2003 NY Show: Chrysler 300C

April 16, 2003

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Chrysler says its New York Auto Show concept will reflect a sea change in its brand styling — and will hark back to the days of big performance from Chrysler’s four doors.

Following the lines of the Crossfire coupe and the recent Airflite concept from Geneva, the 300C concept bows wearing a heritage-influenced shape that’s formal, striking, and a direct link to the look of the Chrysler 300M replacement due early next year.

“After generations of bland, front-wheel-drive cars, all too many that look alike, we needed to break away and find a new package,” explained Chrysler’s design director, Trevor Creed, during an recent interview with TheCarConnection.com

Red letter day

2003 Chrysler 300C concept

2003 Chrysler 300C concept

The new shape reinterprets Chrysler’s “letter cars” from the Sixties in a modern way, say company officials. And thanks to mechanicals from Mercedes-Benz, the underpinnings are a return to the rear-drive form made legendary in cars like the C-300.

The U.S. side of DaimlerChrysler had been looking at rear-drive for more than a decade, “but we couldn’t figure out how we’d get there until the merger,” says Creed. But when the parts bin opened up the choice pieces on the other side of the Atlantic, Chrysler snapped up some for not just the 300C, but also the new Crossfire and Pacifica.

The new 300C concept’s dramatic proportions are highlighted by equally dramatic details. The long hood and short deck — the antithesis of cab-forward design that Chrysler championed in the early 1990s — is emphasized by an upright grille and 20-inch tires.

Not all Chrysler products will adopt the stance of the 300C and other cab-rearward designs. Cab-forward is closely identified with products such as the Neon, and will continue as long as Chrysler keeps building front-wheel-drive vehicles.

Fighting trim

2003 Chrysler 300C concept\

2003 Chrysler 300C concept\

Beneath the panels of the heritage homage, the 300C carries much the same equipment as Dodge’s Hemi-powered Magnum wagon from this year’s auto show circuit, with independent suspension front and back and rack-and-pinion steering. The rear-drive chassis is built with all-wheel-drive capability factored in. The Hemi engine is a version of the 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 now found in the Dodge Ram. Here it’s mated to an electronically controlled five-speed Autostick automatic transmission.

Safety features on the concept include Electronic Stability Program (ESP), traction control, anti-lock brakes, and high-intensity discharge (HID) headlamps.

Inside, the interior is decorated with fanciful touches sure to avoid production — tortoise-shell steering wheel accents — and features no doubt headed for the production car, including heated leather seats, tilt/telescoping steering, and automatic climate control.

Chrysler says the production version of the 300C will be very similar to the concept shown at the New York show. Early next year, it and the Dodge Magnum will bow in full production form.

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