If it has a foot-operated park brake there’s a high probability it was either made in America or made for Americans, who for some reason like these things. If the suspension and noise suppression cocoons you from the outside world, placing you in your own little microenvironment, if it rides beautifully but slops around a bit when challenged by corners, well you’re getting hot.
And if the audio thumps out heaps of doof and the speedometer has a miles-per-hour subtext you’re there.
This second incarnation of the car that was going to bring us all back to Detroit hasn’t changed much. There’s less bling around the headlights, more around the tail lights. The narrow glass area between roof and doors remains meaning the big Chrysler retains all of its gangster imagery. Once in yo’ is an instantly bad mother.
I’ve had a trot in a couple of these. The diesel V6 is a ripper; fast, responsive, smooth and reasonably quiet, and beautifully mated to a five-speed auto. Both engine and gearbox were inherited from Mercedes-Benz when it briefly owned Chrysler. Both good.
But real American cars have V8s and the one in the 300 SRT is a monster. 6.4 litres, 347 kilowatts. It sounds fantastic to anyone with the bloke gene, goes like a cat in a dog pound and uses 16 litres of petrol for every 100 km in the city, 12 in the bush.
The five-speed auto in this one isn’t as smooth as the diesel’s transmission. Doesn’t matter, get behind the wheel of an SRT and you’re not into finesse, you’re a bootlegger running ’shine down the mountain, the G-men in hot pursuit in their government-issue Crown Victorias. They don’t stand a chance.
The interior is pretty ordinary although the equipment level is good. The dash surfaces are hard plastic (leather in the $75,000 SRT) and there’s a huge console screen which, unless you order navigation, seems like overkill. Head and leg room in the rear isn’t bad, it’s just less than you expect in a car of this size. The boot is huge and so is the spare wheel well under it. What a pity there’s only a space saver at its bottom.
But the Chrysler is comfortable and good value, and an easy way to rack up long distances with the least possible effort. I’d happily recommend it to people who either live in the country or spend of a lot of time out there. For city folk it’s a bit fat and challenging to park, and for enthusiast drivers it’s far from precise.
Vehicle: Chrysler 300 Limited diesel
Competitors: Holden Caprice, Lexus ES, Nissan Maxima.Power: 176-kilowatt turbo diesel V6.Gears: Five-speed auto.
Economy: On test 9 litres per 100 km city, 6.8 country. Officially 7.1.
Drive away price: $56,344 (Postcode 2000) $55,886 (Postcode 3000).
The good: A great country cruiser, and it’s nicely individual.
The bad: It ain’t subtle, the steering can get heavy when parking.
The ugly: Steel yourself for ‘Yank tank’ jokes.