Friday, August 6, 2010

Chrysler's big-brute 300C remains a player

This review originally appeared in the July edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin' News published out of Folsom, California -- mg

Sacramento, California -- Back when everybody had money – and I’m talking about five years ago – Chrysler did something so unusual, so incredible, that I was left open-mouthed.

Chrysler rolled out a big-shouldered, aggressively styled sedan with serious horsepower and the kind of luxury features most people dream of … and charged a comparatively affordable price to boot. In other words, it did what Lexus, Infiniti and Acura had been doing for years.

Chrysler added to the appeal with a nostalgia-laced name, the 300, and presto! – people bought the big brute in numbers.

My ardor for the Chrysler 300 has not waned, even amid recession and pricey gasoline. If anything, I’m even more attracted to it – sort of a reminder of pre-recession muscle and mindless discretionary spending.

My 2010 tester was the 300C AWD, which translated to a 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 putting out 360 horsepower and steering so light that I felt like a muscle-bound tyrant. In fact, steering is so light that drivers need to be forewarned. I had the mind-set that the big, slab-sided sedan needed a firm hand, but I had such a firm hand at first that I darn near steered the tester into the curbs. Good idea to keep this in mind, lest you look like an idiot. Nothing worse than knocking over the neighbor’s mailbox the first week you have the car.

Engine power flows smoothly and evenly. You almost feel like you’re not giving it enough, but a look in the rearview mirror confirms that you’re leaving traffic behind with little effort.

The interior features a long list of luxury items for a base price of $40,500. Heated seats, a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel and rain-sensing windshield wipers are nice extras beyond the standard luxo fare. The middle of the 300C’s dashboard has that Chrysler plain-Jane look, but at least the automaker spiced up the analog gauges behind the steering wheel to make up for it. Cool night lighting on the gauges looks nice.

The car still draws “oohs” and “ahhs” from the neighbors. It looks hot-rod-limo cool, and the oversize grille is the most intimidating front end this side of a Great White Shark.

Customizers should consider the 300 a dream car, the kind of hardware you could spend years bending, tweaking and juicing up in your garage. Lots of room for creativity here, like turning over a five-star kitchen to the fry cook. If you can’t do something good with the 300, you probably ought to change hobbies.

For me, I liked my 300C on the roll, eating up open highway on a sunny day. Sure, the gas mileage is a wallet-sapping 16 miles per gallon in the city and 23 mpg on the highway. But sailing along the roadways with that big Hemi growling away, well, it’s a nice way to get away from thoughts of sagging investments and endless bills.

Call it car therapy, and the 300C is the drug of choice.

No comments:

Post a Comment