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Chrysler 300C

Broadcast date : 16th May 2004

It's 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 engine entailed.

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 space.

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 future.

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 fifty.

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 car.

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.

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