Chrysler 300C Touring

In a world of traffic congestion and urban gridlock, most car manufacturers are trying to make their vehicles smaller and more space efficient. However, one marque that seems to be flouting this convention is Chrysler, which is about to expand its range of oversized models.

BIG, brash and bling, the 300C Touring is in no way understated. But while it has a low price, the 5.7-litre V8 is thirsty, the ride too soft for many and the cabin quality is dubious. Still, if size is everything, this car could be for you.

In a world of traffic congestion and urban gridlock, most car manufacturers are trying to make their vehicles smaller and more space efficient. However, one marque that seems to be flouting this convention is Chrysler, which is about to expand its range of oversized models.

The 300C Touring is truly enormous. Rivals from Mercedes and BMW are dwarfed when parked beside the US load-lugger, not only by its size - it is 18cm longer than a 5-Series - but also its stature. The squared-off front end, gaping grille and slab sides are shared with the saloon version, while the Touring's hot rod-style chopped roof gives it a more imposing presence than most estate cars on the roads.

Inside, the 'big' theme continues with the largest door handles you're likely to see outside a National Express coach, plus plenty of room for five adults. The high waistline and windows that narrow increasingly towards the rear look great, but visibility for back seat passengers isn't brilliant.

However, there's plenty of leg and headroom and the boot is a decent size, splitting into practical compartments to stop smaller items flying around. The ride is well suited to motorway hauls, although around town the car is too soft and lacks the composure of more finely tuned European rivals.

Just as the Chrysler's ride is typically American, so is the choice of engines. We drove the 5.7-litre V8, but the Touring will also be available with more frugal 3.5-litre V6 petrol and 4.0-litre turbodiesel powerplants. The price tag is unlikely to draw many complaints, either. Current estimates put the new range at about £15,000 less than its key competitors. Cheap plastics and a budget dashboard design reveal where money has been saved, but the Chrysler is still excellent value for the class.

Bosses are confident there is a market for the 300C, and in saloon form it will be sold in right-hand drive from this autumn. Chrysler hasn't decided whether the Tourer will follow, but it's on sale now in Europe so could reach UK shores in 2006. If you like your car's designers to think big, there are few more eye-catching estates in the world.

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