THE new Chrysler 300C is a headturner. This long, large sedan attracts more than its usual share of curious looks. But whether people stare because they think it's a baby Bentley or the latest taxi is not quite clear.
First launched here seven years ago, the original 300C full-sized sedan oozed machismo. The new model with its brand new sheet metal has matured and looks less like a gangster car now - even the massive front grille is not as menacing. Slimmer front pillars and a more steeply raked windscreen give it a smoother profile.
But otherwise, the 5.1-metre long car uses the same platform with a marginally lengthened wheelbase (the Chrysler's underpinnings are largely based on the previous Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan but wider and longer).
What has changed, though, is the powertrain. A 3.6-litre V6 Pentastar is now mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. This dual cam 24-valve affair replaces the previous single overhead cam 3.5-litre V6 in the previous 300C. The aluminium Pentastar is also the same unit found in the Jeep Grand Cherokee but here, it drives only the rear wheels of the 300C.
The big American also gets a brand new cabin. The contoured dashboard is softer and less plasticky while the large swathes of matt coarse-grained wood trim feel luxuriously macho. A new stubby Audi A8-like gear lever is paired with aluminium steering wheel-mounted shift paddles while other new features include the ventilated front seats and UConnect bluetooth-enabled system with voice control function.
From behind the shiny new steering wheel that now gets electric adjustment for tilt and reach, two tube meters emit a ghostly blue glow. Equally cool is the striking, if somewhat small, multi-function display in between - it produces vivid graphics for everything from oil temperature and pressure, to digital speed in either kmh or mph.
The drive is competent and could be more invigorating if not for the slightly woolly steering. Still, the 300C performs adequately and is composed in fast curves.
More remarkable than the handling is the ride comfort. Although the suspension setting is slightly firm and the car runs on huge 20-inch wheels, it is comfortable. In fact, the 300C is surprisingly refined. The cabin is quiet because the engine and road noise are not intrusive. For an American model, it is extremely refined.
To accompany the good ride is the good interior space. With a 3,052 mm wheelbase, there is good rear legroom. Boot space is also generous.
It may not be your idea of a traditional premium sedan but the new Chrysler 300C should pleasantly surprise some people.
Engine 3,604cc V6
Gearbox 8-speed automatic transmission
Max power 296 hp @ 6,350 rpm
Max torque 350 Nm @ 4,800 rpm
0-100 kmh 7.6 secs
CO2 emissions 227 g/km
Price $179,000 (w/o COE)
Distributor Chrysler Jeep Automotive of Singapore
Tel 6479 3333