Although instantly recognisable as a motoring icon, the 2012 Chrysler 300C, which goes on sale in the UK on 14 June 2012, is new in every respect. Better built, safer, even more lavishly equipped and more efficient than its predecessor, the new Chrysler 300C retains a unique position in the executive sector. By offering the type of engineering, design, materials and driving dynamics that European buyers expect, combined with American style, personality and value for money, the 2012 Chrysler 300C will appeal to head and heart.
Unlike many rivals which offer a baffling array of engine sizes and trim levels, the new Chrysler 300C, which will become available here in two versions, promises the perfect power output for the car, with two well-judged specifications. The new 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel benefits from Fiat Group Automobiles' ground-breaking MultiJet 2 technology to provide a class-leading compromise between effortless power and fuel-saving efficiency.
Whether in Limited or Executive guise, the Chrysler 300C is a very well equipped car. Much of the technology that rivals sell as premium priced optional extras feature as standard equipment on the Limited model. Rain Brake Support which helps keep the brake pads dry for better stopping power in poor conditions is unique to this class of car. Ventilated front seats and heated rears, the Uconnect infotainment system with Bluetooth, dual-zone climate control, an 8.4-inch touch screen display, mirrors that darken automatically to limit headlight glare, cruise control, and 18-inch wheels are all standard on the Limited model.
2012 Chrysler 300C
The Executive version has a Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM) system, radar Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and a two-panel panoramic sunroof as well as the forward collision monitoring system and 20-inch alloy wheels.
Perhaps the biggest change over its predecessor is the quality of the new Chrysler 300C. By honing every step of the design, engineering and production processes of its new executive model, the American firm has taken a giant step forward in both perceived and actual quality.
The interior has high grade materials throughout, from the redesigned Nappa leather seats to real wood panels on the dashboard. The body is made from a variety of new materials including advanced high resistance and ultra-strong steel. The improved rigidity combined with all-new suspension means the rear-wheel drive Chrysler 300C doesn't just handle better than ever, it's also quieter and more refined too.
The more rigid construction also combines with a suite of nearly 70 electronic safety aids that ensure the Chrysler 300C offers top-class safety in a supremely stylish package.
QUALITY: AMBITIOUS TARGETS MET
The new Chrysler 300C has been designed to take on the best cars in the executive sector in terms of quality. Not only is it crammed with standard equipment, some of it a first for this class of car, it is also superbly built.
Even before build began, the American firm studied rival models covering a spectrum of performance attributes including quality, craftsmanship and refinement. The challenge was then to construct a car that matched or exceeded these levels. To help reach such ambitious targets, the 300C was one of the first Fiat-Chrysler Group vehicles to be examined during the digital design process by a special internal team for 'perceived quality' from the point of view of the most demanding customers.
Perceived quality is the impression given to someone when they look at and touch things. Whether they're sitting in a seat, grasping a steering wheel or simply looking at the fascia, the shape of objects, the materials they're made from and the tactile sensations help people form an opinion of what they see.
In order that the view of the Chrysler 300C would be of a high quality executive car, this internal team worked in close contact with the designers and engineers to improve everything from the assembly and finishes to the quality of the surfaces and materials.
Advanced high-strength steel delivers world-class structural stiffness which leads to exceptional interior quietness, confident handling and outstanding safety performance. Sound suppression inside is further improved thanks to two composite underbody panels that provide more than 2.4 metres of acoustic insulation, a windscreen and front side windows specially designed for their exceptional acoustic performance, triple seals around the doors and special wheel well liners. A laser-braised roof panel and rail sections that deliver a clean, uninterrupted and aerodynamic unibody give further noise reduction.
To ensure this design is implemented in the best possible way, the factory where the 300C is built in Brampton, Toronto, Canada embraces the Fiat Group's World Class Manufacturing philosophy which has rigorous standards for all plant processes from safety and environment to maintenance, logistics and quality. The goal is to improve production performance and quality continuously with built-in flexibility while gradually eliminating waste.
The Chrysler 300C's cabin has been designed to exude luxury. Instrument and door panels are clad with soft-touch materials chosen to meet Chrysler's strict quality goals. For example, the steering wheel is finished in highly polished walnut and hand-stitched leather. But the stitches have been strategically placed so the driver's hands come into contact only with smooth surfaces.
The instrument panel is treated with the cast skin technique which appears similar to leather, while the seats are covered in Nappa leather. Real wood inserts on the instrument panel, doors, centre console and steering wheel surround further heighten the upscale appearance. The dashboard is finished with discreet chrome touches to emphasise the Chrysler 300C's high quality nature.
All-new seats have been designed to guarantee best-in-class comfort. These feature serpentine spring suspension as their foundation. A stiffer foam material is used in the side upholstery for improved lateral support while less dense foam is used in the lower part of the seats and in the backrest to increase comfort during long journeys. The front seats have four-way lumbar adjustment to suit individual tastes.
To improve rear seat comfort, the front seat backrests have a sculpted shape for about 20cm more knee room. To ensure more foot room, the seat guides are located at the edges of the base.
The interior has a pleasing ambiance thanks to muted Sapphire Blue LEDs. In front of the driver there's a new instrument cluster with two large faces. Features are accented with raised Sapphire Blue tick marks and chromed rings complete the contemporary and premium feel.
The driver also has the all-new Electronic Vehicle Information Centre (EVIC). Again in Sapphire Blue, this has been designed to be easy to read and logically displayed to keep the driver as informed as possible.
As with all roomy and refined interiors, the secret of the 300C's success is having plenty of storage. So that the central armrest is suitable for all shapes and sizes of driver, it slides lengthwise. Beneath it is a sliding tray and a compartment that contains the power connectors for USB devices.
All doors feature oversize pockets with bottle supports and there's a flocked rubber storage compartment with lighting ahead of the gear lever. The roomy glove compartment is split with a shelf and features a centrally mounted light for more uniform light distribution. The two front cup holders, cooled and heated as standard, come with LED lighting that intuitively glows blue when they're chilled, red when hot. They also feature locking rings so they can take bottles of various sizes. As an example of the trouble Chrysler has taken to get the detail of the Chrysler 300C exactly right, the roller closing that covers the front cupholders wasn't just optimised for style and functionality. It was also designed to make a high quality sound when opened and closed.
EQUIPMENT: LUXURY AS STANDARD
As befits a range-topping model, the Chrysler 300C is lavishly equipped, whether in Limited or even more luxuriously appointed Executive trim. And unlike the majority of its rivals the equipment comes as standard.
Everything possible has been done to make the Chrysler 300C an effortless travelling companion. Keyless Enter 'n Go employs electronic sensors to detect the key fob's presence. The car unlocks automatically and the engine starts by pushing a button without needing to insert a key.
The steering column, which adjusts forwards and backwards as well as up and down, has a memory function to allow more than one driver to get comfortable quickly. The pedals too can be adjusted for maximum comfort.
The automatic headlights 'know' when it's getting dark and turn themselves on without any driver intervention. They also feature Adaptive Forward Lighting (AFL) which adjusts the headlight beam up to 15 degrees to the left or right depending on which direction the front wheels are pointing.
To comply with current legislation, Daytime Running Lights (DRL) are standard, using efficient LEDs front and rear and High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlights provide lighting that's three times brighter than regular units. The headlights also employ the SmartBeam system that adapts them to the light in the surrounding environment, ensuring the 300C driver benefits from the maximum light possible without blinding oncoming traffic.
When it rains the automatic windscreen wipers detect drops on the windscreen and start working without the driver telling them to. And the Automatic Temperature Control system measures the humidity inside the vehicle and automatically demists the screen without any driver intervention.
The driver's side door mirror darkens automatically to reduce any dazzling created by the headlights of vehicles behind, as does the internal mirror. Both side mirrors lower themselves when reverse gear is engaged to give the driver better visibility of the ground, kerbs or other obstacles.
The full length dual pane panoramic sun roof, standard on the Executive, has an auto reverse function that can prevent the roof closing if it senses any obstruction. There's an automatic sun blind in the rear window that reduces heat inside the passenger compartment and increases privacy. This automatically lowers in reverse for maximum rear visibility.
Presuming that there are certain areas of the car that executive car buyers would prefer not to touch, the traditional fuel cap is a thing of the past on the Chrysler 300C. Instead the fuel flap opens at the push of a button. A fuel filler pipe opens when the pump nozzle is inserted and closes automatically when refuelling has been completed, helping to protect against theft and vandalism as well as fuel spills and incorrect fuelling.
To avert any danger of breakdown, an Intelligent Battery Sensor continuously measures the flow of current going to and from the battery. If it detects that the battery is running down it disables the less critical electric systems and warns the driver.
The Chrysler 300C features the company's advanced Uconnect infotainment system of on-board technologies that ensures driver and passengers remain connected, safe and comfortable.
This system displays all the information the driver or passenger requests on an 8.4-inch touch screen, the largest in this car's class. With its multimedia and portable mobile device connectivity, it is specifically designed to enrich the experience of driving and travelling in the Chrysler 300C.
For maximum safety and ease of use, audio and connectivity controls are located on the spokes of the steering wheel and can be activated hands-free by voice alone. Uconnect Voice Command with Bluetooth lets the driver manage a Bluetooth compatible phone while keeping both hands on the steering wheel. The first time the phone is synchronised, the phonebook is downloaded on to the car's hard drive and numbers can be selected simply by saying the corresponding name.
Voice commands can also be used to select the available radio modes. In the arm rest there's a USB port with iPod control. This lets the driver run an iPod or similar mobile device either through the steering wheel controls or using the touch screen. The USB port allows any USB supplied device to be recharged and will play audio files stored in MP3 and WMA format on a USB drive.
The touch screen controls the single DVD player, an SD card reader, the automatic dual-zone climate control, the radio and the Garmin navigation system. This has clear maps and optional voice instruction along with suggested points of interest, making it easy to find restaurants, shops and hospitals in the area.
There are three levels of audio system. The Limited version's standard sound system has six speakers with a 276 Watt six-channel amplifier. Two 3.5-inch speakers are in the instrument panel, two 6 x 9-inch speakers are set in the front doors and two are in the rear parcel shelf. A nine-speaker Alpine system is optional. This has an 11 channel amplifier with 506 Watts of power plus digital signal processing with 7.1 surround sound. It features three 3.5-inch speakers in the instrument panel, two 6 x 9-inch speakers in the front doors, two 3.5-inch speakers in the rear doors, two 6 x 9-inch speakers in the rear parcel shelf, plus an 8-inch subwoofer in the rear parcel shelf.
This system is standard on the Executive model, while a 19-speaker Harman Kardon sound system is optional. This sophisticated 900 Watt device has a 12-channel Harman Kardon amplifier. There are six 3.5-inch speakers in the instrument panel, two 6 x 9-inch speakers in the front doors, four 3.5-inch speakers in the rear doors, two 6 x 9-inch speakers, four 3.5-inch speakers and a 10-inch sub woofer in the rear parcel shelf.
ENGINE: EFFORTLESS AND EFFICIENT
The 2012 Chrysler 300C comes with one engine for the UK, an all-new 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel designed to be big on efficiency, refinement and power, which made its UK debut in the new Jeep Grand Cherokee last year.
Built by VM Motori and developed by Fiat Powertrain, this engine is a new design employing Fiat's latest MultiJet 2 technology to help reduce consumption, emissions and noise while yielding class-leading pulling power.
The 236bhp unit produces a healthy 540Nm of torque, peaking between 1600 and 2800rpm for effortless progress. A single variable geometry Garrett VGT 2056 turbocharger with intercooler ensures the engine is smooth and responsive at all speeds and yields a 0-62.5mph time of 7.4 seconds and a top speed of 144mph. But the engine is so efficient it can return 39.8mpg on the Combined Cycle and emits 185g/km of CO2.
With a capacity of 2987cc, the engine has a 60-degree V angle giving compact dimensions of just 695mm long, 729mm wide and 697.5mm high. A graphite cast iron block with aluminium cylinder heads and a structural aluminium oil sump in two elements help contribute to a total engine weight of 230kg. The sump has been designed like this to increase the rigidity of the engine for improved quietness. Noise is reduced further thanks to a new crankcase that gives the forged steel crankshaft rigid support to help limit vibrations.
The engine features four valves per cylinder and has a compression ratio of 16.5:1 to give cleaner combustion and more power. The six shell-cast aluminium pistons are lightweight and have been designed to minimise friction. The main bearing supports are lead-free to guarantee less environmental impact both during production and when the engine is recycled after use. Combustion is further optimised thanks to a turbulence control system fitted between the intake system and combustion chamber. This supplies the best flow of air through the combustion chamber to optimise engine efficiency and reduce exhaust emissions.
As with the Fiat Group's award-winning smaller engines, the 3.0-litre employs the latest second-generation MultiJet turbo diesel technology. The common rail injection system operates at 1800 bar while faster injectors give up to eight injections per cycle, meaning greater speed, flexibility and precision in the various combustion phases. It's also capable of injection rate shaping - that's two injections that are so close together they generate a continuous but modulated supply of fuel to the cylinders. This alone reduces consumption and polluting emissions by 2 per cent compared with traditional fuel injection, and also cuts down engine noise.
Improving the combustion process like this reduces particulate and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions sufficiently to ensure the engine complies with strict Euro 5 legislation.
The new Chrysler 300C features a five-speed automatic transmission. The tried and tested W5A580 has both full automatic and semi-automatic functions. As with a traditional automatic, once 'Drive' has been selected the gearbox can be left to do its own thing. For drivers who want more involvement, the AutoStick function allows them to select higher or lower gears and steering wheel mounted paddles are standard on the Executive. A transmission controller is calibrated to prevent the engine over-revving while an adaptive electronic control increases engine responsiveness.
SAFETY: BUILT IN FROM THE BOTTOM UP
The new Chrysler 300C is one of the safest cars on the road, with a host of standard equipment that ensures driver and passengers travel in maximum security. To guarantee this, the 300C was tested in a variety of accidents including front and side impacts, roll over, pile up and fire. Different impact speeds, different types of obstacle and the different physical characteristics of passengers were also taken into account. The result is a car that combines the latest in active and passive safety devices with one of the safest structures on the road.
The most important thing when it comes to avoiding an accident is being able to see danger. In designing the Chrysler 300C, the windscreen header was moved back by just under 8cm to improve the driver's view of road signs and traffic lights. Combined with narrower pillars the result is an improvement in outward visibility of 15 per cent.
But in case the driver doesn't see hazards, the car has been designed to step in. Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) on the Executive uses radar to automatically modify the Chrysler 300C's speed to keep a safe distance when the car approaches another vehicle in the same lane or when another vehicle enters that lane. When the vehicle in front moves out of the way, the cruise control automatically returns to its set speed. It means the driver doesn't constantly have to alter the cruise control to match prevailing conditions.
The 300C Executive is fitted with Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM). This uses ultra broadband radar sensors to search for vehicles that might be briefly concealed from the driver's view. Icons illuminate in the mirror and an acoustic warning signal sounds if there is a car in the blind spot.
Forward Collision Warning (FCW) on the Executive employs radar sensors located in the front to check the Chrysler 300C's approach speed to vehicles. If it is travelling too quickly the car will alert drivers so they can take the necessary steps to avoid an accident.
Rear Cross Path Detection (RCP) is enabled when reverse gear is engaged. This informs drivers via icons in the mirror and an acoustic signal if traffic is approaching as they reverse out of parking spaces. ParkSense helps detect stationary objects behind the car and warns the driver with an acoustic signal. For further peace of mind the 300C is equipped with the ParkView reversing camera. This offers a wind-angle view of the area immediately behind the vehicle on the navigation screen.
To ensure the driver is never caught out by low pressures, Tyre Pressure Monitoring employs sensor modules in the valve stems of each wheel to send signals to the in-car computer. Proving the Chrysler 300C doesn't only look after its occupants, it has Active Pedestrian Protection where the rear of the bonnet lifts in a frontal impact to protect the pedestrian's head from hard points in the engine bay.
Obviously the safest thing is to avoid having a crash in the first place. Consequently the Chrysler 300C has been designed not only to have predictable handling but also to compensate for any mistakes that the driver might make.
Standard equipment includes a powerful braking system allied to some of the most sophisticated electronic driver aids available today. High performance brake pads have been designed to give regular, fade-free performance. Vibration dampening springs make the callipers more efficient and there's a hydraulic pressure compensation system that intervenes by activating the ABS pump to the maximum if it detects a fault in the brake servo.
The Chrysler 300C has an Antilock Braking System (ABS) that detects and prevents wheels locking in extreme braking conditions or on slippery surfaces. It also features bumpy road detection which can sense a rough stretch of road and activates the ABS with slightly different pressure control to compensate for the surface.
The Chrysler 300C has two new attributes that are exclusive to this class of car. Ready Alert Braking can predict if the driver is starting emergency braking and uses the Electronic Stability Control (ESC) pump to move the brake pads closer to the rotors and reduce the time for the brakes to be applied. Rain Brake Support performs the same function when it's raining to keep the brake pads dry for improved braking performance.
Stopping is further aided by Braking Assistance which applies maximum braking power in emergency situations. At the same time a signal is sent to the engine computer telling it to reduce power if the accelerator is still being pressed.
The standard ESC helps to increase the amount of control the driver has in all conditions. By monitoring steering inputs whatever the surface, the ESC computer can tell if the car deviates from its intended path and steps in to brake selected wheels. It also controls the Hill Start Assist (HSA) which maintains braking pressure for a brief period after the driver lifts off the brake to ensure the perfect hill start every time. The braking system works to help aid efficient acceleration too. By applying the brakes when it detects wheels are slipping, it ensures maximum power is transmitted to the road.
Inside the new Chrysler 300C there are seven passenger airbags including the latest multi-stage bags that open with more or less force depending on the seriousness of the impact. The driver's airbag is shaped to reduce the impact force and therefore chest injuries, while the passenger airbag opens at a varying speed depending on how far back the occupant is sitting.
Housed in the roof lining above the side windows are curtain airbags. Each has its own impact sensor for independent activation on the impact side. Beneath the instrument panel is a knee airbag that deploys when the driver's side airbag goes off. The aim of it is to ensure the driver's legs are in the best position to minimise injuries in a frontal collision. As with the curtain airbags, the thorax bags installed in the external edge of the front seats have their own impact sensors for independent activation. These are designed to reduce injury to the pelvis and chest in side impacts.
All airbags are governed by the Occupant Retaining Controller. This determines whether an impact is strong enough for the airbags to open and whether first or second stage deployment is required. It also decides whether the side airbags are needed and controls the seatbelt pretensioners.
Driver and front passenger have height adjustable seatbelts for greater comfort and safety and their seatbelts are fitted with pretensioners. Controlled by impact sensors, these tighten the seatbelts before an impact to help minimise injuries. In the milliseconds after impact, Constant Force Restraint checks how tightly occupants are being held by their seatbelts and gradually reduces this in a controlled way. A warning light illuminates and a tone sounds if any passengers don't fasten their seatbelts. The 300C is fitted with active head restraints which, in a rear impact, move forward to reduce whiplash injuries by decreasing the distance to the occupant's head. All five passengers have their own head restraint and three-point seatbelts.
Passengers are also protected by a safety cage structure, door protection bars and controlled crumple zones designed to absorb the energy of an impact and reduce the effect it has on passengers. The driver benefits from a new energy absorbing steering column. This uses a calibrated bent element to deform during an impact and direct crash energy away from the driver.
In the immediate aftermath of a crash the Enhanced Accident Response System helps emergency personnel by automatically illuminating the interior lights, engaging the hazard warning lights and unlocking the doors once the airbags have deployed. It also interrupts the flow of fuel going to the engine.
HANDLING: DESIGNED FOR DRIVER APPEAL
Some of the same characteristics that make the Chrysler 300C safe and comfortable also go towards making it an excellent driver's car. The near 50-50 weight distribution gives the car balance, but drivers can really exploit that thanks to use of advanced steels and nylon composite materials that contribute to greater rigidity and therefore improved control and confidence.
More than 67 per cent of the 300C's underbody structure and 53 per cent of the upper part of the body is pressed and built with high resistance and advanced high resistance steels. High resistance steel is found in the central tunnel, in the body sides, in the front wheel arch structures and in the crash protection bars. With a tensile strength twice that of high resistance steel, advanced high resistance steel is used for areas of the body that require greater structural rigidity such as the cross members of the seats and the upper rear area behind the back seats.
Hot pressed ultra-strong steel is used for the front pillars, the doors, the upper section of the front rails and windscreen channel. And thanks to its tensile strength the thickness of the pillars and doors was able to be reduced, helping to improve external visibility. Lightweight and thin dual-phase steel is used for the interior of the front crash bars and engine compartment to achieve optimum protection for the Chrysler 300C's passengers.
The upper monocoque is built in advanced TRIP (Transformation Induced Plasticity) steel. TRIP steel allows a thinner and lighter weight steel to be used for the areas of the B pillar, while reinforcements in composite nylon have been built into the A and B pillars to provide greater crash protection.
New front and rear suspension geometries are light in weight yet have an ultra rigid assembly in order to guarantee precision and performance. The new front single tube shock absorbers, the new springs and the unique position of the shock absorber and front suspension mounting all contribute to the optimum control, driving and comfort ratings. New high quality hydraulic bushes in the front suspension limit roughness and help transmit braking power to the road.
The rear suspension is characterised by five anchoring points and roll steer geometry for better handling. The new single tube shock absorbers and springs make driving more polished, while high quality urethane compression bump stops, and suspension anchoring with rubber bushes for the shock absorbers, make the passenger compartment quieter. Even the seat springs have new dampers to help isolate passengers from vibrations over bumpy roads.
New geometries for front and rear cambers improve cornering performance and road feel by having the upper part of the wheel tilt inwards in relation to the body. And new large diameter front and rear anti-roll bars give greater agility through corners and limit body roll. The suspension has been tuned specifically for European roads and this combines with load levelling suspension on both versions to ensure unruffled progress.
Revised Electro-Hydraulic Power Steering (EHPS) gives the driver precise feedback from the road, improves steering alignment and reduces steering noise and fuel consumption. The EHPS system analyses steering angle, vehicle speed, engine speed and the chassis control systems 13 times a second to decide how much steering effort is required. When stationary or at low speed, the hydraulic pump increases the power steering to reduce effort. At higher speed, assistance is reduced to give the 300C's driver more feel. The result of this is lower consumption than a belt pump and a reduction in fuel consumption by 1.5 per cent.
STYLING: AMERICAN BEAUTY
Ever since it was first launched internationally in 2003, the Chrysler 300C has been an iconic design statement, and the new model is no different. Boasting generous dimensions that are 5066mm long, 1488mm high, 1902mm wide and with a wheelbase of 3052mm, the 2012 model builds on the unmistakeable proportions of its predecessor with a more refined and tailored design.
At the centre is Chrysler's new wing badge which has been remodelled to have a more modern appearance. Its shape is echoed by the grille surround and carries on into the sculpted bonnet. Exterior design details include a dramatically sculpted front bumper and horizontal chrome grille blades. Showing how style and functionality go hand in hand, powerful bi-xenon headlamps are in a stylish 'key slot' shape. Beside them, LED Daytime Running Lights (DRL) create a unique C that gives the 300C an unmistakeable presence on the road.
The characteristic silhouette is crisp, clean and refined with the more steeply raked windscreen lending it an aerodynamic appearance. Marked wing lines front and rear that are higher than the bonnet and boot they embrace, emphasise the spaciousness of the passenger compartment. Combined with 20-inch aluminium wheels on the Executive, they give the car a sporty low-to-the-ground appearance. Convex doors are stylishly embellished with chrome-plated door mirrors, while the fixed window on the rear doors helps contribute to improving external visibility.
At the rear, vertical LED tail lamps are connected by a chrome fascia accent. The boot sports a built-in spoiler while the Chrysler 300C's performance prowess is hinted at by twin oval tail pipes that are integrated into the rear valance.