Retro mid-Atlantic hybrid

Mid-Atlantic hybrids can be terrific. European talent and Yank muscle created great French-noir gangster films, Mumm Napa Valley champagne, and the International Herald Tribune. Now we can add the Chrysler 300C, born of a union with Mercedes.

In the 1950s Chrysler produced the iconic C300, its first muscle car. With its trademark hemi head V8 engine, it set the stage for a generation of 130mph hot-rod American saloons. Today's 300C is available with a 6.1 litre hemi V8 engine, but UK buyers will be interested in the Merc-engined turbodiesel touring estate that I tried.

Sculptured flanks, a retro look, smaller windows, understated body trim and big wheel arches gives it a handsome, even brutish stance. The imposing radiator grille gives visual 'don't even think about it' signals to anyone contemplating pulling out into your path.

Taking it out on the highway, the Chrysler came to life. Surging diesel power plus a five-speed autobox gave swift acceleration and relaxed cruising. Huge tyres gave plenty of grip and the brakes, with massive discs all round, were smooth and sensitive. Handling was sound, though perhaps not quite as subtle and precise as the Mercedes E-class, which shares the same engine. But still it coped well with emergency swerves on the motorway.

The touring estate looks less gainly than the crisply sculptured saloon, but adds an impressive load area.

However, with no third row of seats option in the tapered tail end, this hefty cruiser is out of the soccer mums' seven-seater market.

The C300 was created for the US market where they sell for a mere £11,000, so the interior trim is not to luxury standard. But Chrysler has made up for that, by giving the UK market an impressive pack of extras thrown in as standard, plus all the usual safety features.

Priced well below the European competition, the 300C is a potent, roomy, long-distance cruiser without the poor public image and dubious handling of people carriers.

Dr Stefan Cembrowicz is a GP in Bristol

Chrysler 300C Touring
Price: £27,815
Engine size: 3,000cc V6 turbo diesel
Acceleration: 0-60mph 8.6 seconds
Top speed: 136 mph
Insurance group: 16
MPG: 26.2/ ex-urban 42.8/ combined 34.9
Real cost: (three years/36,000 ownership cost based on fuel,
depreciation, insurance, services): £24,651
What Car? rating: 3 out of 5
What Car? verdict: An estate with attitude. Fully equipped, well priced and sufficiently practical. This 3.0-litre turbodiesel is the pick of the 300C range.

What Car? review
On the road, the 300C always feels like a big car, which isn't surprising given its weight and length. The ride is fidgety at lower speeds and some body float is evident over dips and crests, although changes of direction through fast bends are carried off with assured ease.

The plastics and trim used don't look as classy as those in European rivals but the cabin is pleasant enough. While eight-way seat adjustment will help the driver get comfortable, they will still find it hard to see the front and rear ends of the car, and the comparatively small windscreen and big front pillars create blind spots in tight corners.

Passenger leg and headroom is generous, and the boot capacity betters many executive estate rivals'.

Standard equipment includes alloy wheels, rear parking sensors, cruise control and heated leather seats with power adjustment. Also fitted is dual-zone climate control, which tailors the temperature individually for passengers.

The 300C is attractively priced, but watch out for heavy depreciation. Chrysler will probably be looking to avoid some previous below-average scores in customer satisfaction surveys.

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