By on May 20, 2013

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Youth is apparently wasted on the young, but there are some days where I do feel old. Flat feet and many attempts at athletic endeavors have left me with the knees of someone twice my age, while genetics has caused my hairline to retreat like Philippe Pétain in the face of the German onslaught. I would be more easily at peace with this if I had some of the context and erudition that came along with age and maturity, but not even erudition can act as a substitute for the kind of knowledge that can only be earned through experience and acquired over time.

For someone like Thomas Kreutzer, the Chrysler 300C will represent the latest iteration in a long line of powerful, opulent “letter series” cars that were responsible for the muscle car era. For me, the 300C represents the product that made Chrysler relevant again (at least in my eyes). No longer were they the purveyor of cheerio-and-snot splattered Town & Country minivans or the legions of severely geometric 1980′s sedans favored by my grandparents friend who refused to buy a German car.

Prior to this, the last time I was in a 300C was when I went for breakfast with an old neighbor of mine. Mr Lynett was 91 years old when he bought his 300C SRT8, and at that age, his C5 Corvette 50th Anniversary Edition was difficult to get in and out of, and the manual transmission was tiring on his bi-annual cross-country drives to California to visit his grandchildren. Having worked on the Manhattan Project, buying a foreign car was out of the question, but the SRT8 offered similar performance, an extra set of doors and was made in the right country – sort of. I’m not sure if Mr Lynett realized that the last great American sedan is actually made at Chrysler’s Brampton Assembly Plant, about 25 miles outside of Toronto.

I was hoping to get an SRT8 as an homage to Mr Lynett, but a 300C Luxury Series AWD was the sole V8 powered version available. I didn’t mind. As much of a speed freak as I am, I also have a strong pragmatic streak, and I would be hard pressed to justify jumping up to the current generation SRT8 on any grounds beyond feeling insecure about not buying the SRT version. The 363 horsepower and 394 lb-ft on tap was beyond adequate for any situation one might encounter, and let’s face it, these are never ever going to see a racetrack. The 5-speed automatic is starting to show its age; shifts are slow and labored, and it starts to seem like the weak link in the entire powertrain package. It seems a little late for Chrysler to start using the ZF 8-speed gearbox on the 300C, but it would only serve to improve one of the car’s few dull spots.

From an aesthetic standpoint too, I much prefer the 300C over the SRT; the 6.4L car looks like it’s trying hard to be a Made In Canada America version of an M car. The 300C looks like the kind of car I’d drive if I made my living by billing for my time; understated enough that your clients won’t think they’re bring ripped off, but still something that feels special when you get behind the wheel.

The best American full-size cars were designed to eat up the highway miles with minimal fuss, and the 300C keeps that tradition alive. At 75 mph, the ride is smooth and silent, the Hemi V8 hums along below 2000 rpm. Chrysler’s Adaptive Cruise Control system, which can automatically adjust your speed based on the distance between you and the car ahead of you via radar, means even less work for the driver. The automatic slowing of the car was a bit spooky at first, it’s easy to get into a rhythm using the system. Set yourself up for a reasonable speed and keep your hands on the wheel. You can even avoid the automatic braking phenomenon by setting yourself up to pass people before the distance threshold is met.

With crossovers becoming the bodystyle of choice for family cars and long-distance crusiers, the full-size sedan is in danger of extinction. Sales have been in a freefall for the last few years, with fleet sales making up a heavy percentage of the segment’s overall volume. The latest rumors suggest that the Taurus will get the axe after this generation, thanks to slowing sales and a series of disastrous consumer clinics. Meanwhile, cars like the Maxima, Avalon and Azera continue to linger in obscurity, as the Pathfinders, Highlanders and Santa Fes of the world cannibalize their market share.

Ironically, the LX cars, with their iconoclastic rear-drive packaging and high-power engines have a pretty good chance of surviving. The global rear-drive platform being used in the Maserati Ghibli will likely underpin the next-generation of full-size Chrysler sedans and (hopefully) an Alfa Romeo product. Since Chrysler doesn’t have to worry so much about selling their cars in Europe or Asia, they can design the next Charger and 300 with American consumers in mind. Until these cars are CAFE’d out of existence, replaced by CUVs with small, turbocharged engines, Americans will be able to enjoy Canada’s best big rear-drive sedan for a while longer. And we’re richer for it.

 

 

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34 Comments on “Generation Why: Brampton’s Endangered Species...”


  • avatar
    AKM

    The French forces defending the Ligne Maginot in WWII didn’t really retreat. It’s simply that the Germans crossed the Ardennes, attacked Belgium, and then swung into France from the North, where there was no Maginot defence line. The French army jokes are passé by about 10 years, by the way…

    • 0 avatar
      korvetkeith

      Adam?

      If French army jokes have lasted 60 years at least, I don’t see how you denouncing them makes them passé.

      There recent follys in northern Africa don’t help their case.

      • 0 avatar
        ect

        I’m over 60, and I don’t recall hearing any French army jokes until France decided to take a pass on Bush Jr’s folly (which cost the US untold billions of dollars and thousands of lives) in invading Iraq, in search of weapons of mass destruction that didn’t exist. Which the Administration knew, but that’s another story.

        And I’ve no idea what “follys (sic) in northern Africa” you might be referring to.

        What I do know is that young Mr. Kreindler’s mistaken attempt at humour was merely a few small words in an otherwise very insightful article about a car. Which is what we should focus on.

        • 0 avatar
          Compaq Deskpro

          The French military are basically doing what we were doing in Afghanistan, they’re in Mali helping push back various jihadist groups. In short, they took back the important cities, airports, etc and now the bad guys have largely retreated to the desert. The French troops are doing a very decent job, not sure how it’s a folley.

    • 0 avatar
      jacob_coulter

      FOR SALE:

      French military rifle.
      Never shot, dropped once.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      Furthermore, Pétain wasn’t a military commander in WWII; he was a political leader. He *was* a military commander in WWI and was successful.

      Of course, expecting a TTAC writer to display knowledge of history is akin to expecting TTAC commenters to display mastery of grammar and spelling.

      • 0 avatar
        ect

        +1

      • 0 avatar

        Did Petain not roll over to the Third Reich and pave the way for Vichy France?

        • 0 avatar
          ect

          As noted, he was a successful general in WWI. When France was facing defeat in early June, 1940, he was brought out of retirement (at the age of 84) and into Cabinet as a symbol of resistance. When defeat became inevitable, he was appointed PM in order to perform the act of surrender.

          He continued as Head of State of the Vichy regime, and was convicted of treason after the end of WWII.

          Petain’s life is a complex, nuanced story. He always thought himself a French patriot. In 1940, he agreed to return to the service of France, and perhaps this devotion to France led him to serve as head of the remainder of France, to keep the country going.

          None of this has anything to do with the 300C. About which (mistaken historical reference aside), great article.

  • avatar

    The thing that surprises most of us as we age is that, despite the aches and pains, most of us don’t really actually feel that old inside our skulls. I suspect, barring any medical issues, that the grey mater will still feel sharp and youthful when my body feels quite the opposite.

    Cars like this have a place in the world. They find that sweet spot between performance and utility and as long as they offer some style and luxury I think they will continue to sell, on at least some level, for years to come. As a man who has driven coast to coast on several occasions during my life I can tell you, when there are miles that bneed to be eaten, this is the tool for the job.

    • 0 avatar
      DeeDub

      Inside every old guy is a young guy saying “What the hell happened?”

    • 0 avatar
      ect

      OK, I confess. When our daughter got married a year ago, my wife and I agreed to make the 600-mile drive to Washington in my mother-in-law’s Buick LeSabre, instead of our A4, so that we could transport wedding clothes for her relatives (who were flying) in the Buick’s truly cavernous trunk. Not a choice I was keen on, at all.

      I despise the traditional D3 barge, for all the driving fun that it lacks. I like smaller, sporty cars packed with the same luxury features and much better handling.

      But, as a highway cruiser, the Buick was a much comfier car than the Audi. Less fatigue in the driving, and less stiffness upon exiting the car. A b***h in the city, but excellent on the Interstate.

      There, I said it. I feel cleansed….

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I concur.

  • avatar
    mike978

    I can certainly see the 300 and Charger surviving even if other name plates die off. Some niches only support a few vehicles – like the Mazda 5 mini minivan or the minivan itself.

    Were the disastrous customer clinics for the current Taurus or a planned future one? The space efficiency of the current one is just very poor.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      The Taurus hasn’t been getting good feedback in new consumer clinics. I don’t know if there are focus groups for the next gen Taurus though. The Taurus is also losing volume to the Fusion while it and the MKS move to Flat Rock with the Fusion. I’m interested in what will happen to the Ford D platform. They have one excellent selling vehicle (Explorer) on the platform, while everything else is mostly a sales dud.

  • avatar
    jimboy

    As the proud owner of a 1st gen LX; Magnum, I can certainly attest to the continuing desirability of these cars. I only wish they would re-introduce the wagon body style again. I recently had a major tune-up and some refurbishment done to the brakes and suspension, (66,000 mi.) and the car runs like new. I love this vehicle for its space, performance/handling, and overall fun to drive factor. I have no clue what to replace it with when I am forced to retire it.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      I concur with your wish for a new wagon. My wife and I really like our Charger, but she sometimes complains that with 2 car seats, kid accessories, plus a stroller in the trunk, she sometimes has to tetris in the groceries (first world problems, I know). She says she’d like a bit more space.

      I say that’s why we have a crew cab pickup, we don’t need two vehicles with ultimate space and hauling capacity. Having driven a few Magnums including an SRT-8, that would placate the wife while allowing me to stick with my beloved LX car. I thought about just going backward and buying an ’08, but I’m already spoiled by the second generation LX upgrades.

      Thinking about it, I doubt Chrysler would do this as they already have a couple vehicles that fit in this category that are much more popular than the Magnum ever was. The Journey on the low end and the Durango on the high end.

  • avatar
    TW4

    According to the CAFE 2025 regulations, CUVs are also on unstable regulatory ground. Light trucks with small footprints will have to make approximately 35mpg (a little more or a little less depending upon the footprint of the CUV in question). Most vehicles in the segment are about 40% shy of their CAFE targets.

    As far as I can tell, CAFE is only kind to 3 segments of vehicles:

    1. Existing alternative-powertrain vehicles, like Prius, C-Max, etc
    2. Compact sedans
    3. Full-size V6 trucks and SUVs

    Alternative powertrains are already CAFE 2025 compliant. Compact sedans like the Chevy Cruze Eco, only need at 10% bump by 2025. Full-size V6 trucks only need 15%-20% improvement, but turbo-diesels and smaller gasoline turbos could probably do the trick as well.

    All other mainstream vehicles will need full hybrid or diesel, which could kill their appeal. Fullsize sedans are doomed. Small and midsize light duty trucks and SUVs are in bad shape. I suspect economy subcompacts will have to be put out to pasture, unless they get a government reprieve in 2017. Midsize sedans are 25% shy of their CAFE requirements, but the public will probably stick with them, despite the cost of hybridization.

    CAFE credits could be the wild card. If they give out +2mpg city for start/stop and +1 city. If the gov issues big fleet credits for full electric vehicles, the basic footprint framework could become meaningless.

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    Cruising on an open flat highway is about the least stressful thing a car engine does. Even at 75MPH (not that fast really) the cooling system is barely needed due to low stress and airflow.
    The 300C could cruise all day with a 1.4L non turbo 4 cylinder if that is all it ever needs to do and that motor would last forever to.
    You need 8 cylinders in the 300C for everything else though because with the big, heavy body and the sloshy automatic you need every bit of power you can squeeze out the V7 for that occasional passing maneuver and the on ramp merge.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      “You need 8 cylinders in the 300C for everything else though because with the big, heavy body and the sloshy automatic you need every bit of power you can squeeze out the V7 for that occasional passing maneuver and the on ramp merge.”

      The 3.6L V6 does all this more than adequately while returning more than 30mpg hwy. The Hemi V8 just does it better with 5 second 0-60 times and a hot exhaust note. I’ve been averaging 22mpg per tank in mixed driving with my MDS, VVT hemi car, so the mileage isn’t all that bad in those either.

  • avatar
    thornmark

    The Taurus was a flop before it was a Taurus, the Ford Flop 500. Mulally owned it when it put the rental car name on it.

    A flop is a flop is a flop. And they knew this SIX YEARS ago.

    From 2007: “Taurus flop turns spotlight on need for new marketing strategies”
    http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071012/BUSINESS01/710120352

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      The post-Mulally name change and refresh gave the D sedan a shot in the arm, but only so much could be done with that platform. The Taurus does outsell most of it’s direct competition however. A fleet sale is still a sale.

  • avatar
    mikey

    The way I see it, the Chrysler-Fiat marriage was a perfect match. Chrysler,has for years made a competitive vehicle. When it came to trim,and what I call percieved quality, Mopar came up a little short.

    So throw a little Italian touch,into the interior,and some styling. The outcome can only be positive.

    In 2009 Chrysler was wrote off . Seems like a lot of folks were wrong Eh?

  • avatar
    blowfish

    i spend a bit of time to read up on phillipe Petain, very interesting read.
    TTAC has a lot of literary giants hiding here.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    My respects to Mr. Lynett. Reading about an engineer that worked on the Manhattan Project having two bad-ass American rides made my day.

  • avatar
    ehaase

    TTAC is the only website that says Ford may drop the Taurus.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    The latest iteration of LX vehicles are such fine cars. They just need people to overcome Chrysler’s reputation from the mid 2000s so more customers will actually set foot on a Chrysler dealer’s lot to give them a chance.

    They offer a lot of car for the money. The 300C Luxury even has one of the nicest interiors available for purchase, seriously.

  • avatar
    Junebug

    I agree – I would love to have a 300 or Charger all fixed up in the insides and be happy with the v6 and 8 speed. The paint on these cars is much better than most too.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Nice article ;

    Chrysler was ‘ dead ‘ back in the 1970′s too , they bounced back , glad to see it then as now .

    The Taurus is crap , L.A.P.D. is field testing them and they suck , plain &simple ~ too small, too slow , no prisoner space , don’t handle on and on and…..

    I’m lucky (?) in that I grew up way back when American Land Yachts were the normal thing ~ if you wanted an ‘ economical ‘ car , you bought a huge ’59 Chevy sedan ~ it was made of tin foil but looked very good as it ate up those miles , slowly with the 235 I6 and over drive or easily with the available big V-ates .

    I’m old now but I still like smaller vehicles .

    The never ending historical comments here are really terrific , please keep them coming ~ Literary Heavyweights indeed ! .

    -Nate


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