Chrysler, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Dodge ... no, we’re not on the long straight highways that criss-cross the USA. We’re on sedate country lanes in Berkshire, Cheshire, Somerset and Lancashire.
The Americans are invading. In a country once almost entirely free of US motoring brands and where the very mention of the word Cadillac evoked images of drive-ins, drive-thrus and drive-bys, you can now find a host of Yankee tin. Some of it is what you would expect – big, brash and brazen – and some of it is just rebadged failure, such as the former Daewoo stable that now goes under the Chevrolet name (Matiz, Lacetti, Kalos etc).
Ands while, in an age of ecological concern triggered by our dwindling oil reserves, pollution and climate change, it may seem odd that muscle cars are being marketed over here. But the emphasis of the assault is the value … big, practical cars for considerably less money than their European or Japanese equivalent.
Chrysler launched the rather good 300C last year. In its so-called Hemi guise – with its bonkers 5.7-litre V8 engine – you get a massive saloon with outrageous performance, high comfort levels and a stack of street cred for just over £32,000. The interior isn’t even that bad, the satnav works, and the boot is a trigger-happy mobster’s wet dream. Sure, the grey leather upholstery is waaaay naff but who cares?
But it’s the diesel version that’s the big seller because its emissions and fuel consumption aren’t the petrol pump equivalent of a kick in the balls. And it makes sense to opt for diesel because you still get draw-dropping looks and kudos, but without the destruction of an acre of rainforest every time you step on the pedal a bit too hard.
Perhaps even better looking than the saloon, the Touring estate version now available in the UK offers more of the same with added practicality. The interior is identical to the "sedan" apart from the bigger load space. Well, we say bigger but sharply angled rear pillars don’t actually offer as much as the exterior promises. In fact, the shape and design of the boot seems to offer surprisingly less room than you seem to get in the standard 300C – kind of like a reverse Tardis.
Also, the ride is pretty bad – markedly worse than its slightly smaller brother. Crashy is probably too polite; it somehow manages to be spongily soft and arse-numbingly harsh at the same time, especially over speed bumps.
Everything else works pretty much the same as the 300C CRD saloon, although pulling power is effected by the extra weight of the station wagon. The 3.0 V6 engine is magnificent apart from that; so good in fact that you really would never know it’s a diesel from the way it runs. And considering it’s hauling more than two tonnes of car, it’s economy could be a lot worse.
And for just over £27k on the road, the value is just as immense. Sure, this kind of car makes a statement – you just have to work out if you can live with that as much you can with the actual car.
Chrysler 300C CRD Touring
Engine: 3.0 V6 turbodiesel
Transmission: Five-speed auto
Top speed: 136mph
Also available: 3.5 V6, 5.7 V8 Hemi (both saloon and estate) and SRT-8 (saloon only)