My American friend came for a visit recently, ticking all the usual cliche boxes by having a Guinness in an Eye-rish pub and tracing his ancestry to the arse end of nowhere. I thought a Chrysler 300C Touring would be an appropriate mode of transport for his visit because I felt it would imbue Matt with a proper sense of scale as we threaded our way along some of our narrowest streets and boreens. The last time either of us had ridden in a 300C it was back in Texas so this would be a real culture shock for us both, but the real surprise came in discovering that the big Chrysler didn't wallow along like a drunken hippo anymore, feeling positively agile thanks to its Euro-spec suspension. By BMW or Audi standards it's still a bit of a softie, perhaps, but nothing compared to the plate-of-jelly-with-two-axles dynamics of the U.S. version.
The good people at Chrysler have also worked on the steering, making it weightier than before even if it’s still controlled by a rings-of-Saturn-sized steering wheel and it's no more responsive. Again, compared to European models it's all a bit slow-witted and ponderous, but it's a million times better than I remember. If only the cabin were a bit quieter – the stiffer suspension components seem to be transmitting a lot of extra noise into the cabin, ruining what is otherwise a superbly refined environment. It’s not like a few more kilos of sound deadening would have made any difference to the 300C substantial heft.
The 300C‘s transmission feels the same as it always did, smooth shifting and intelligently programmed if a little hesitant to kick down under middling throttle applications. The ex-Mercedes 3.0-litre V6 diesel is a wonderful addition to the 300C, however, offering ample torque to see off any load you could possibly fit in its vast interior. It's economical, too, chugging down only 10 litres per 100km of demanding, fully laden driving as we criss-crossed the country in search of historical monuments and distant cousins.
It's not without its flaws, the 300C, not least of which is a cheaply finished and noisy cabin and the way is squirms around under heavy braking, but overall it’s an admirable beast - one of the few cars named 'Touring' that actually lives up to the name. Even my American friend was impressed by its km-munching comfort, although he had to keep his eyes shut every time we met on oncoming truck in case the 300C wouldn’t quite fit through. Poor Matt. He never did get used to the scale of things over here.
Verdict: Firmed up for us Europeans, the 300C Touring is just firm enough to avoid wallowing but comfy enough to trot the globe in a single sitting.