Chrysler trick keeps

Merlin happy

Chrysler 300C, side
Chrysler 300C, rear
Chrysler 300C, front
Chrysler 300C, interior
Chrysler 300C, dashboard
Chrysler 300C, wood trim
Chrysler 300C, cup holders
Chrysler 300C, instruments
Chrysler 300C, boot
Chrysler 300C, rear seats
Chrysler 300C, astronomy zone alert

IT'S the American icon which really knows its stars from its stripes.

Drive the new Chrysler 300C into an area where radio astronomy is taking place and the car automatically closes down its blind spot monitoring systems.

That's because the radar sensors fitted to the car operate on a frequency which causes interference to radio telescopes - and in Britain that's not allowed.

As a result Chrysler's engineers have programmed the 300C's GPS navigation system to recognise the six radio astronomy zones in the UK and switch off the radar whenever the car gets near.

If you drive around Cambridge, Defford in Worcestershire, Knockin in Shropshire or Jodrell Bank, Pickmere and Darnhall, in Cheshire the safety system on the latest generation of Chrysler's gigantic saloon will just not work.

Those sites are home to the Merlin project, the Multi-Element Radio Linked Interferometer Network which is researching how the universe was formed and featured in Professor Brian Cox's Stargazing Live TV series.

Take the 300C into the vicinity of the giant dishes and up flashes a warning in the car's instrument panel while symbols in the door mirrors glow yellow indicating the blind spot monitors have been disabled.

It's a compromise Chrysler's bosses are prepared to put up with as they go about launching the new 300C in the UK knowing full well that those interested in this monster of a car are more than likely living the American dream.

Since the previous model came to Britain back in 2005 some 9,500 have been sold and more than three quarters of those were bought by people just because of its looks.

By any measure the 300C is huge - 16ft 6ins long, 4ft 10ins high and 6ft 2ins wide - and the last one gained a reputation of being mistaken for a Bentley thanks to an optional mesh grille.

The new car comes with Chrysler's restyled seven slotted grille - although a mesh look is still available - and on the road it's unmissable.

Overtly American the 300C is a slab of car with near vertical lines highlighted by LED lamps front and rear.

It is brash and uncompromising with every aspect daring to be different.

The same is true of the interior where plush leather upholstery and trim sit alongside matt finish wooden veneer which looks a little low rent in a saloon with executive status.

Nevertheless it is immensely comfortable with plenty of space front and rear. Not surprisingly for a car of such proportions, boot space is a generous 481 litres and the rear seat backs can be dropped down for more room.

At the heart of the dash is an 8.4-inch colour touchscreen which controls the bulk of the onboard systems including sat nav, audio, DVD and climate settings while the 300C is also fitted with Bluetooth and voice control.

Like everything else on the car, the main instruments are on the large side and backlit in blue which makes them easy to read day or night.

Cup holders - so important a feature on the other side of the pond - are not only illuminated but can be set to cool or heat drinks, and they can get very warm to the touch.

Being American there is a foot operated parking brake and it's auto only with just a five speed box.

That may sound a little old hat compared to some of the eight speed autos which are now available on European cars of this class but it is smooth when changing and performs adequately. Paddle shifters come as standard on higher grade Executive trim versions and enable rapid manual gear selection if required.

The 300C is on sale from the middle of June priced from £35,995 for Limited versions and £39,995 for the Executive models - a significant increase from the £29,995 the previous one cost when it was last sold in 2010.

To justify the price there is plenty of kit on board the 300C which includes a drying system to improve braking in the wet, forward collision alerts, double sunroofs and - on the Executive version - active cruise control and a device to alert you of oncoming traffic while reversing.

Forward visibility has been improved with narrower windscreen pillars but the side windows are still on the small side - especially in the rear.

In Britain the 300C is available only with a three-litre V6 diesel engine developed by Fiat - Chrysler's new owner. With 236bhp on tap it is good for 0 to 60 in 7.4 seconds with a claimed top end of 144mph.

Acceleration is brisk if demanded and despite its bulk the 300C doesn't roll too much through corners. Cruising it comes into its own and over long distances it is supremely easy to drive.

Chrysler claims it can average 39mpg and we saw 37 to the gallon over a route which took in everything from suburban roads to motorways. For a car weighing more than two tonnes that is acceptable but it is by no means the most economical in its class.

CO2 ratings are 185g/km for the Limited and 191 for the Executive which comes with larger 20-inch alloys. As such the 300C falls outside the incentive zone for business users and is on the expensive side to tax privately.

An estate version, which featured in the previous 300C line up, will not be on the cards and Chrysler has still to decide whether a high performance petrol-powered SRT model will be imported.

Rivals are plenty and include the likes of the Jaguar XF, Mercedes E-Class and BMW 5 Series, all of which are better to drive but lack that all important air individuality which puts the 300C in a league of its own.





THERE is nothing understated about the Chrysler 300C - it's big and brash and,...

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