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Chrysler 300S

 

There’s the same go, but quite a lot more show in Chrysler’s new 300S.

Base price: $62,990.

Powertrain and performance: 3.6-litre petrol V6, 210kW/340Nm, 8-speed automatic, rear-drive, Combined economy 9.7 litres per 100km.

Vital statistics: 5089mm long, 3052m wheelbase, 20-inch alloy wheels.

We like: Striking style, refinement, cabin quality.

We don’t like: Vague steering, lack of chassis control.

How it rates: 7/10

WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? Chrysler has reduced its New Zealand 300S lineup from 10 models to just two. You could see that as an admission of failure, or perhaps an acknowledgement of two things: the large-car segment is now very niche for any car that’s not the Holden Commodore, and people who want the big, bold 300 really want one with plenty of bling.

So you can still buy the rorty SRT8, with its Hemi V8 engine and bad attitude. And you can still buy a V6 petrol model, but only in 300S specification. The latter is the model on test here: it’s pretty much your standard 300 in mechanical terms, but comes with a range of extras intended to give it a more aggressive visual presence.

WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? The petrol V6 is Chrysler’s latest Pentastar unit. It’s pretty lazy – which is not a bad thing, as you get plenty of low-down torque and the eight-speed automatic transmission keeps things cooking nicely. It’s a real pleasure to drive up to a certain point, but does give the impression of being a bit breathless if you’re determined to work it hard. Shades of Chrysler sixes of old, perhaps.

The 300S is quite accomplished on the road. The ride is good despite the fitment of 20-inch wheels as standard (the rear suspension is self-levelling), but the chassis is not quite at the point where you’d call it nimble. The electrohydraulic power steering is vague compared with a Holden Commodore, Ford Falcon or even Chrysler’s own 300 SRT8 (which has a full hydraulic setup). It tracks well through corners, but lacks body control in the really twisty stuff.

Where the 300S does score over its large-car rivals is in refinement. It’s impressively quiet at speed, which adds to the impression of this being primarily a cruiser. Aggressive black alloys or not.

IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? The 300 has always been a cut above its Australian and Japanese rivals in terms of perceived cabin quality. The style is over-the-top to some eyes, but there’s also a sumptuous feel to the cabin: soft plastics, intricate graphics and a bit of a sense of occasion. Luxury touches include power seats up front, heated chairs front and rear and even heated cupholders.

The dashboard is dominated by the massive 8.4-inch UConnect Touch screen, which handles everything from Bluetooth connectivity to satellite navigation. It’s very easy to operate, thanks to an intuitive operating system that provides more than one route to the same menu, and simple interface graphics. Try it, you’ll love it.

By the way, the audio system is branded Beats and you won’t miss it, with massive logos on the touch screen and speaker grilles. Yes, the 300S is down with the young people.

The 300S is a massive car (over five metres long) but doesn’t feel super-spacious inside. That’s more of an impression than actual interior dimensions, due to the cabin’s deliberately intimate feel and high waistline. Still, it may not be for everybody.

SHOULD I BUY ONE? The newfound simplicity to the 300 lineup is a welcome development. The strengths and weaknesses of the V6 model have not really changed: it impresses for equipment, refinement and quality, but doesn’t quite get there on steering and handling.

So you could argue that the dressed-up 300S is a bit of a pretender. But ultimately the 300’s appeal has always rested on its looks, so you could argue Chrysler has simply made the most popular model in the range look a bit cooler. There’s nothing wrong with that.

EQUIPMENT CHECKLIST

  • Air conditioning: Dual climate
  • Audio: CD, iPod compatible
  • Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/yes
  • Blind spot warning: No
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Cruise control: Yes
  • Driver footrest: Yes
  • Gas discharge headlights: Bi-xenon
  • Head-up display: No
  • Heated/ventilated seats: Yes/No
  • Keyless entry/start: Yes/Yes
  • Lane guidance: No
  • Leather upholstery: No
  • Parking radar: Yes with camera
  • Power boot or tailgate: No
  • Power seat adjustment/memory: No
  • Rear ventilation outlets: Yes/
  • Remote audio controls: Yes
  • Satellite navigation: Yes
  • Seat height adjustment: Yes
  • Self-parking technology: No
  • Split/folding rear seats: 60/40
  • Steering reach adjustment: Yes
  • Stop-start: Yes
  • Trip computer: Yes

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Auto Trader New Zealand