herald

Tuesday 30 September 2014

Big Yank spanks the Germans in luxury stakes

"I know there's a Dallas revival but is that actually JR's car?"

"Whose is the pimp mobile?"

None were especially funny, but I heard a few jokes in the week I drove The Beast, aka the new Chrysler 300C.

But the one thing we never joke about here is cold, hard cash. So let's cut to the chase with a sobering thought for those famously witty Audi, BMW and Mercedes owners who snorted in derision at the arrival of my big, brash, white (OK, the colour didn't help to deflect attention) American sedan.

A saving of tens of thousands.

Fiat now calls the shots in Michigan, and the relaunched 300C is from this new era. You can smell the difference a bit of European breeding makes as soon as you open the door. Proper leather on the seats. No rattles. Solid clunks. And nice dials instead of digital read-outs.

OK, about those dials. They do have curvy chrome bits, which do remind you of those oh-so-European yet slightly ridiculous Philippe Starck juicers, but they are admittedly lit in a sort of Miami Vice nightclub shade of pale blue.

Chill

And though you'll secretly love the fact that you can select your drink holder to either warm or chill your drink (much as you can choose to warm or chill your derriere in your oversized heated and ventilated armchair of a driving seat), you might feel a bit self-concious when the accompanying red or blue strip lights up to advertise that fact.

You will also love how spectacularly smooth and quiet she is on motorways, cruising effortlessly with a huge touch-screen for all your fiddling/rear parking camera/climate- controlled posterior comfort needs.

Yes, the Chrysler's V6 diesel is rear-wheel-drive, and pretty good fun, but it does also weigh more than two tons, and the back does kick out in a way that would horrify the R&D teams at its German rivals.

And those JR credentials extend to guzzling gas in supreme American style: though admittedly it's improved by the Italians, a similar BMW will take you 25pc per cent further per litre, and still get you to 60mph a second quicker.

But then buying this Chrysler's not going to be a decision made for boring reasons. Walk around an Audi and you'll struggle to find fault, but you might also struggle to find things to love. The opposite is true of the Chrysler. Get it in black (NOT white) and people with be too scared that Tony Soprano's in the back to crack the jokes.

It makes big, manly German cars look like Tonka toys -- this is five metres long, almost two metres wide and has a grill the size of a Bentley's and did I mention hot and cold cup- holders?

Come on, you may now need a Stetson and boots, but where's your sense of fun?

And there's nothing boring about having an extra €15,000 in your pocket to spend on... well, not just diesel.

The Chrysler 300C costs from €57,000.

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