Text: Tito F. Hermoso / Photos: Tito F. Hermoso | posted November 30, 2010 14:45
HEMI performance from a diesel?
What's this, an American car that purrs the refined clatter of a diesel Mercedes Benz? Sans malodorous diesel exhaust aroma? Well credit that to whatever additives Shell adds to its new premium priced, premium diesel V-Power.
Call it an alimony payment from the Daimler-Chrysler divorce, the Chrysler 300C CRD has Daimler's pride and joy: the OM 642 engine, the 3-liter crdi turbo diesel V-6 that Mercedes Benz fits into all its 320 and 350 CDI C-class, E-class, M-class, ML-class and S-class models. The same OM 642 provides V-8 like motoring for the Jeep Commander and Grand Cherokee, without the thirst. It may not have the brutal take-off of a HEMI, but a HEMI will try very hard, consume far more fuel to convincingly leave the CRD in a drag race.
What started five years ago as a caricature of the then dying American intermediate sedan class, became the darling of the Chrysler's Renaissance. Based on the last of the over engineered Mercedes Benz platforms, locally known as the 'four eyes' E-class, it was a wolf in a lumbering lion's clothing. It inspired the revival of interest in American brand sedans that try to approximate its Mercedes Benz sophistication. Today's front wheel drive Chevrolet Malibu and Ford Fusion happily chase Honda Accords and Toyota Camry's with fully independent suspensions and monocoque platforms, but none of them sport the 300C's sportier rear wheel drive. There's a hint of Chrysler Imperial in the 300C's front grille, perhaps a good fit for Chrysler to stand shoulder to shoulder with Bentley's and Rolls Royce's. Named after the C-series of the mid 50's, the Chrysler 300C harked back to the days when performance in America meant horizon gobbling carrier deck hoods. It was spot on 21st century gangsta' and Dick Tracy and is still so now, with the in-trunk release handle, for a botched Mafioso rub-out victim's escape.
With the Mercedes suspension, the 300C is adhesive and neat on long sweepers, something wallowing American cruisers cannot accomplish with aplomb nor sustain in determined velocity. Big bumps are smothered, with some perceptible bounce back. Still, its weight keeps it from being enjoyable on tight twisting roads where a Miata thrives and flies. This 1.8 tons sets off a slight wallow as the dampers hyper extend to catch body flight, making the the "old feel" heavy power assistance of the 1st 4-eyes Mercedes appropriate. This feel, along with the viscous brake pedal, reminds the driver to give a bit more effort to receive feedback for better control.
Take the CRD out the Chrysler 300C and it is still, unmistakably an American car. All the more it doesn't fail that impression when its fitted with any one of Chrysler's V-6 gasoline engines: a 190hp 2.7 V-6 with a 4-speed auto or a very refined Mitsubishi based 24 valve 250hp 3.5-liter V-6 5-speed with Auto-stick [Mercedes manual mode Tipshift]. If one wants the real V-8, CATS Motors can order for you the top of the line SRT-8 420hp 6.1-liter HEMI based V-8. And of course the classic 340hp 5.7-liter 16-valve push rod iron block HEMI-head V-8, probably the oldest engine family in the 300C's menu.
Make no mistake, the CRD can mix it with them gasoline powered ones. It does a drag strip respectable 0-100km/h in 7.6 seconds, only 1.2 seconds slower than the HEMI. Or an Autobahn respectable top speed of 230km/h. It does 16.65 km/liter, equaling the highway consumption of many an Asian 2.0-liter compact. Its produces 520Nm of torque at rpm's lower than the torque rich HEMI. Fans of the HEMI, though, will have to make do without the waffling canvas V-8 grumble. Long the selfish preserve of the EU market, the 300C CRD makes you want to believe in fairy tales.
The latest 2010 models come with new soft touch dashboard. The fog lights turn on with a push instead of a pull. The Mercedes style "keyless" key, the excellent on board computer, leather, HID headlights, parking radar and power everything is standard across the range including moonroof and fog lamps. The 300C's chassis NVH [noise vibration harshness] is tuned to hush the Pirelli P7's on the most abrasive of concrete while being averagely quiet on smooth asphalt. It is spacious in the back and once sunken inside, the letter box windows do not seem all that narrow. It lacks not in quality fitments and American givens like great stereos and Bluetooth connectivity even if Mercedes was the donor for the air conditioning, the overloaded signal-wiper stalk and the Tempomat cruise control.
Despite the 300C's avowed Americana - long wide hood, low riser windows, short flat rear deck, far away dash, big flared wheel arches, great getaway in a straight line, visual and actual bulk - it proved characterful enough for European tuners, like BRABUS Startech, to turn them into proper looking and performing Autobahn stormers.
Still, its the 300C's styling that always draws attention. Instead of trying to conceal its size, Chrysler's styling emphasized it. The coming smaller 200C definitely looks related. If you are looking for a quiet bounce free American Camry ride, look elsewhere. The 300C has too much emotional baggage, too much history to oblige everyone. But whatever it drags into the 21st Century, the 300C recipe validates its All American charm, indulging in the romance of the muscle car era with space and ride.