date : 16th May 2004
the sheer size, the brawn of Chryslerís new 300C, that first
gets your attention. A massive egg-crate grille, hooded head
lights and a distinct Chrysler styling signature that places
much more emphasis on metal than glass area.
This is the twenty first century muscle-car that America has
been waiting for. And if the Chrysler division of Daimler
Chrysler has its way, half of Europe will be lusting after the
300C as well.
The name is a special one in Chrysler's history. It was back
in the mid-1950s that the famous Hemi Chryslers made mincemeat
of the opposition, both on the Nascar ovals, on the Bonneville
Salt Flats, and out on the streets. This was the era of hot-rodding
for the masses, and the Hemi was king.
The name "Hemi" is derived from the engine's
hemispherical combustion chamber shape in the cylinder head.
The hemi head design gave excellent, free-breathing
characteristics and Chrysler was alone amongst American mass
manufacturers in dealing with the complexity that a Hemi head
At the height of its powers the Chrysler Hemi was producing up
to three horsepower, or two hundred and twenty five kilowatts
in today's terms.
That is an impressive figure even today and in 1957, the year
of the original 300C on white-walled "balloon" tyres,
it was mind-blowing.
Apart from the brutal looks, the most intriguing aspect of the
2004 Chrysler 300C is that it also has a Hemi V8 motor. And
yes, it uses pushrods, and not fancy dual overhead camshafts
and multi-valve induction.
But the new Hemi engine has another party trick. Thanks to a
patented hydraulic and electronic management system for the
valve train, four cylinders are shut down when lots of power
is not needed.
The hydraulics seal the valves on four cylinders, turning the
Hemi into a Vee Four. But when power is needed it is there on
demand and Voila, the 300C is once again a burly V8. The
system is so smooth that none of the journalists at the recent
international launch could detect the change-over.
Chrysler went to great lengths to build this car well and it
has a degree of luxury and good panel fit that will make it
acceptable to European enthusiasts. They see it competing in
the segment populated by the Mercedes E Class, BMW 5-Series
and the Audi A6. It certainly looks completely different to
any of these European offerings. But it also offers a lot more
interior space than any of them. Measuring five metres in
length, it has a three metre wheelbase for exceptional rear
leg room. And despite short overhangs there is plenty of boot
Features that will appeal to luxury-minded drivers include the
satellite navigation and Boston Acoustic audio system, which
has a three hundred and eighty-Watt output.
There are no particularly hi-tech features in the overall
specification and Chrysler has chosen to ignore systems like
Active headlights, variable ratio steering.
But the suspension package on the car is excellent, with a
very rigid chassis contributing to an amazing road feel, sharp
communicative steering, and rock solid handling at high speed.
The Chrysler 300C was launched in France last month,
indicating that Chrysler Corporation is serious about making
this a worldwide seller.
There is currently capacity to build two hundred and seventy
five thousand units, but more capacity is planned for the
Performance from this very big American car weighing over
eighteen hundred kilograms will raise some eyebrows.
The zero to one hundred mark takes just six and a half
seconds, while top speed is an electronically limited two
That's when all eight cylinders are working flat out and the
electronic throttle is wide open. But when pussy-footing along
in Vee-Four mode, consumption drops way off.
In fact Chrysler claim an overall fuel consumption figure of
just eleven comma four litres per hundred kilometres for this
Can we expect to see the 300C in South Africa? The answer to
that is Yes. It will take a while for right-hand-drive models
to come on stream, but expect the roar of a V8 Hemi to sound
across the Karoo again in the third quarter of 2005.
Car Torque is