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A man's car

Solidity and safety ...and style
Chris Moerdyk
Published: 05-DEC-06

Cars that chewed petrol like there was no tomorrow, wallowed around corners like drunken whales and were built from at least two tons of thick steel.

So, when the time came for me to test the new Chrysler 300C I must confess to being more than just a little excited. Not only because it looked like the rebirth of the shamelessly over-engined Yank tank, but one that having been designed and built by DaimlerChrysler, might just have a bit of Mercedes Benz finesse.

At first glance it seemed to me to be the sort of car that would appeal more to glitzy drug barons and crime bosses rather than upright and honest businessmen and women.

But, it certainly did have some Mercedes quality and class. The 300C — nicknamed the Hemi because of its engine cylinder design — is very much Mercedes when you get into it. The controls are all exactly the same as those found in current Merc models but most of all getting into the 300C one has the same feeling that one gets when sitting behind the wheel of a big Merc — quite simply that it does not seem to be nearly as big sitting inside as it does looking at it from the outside.

Surprise number one was how the design actually grows on you. That big, brash boxy shape does have a certain appeal I must now admit. It is an imposing car that turns heads wherever you go because it is so different to everything else on the road. It gives the impression of solidity and safety almost to the point where one has the feeling that in the event of an accident the other guy will come off worse even if he is driving a furniture removal truck.

And make no mistake, all the well known Mercedes Benz safety features are built in to this car along with other typically Merc features such as infinitely adjustable seating positions with memory functions to allow you, after someone else has driven the car, to get your seat and rearview mirrors back into precisely the same positions you left them — all at the push of a button.

But this car is not crammed with unnecessary instrumentation and electronic gadgets. On the contrary, it is fairly spartan and as a result extremely user friendly. It is the sort of car one can get into without any hassle, or having to have an degree in mechanical and electronic engineering, and simply be on your way.

And that to me, is one of the great attractions of this car. I believe that while there is a considerable market for the BMWs and Mercs with their highly computerised electronic gadgetry, there is a growing market for people who simply want to get from point A to point B with the least amount of effort.

And certainly the 300C is just the car for that. It is supremely comfortable with seats slightly bigger than most cars which a lot of people prefer these days even if it does mean sliding about a bit in tight corners.

This Chrysler is wonderful in heavy traffic and I would imagine a joy to drive between Cape Town and Johannesburg. It has a simple yet extremely high quality sound system.

Surprise number two was the engine. When I drove it away for the first time I immediately started working out where the nearest petrol stations were because I was very conscious of the fact that under the bonnet in front of me was a 5,7 litre V8 engine pumping out a massive 250 kilowatts of power and with the capacity I suspected, of draining Saudi Arabian oil wells dry every few kilometres.

But this depends on how you drive it. Indeed, if you keep wanting to test its ability to get from standstill to 100 km/h in six seconds (that’s less than one second slower than a BMW M3) then it will suck the tank dry in no time flat.

But, if one drives it along sedately it will deliver a fuel consumption of less than 10 litres per 100 kilometres, as I discovered, simply because it has this nifty trick of shutting down four of its cylinders if they’re not needed. It is a genuine, fuel-saving feature.

Stamp on the accelerator though, and all eight cylinders kick in with awesome power.

However, to achieve this almost impossible automotive ideal of having a big car with a big engine and getting it to behave every now and then like a small car with a small engine, the designers not only needed to come up with an engine that could change from big to small instantly, but they also had to reduce the overall weight of the car .

The Chrysler 300C is a very impressive car for its price of R430 000.

It is excellent value for money, supremely comfortable, very powerful and ideal for the driver who just wants to get places safely, securely and simply.

And of course, I must admit, it does have a certain amount of style. -Business in Africa Magazine

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