K buys a lot of options elsewhere. If you have to have the V8, check out Hyundai's Genesis sedan with its for-Canada-only standard all-wheel-drive. If you just want a big-hearted all-American sedan, take a good look at the Dodge. If you want something for show, lease yourself a base-engine Bimmer and debadge it.
I'd call this car a winner. It came onto the field and knocked it out of the park when it was first introduced; here, finally, was the big American slugger that we'd all been waiting for.
But times have moved on. Mighty Casey's getting a bit stiff in his old age, letting a couple of strikes go by at every at-bat. For now, Chrysler still makes 'em like they used to. But for how long?
3 years/60,000 km; 5 years/100,000 km powertrain; 3 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 5 years/100,000 km roadside assistance
|Model Tested||2015 Chrysler 300C||Destination Fee||$1,695|
|Base Price||$43,595||Price as Tested||$51,125|
$5735 (Bi-Xenon headlights – $695; Blind spot monitoring, park assist – $595; harman/kardon audio – $1,295; 5.7L Hemi V8 – $2,500; Navigation – $650)