by Al Vinikour
Back in 1998, when DaimlerChrysler came into being, the notion of a Chrysler-badged vehicle using much Mercedes content seemed about as likely as Osama Bin Laden showing up for Fashion Week. Cross-pollinating the brands was verboten — the “merger of equals” made all that unnecessary, remember?
Fast-forward to 2004, when the realities of cost-cutting have already wrought the fantastic-looking Crossfire, based on Benz SLK hardware. Sharing can be good for you, just like mom said.
This coming model year, the intermingling of Benz and Chrysler DNA will hit an important milestone with the 300/Magnum sedan and wagon, which borrow prudently from the last-generation Benz E-Class and C-Class and infuse them with classic, even bawdy, American style. If DaimlerChrysler ever will work, the 300/Magnum must be a success.
As if the pressure weren’t high enough, the 300/Magnum also have to be good enough to make buyers forget that just a decade ago, Chrysler was telling us that front-drive and cab-forward were a better solution than rear-wheel drive. Oh, and at the same time as relearning how to engineer rear-drive cars, they had to make the fraternal twins roomy, sporty, feature-laden, stable, and safety-prone.
After spending a considerable amount of time with these vehicles, in every climate imaginable, I’d have to say the next time around, DCX management needs to present something more difficult, because from what I’ve experienced, all these goals have been met and surpassed.
First, the 300
I’ll begin with the all-new Chrysler 300. This year marks the 50th anniversary of this nameplate, and the new model does credit to the name. It replaces the current flagship luxury model, the 300M. Unlike the vehicle it’s replaced by, the “M” was only available with a V-6 engine, something I found relatively unworthy of the image of the famous badge — styling, luxury, and comfort aside.