Chrysler 300 VS Volkswagen Passat
- 6.4 litres of scream
- Well equipped
- Standard safety
- Thirst like a dredger
- So-so dynamics
- Poor ownership package
- Super practical
- Easy to drive
- Great safety equipment
- Dual clutch auto isn't too smooth at low speed
- No heated steering wheel
- Halogen lights are dim
You may be sensing an increasing level of hype around hybrid and full battery-electric vehicles. In fact, it feels like the automotive world has gone full-fat bananas over ‘electro-mobility’.
At least car manufacturers have, with Tesla’s entertaining antics disrupting the status quo, and causing virtually every mainstream brand to get on board the zero-emissions express.
But of course, the other side of that equation is demand. The rush to meet ever tightening emissions regulations (and save the planet in the process) fails to recognise the fact that not everybody wants a ZEV… yet.
The days of big-bore, more is good, internal combustion propulsion aren’t over yet, and Chrysler, like the rest of the ‘Murican Big Three’ is keeping traditional muscle car enthusiasts happy.
In fact, we’re in the midst of a US horsepower arms race not seen since the late 1960s and early ‘70s, and Chrysler’s SRT (Street & Racing Technology) performance subsidiary is leading from the front with a variety of over-the-top Hellcats, Demons and Red Eyes.
Australia has recently picked up a whiff of that action with the utterly mad 522kW Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, but the only slightly unhinged SRT version, and this car, the Chrysler 300 SRT, have been around for some time.
Launched here in 2012, the second-generation version of the 6.4-litre naturally aspirated sedan was discontinued in the USA in 2014. But sensing a large sedan-sized opportunity as local manufacturing from Ford, Holden and Toyota went the way of the Dodo, the local FCA team negotiated a continuation deal.
Think of the 300 SRT as America’s M5 or E63. A full-size performance sedan with a thick layer of luxury laid over the top, but at around one third the price.
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
I like you already. Even if you don’t end up picking the Volkswagen Passat 132TSI Comfortline wagon, the fact you’re here means you’re willing to think outside the SUV square that so many Australians may get a bit stuck in when buying a car for the family or work, or both.
See, SUVs are kind of the cargo shorts of the car world because of their practicality, but do you want to wear cargo shorts everywhere? Wagons generally handle on the road better than SUVs and can be just as practical - especially if it’s the Passat 132TSI Comfortline.
Think of this wagon as the comfortable but cool jeans of the car world that you can get away with at a dinner or a picnic, the ones that always surprise you with how much stuff you manage to take out of the pockets when it comes to time to wash them.
|Engine Type||1.8L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The Chrysler 300 SRT is a big, fast, well-equipped and super-comfortable point-to-point tourer that’s also able to soak up the stresses of a city commute with ease. It’s also showing its age in terms of design, obscenely thirsty, dynamically flawed, and offered with a bottom-of-the-class ownership package. A fun place to visit but make sure you’re ready for permanent residency.
Thinking about some muscle gain? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
The Passat 132TSI Comfortline wagon is a well-equipped, super practical, good looking, and easy to drive alternative to an SUV. I’d option the Luxury Package for the LED headlights if you’re doing lots of country kays, plus it brings you auto parking – making life with it even easier. Jeans or cargo shorts? The choice is yours.
Are you a cargo shorts or jeans type of guy or girl? Does a wagon appeal more to you than an SUV? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
The NSW Highway Patrol has adopted the 300 SRT as its weapon of choice, and psychologically I reckon they’re onto a winner.
A high waistline, small glasshouse and big 20-inch rims combine to give the 300 a chunky, take-no-prisoners stance. And this intimidating beast filling the mirrors is enough to make even the most determined speedster drop their bundle.
Except for the SRT badge at the back, the exterior is a chrome-free zone, with black finish on the big honeycomb grille, window frames, and dark chrome wheels dialing up the overall air of menace.
The rear view is similarly imposing, with a large slab of almost right-angular boot lid topped by a pronounced body-colour spoiler.
At this point, we have to call out less than perfect panel fit. On our test car for example the intersection of the bonnet and front clip above the headlights was messy with inconsistent shut lines and poor alignment.
Inside not much has changed over the current 300’s seven years on sale, and the design lacks the integrated approach of more modern competitors.
An 8.4-inch colour media touchscreen sits in the centre of a squared oval panel between the central air vents and under an analogue clock, that shape bearing no resemblance to the form of the heating and ventilation control panel below it or the instrument binnacle alongside.
A mass of buttons confronts the driver across the centre stack, steering wheel and door, while genuine carbon fibre inserts add a racy if slightly ironic touch in a close to 2.0-tonne car.
Leather and suede sports front seats look (and feel) the business, and the strongly illuminated gauges are divided by a 7.0-inch multifunction display including a clear digital speed read-out. Which is just as well, because the fussy increments on the analogue dial are hard to read.
The Passat wagon doesn’t have the flowing curves of the Mazda6 nor the killer-bee look of the Levorg, nope, but there is so much appeal in its restrained and organised design, with razor sharp lines and ridges. It’s a serious and prestige look, that’s less about bling and more about utility.
The 132TSI Comfortline and the 132TSI grade below it in the range look almost identical from the outside – both have the chrome blades on the grille, and the chrome trim around the windows, and there’s the dual exhaust. The only difference is the wheels. While both come with 17-inch wheels, the 132TSI Comfortline has the ‘London’ style not the ‘Soho’ style of the 132TSI.
The interior has the same clean design and premium feel. There’s the simple, logical layout of controls and a high-quality feel to the materials. The 132TSI Comfortline like the 132TSI below it in the line-up has a ‘Silver Diamond’ trim on the dash, the centre console and doors. I think the leather seats make the cabin with their ‘tuck and roll’ style.
You need to step up to the top of the range 206 TSI R-Line to get the fully digital active driving display as standard, but you can option it on the R-Line package which also brings bigger 18-inch wheels, aluminium face pedals and a tougher looking body kit.
Our test car didn’t have any options fitted and that 'Pure White' paint it wears is the only no-cost colour. I don’t think it shows off the Passat’s lines best, not as well as the optional 'Pyrite Silver Metallic', or 'Manganese Grey Metallic', the 'Harvard Deep Blue Metallic' and the 'Deep Black Pearl Effect'.
How big is the Passat 132TSI Comfortline wagon? Not as big as it looks in the pictures. The dimensions show it to be a bit less than 4.8m in length (the same as the sedan version), 1.8m wide and almost 1.5m tall.
At just under 5.1m long, 1.9m wide and close to 1.5m tall the 300 SRT is a sizeable machine, so it’s no surprise there’s plenty of room inside.
Those up front are provided with a pair of cupholders in the centre console (complete with heating or cooling at the press of a button), storage bins and medium-size bottle holders in the doors, a long oddments tray and a small storage cubby (with 12-volt outlet) near the gear shifter, as well as a sunglasses holder in the overhead console and a big glove box.
There’s also a lidded storage box between the seats, complete with sliding tray, two USB ports, an ‘aux-in’ jack and a 12-volt outlet. Even old school nicotine enthusiasts are catered for with an ashtray insert ready to slip into one of the cupholders and a cigarette lighter to drop into the main 12-volt socket.
Rear seat passengers pick up a fold-down centre armrest with two cupholders and a lidded oddments box, decent door bins with bottle holders, as well adjustable vents at the back of the centre console, two USB ports, and switches for the standard heated rear seats.
Sitting behind the driver’s seat set for my 183cm position I had ample legroom but only adequate headroom. There’s enough shoulder room for three adults across the rear, but the broad transmission tunnel throws a spanner in the works when it comes to centre foot room.
The fully-lined boot is nicely trimmed, with a pair of flip-out bag hooks (22kg capacity), load tie-down anchors, and useful lighting included.
Volume is 462 litres, enough to fit our three-piece hard suitcase set (35, 68 and 105 litres) lying flat on the floor, or the CarsGuide pram, with heaps of room to spare. A 60/40 split-folding rear seat adds extra space and flexibility.
In the case of a flat tyre your only option is a repair/inflator kit, and it’s worth noting towing capacity for the SRT is the same 450kg for a braked or unbraked trailer, where the standard V6-powered 300C can tow a 1724kg braked trailer.
The Passat 132TSI Comfortline does the practicality thing well with a roomy cabin and good storage space.
Up front is spacious with plenty of shoulder and headroom, while rear legroom is excellent. I’m 191cm and can sit behind my driving position with about 40mm between my knees and the seatback. Headroom back there is outstanding, too.
Those rear doors are giant and swing wide like the one on a bank vault making it super easy to get in and out – look at the images.
I have a three-year-old who is now insisting on climbing in and out of every test car we have – it used to be annoying (because he takes his time) but it’s now becoming part of the car testing process. He’s fallen backwards, forwards and sideways out of SUVs because of their height and if the entry way is narrow the sloping door sill makes it harder to for him to get secure footing, (don’t judge me, I’m there to catch him…mostly).
But the Passat was low enough for him to easily step up or down from and the doorway wide enough for him to have plenty of flat door sill to stand on.
The boot opening is enormous, too, and luggage space with the rear seats up is 650 litres (more than the Mazda6 wagon and Commodore Sportwagon) and you have a cargo capacity of 1152 litres with them folded down.
There are four cupholders – two in the front and two in the back, large bottle holders in all the doors, and a deep centre console bin with USB port. There are three 12-volt outlets – one in the front, one in the second row and one in the cargo area.
Those in the back seats are the masters of their own climate with digital controls for temperature and directional vents.
Price and features
A list price of $74,950 (before on-road costs) buys a whole lot of car, equipment, and performance, with that figure only gaining entry to a pack of next-size-down options from Europe and Japan.
A $5k spread from $71-76,000 covers the Alfa Giulia Veloce ($72,900), Audi A4 45 TFSI Quattro ($73,300), BMW330i M-Sport ($70,900), Infiniti Q50 Red Sport ($74,900), Jaguar XE P300 HSE R Dynamic ($71,940), Lexus GS300 Luxury ($75,931), and Merc C 300 ($71,800).
And aside from the extra cubic inches under the hood and sheetmetal in the body, the 300 SRT’s standard features list is long, including dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start (plus remote start), heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, heated leather-trimmed SRT flat-bottom steering wheel, heated/cooled front cupholders, power boot lid release, electric steering column adjust (height and reach), plus eight-way electrically-adjustable driver and front passenger seats (with four-way power lumbar adjust on both and radio/seat/mirror memory on the driver’s side).
Also standard are auto headlights (with auto level and auto high beam), rain-sensing wipers, power-folding exterior mirrors (with defrost), nappa leather and suede seat trim, 825-watt, 19-speaker harman/kardon audio (including digital radio), sat nav, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a 7.0-inch instrument cluster display, the 8.4-inch colour media touchscreen, and 20-inch forged alloy wheels.
There are plenty of other safety and performance features, which we’ll cover in later sections, wrapping into an impressive standard package at this price point. And ‘our’ test car featured the ‘SRT Luxury Package’ ($4750) adding a monster dual-pane glass sunroof, premium leather trim on the instrument panel, centre console and door trims, as well as premium floor mats front and rear.
The standard colour choice is black and white… ‘Gloss Black’ or ‘Bright White’, with ‘Silver Mist’, ‘Ceramic Grey’, ‘Granite Crystal’, ‘Maximum Steel’ and ‘Velvet Red’ optional, and ‘Ocean Blue’ available to specific customer order.
The Passat comes in three grades and the 132TSI Comfortline sits right in the middle of the range. While the sedan lists for $41,990 the wagon asks $43,990. That’s $6K more than the entry grade 132TSI wagon – so what do you get that the base-spec car doesn’t?
For starters it comes with the larger 9.2-inch screen (not the 8.0-inch) and the more sophisticated 'Discover Pro' media system with sat nav and gesture control, plus voice control for phone and the navigation.
The seats are leather, not cloth. There’s also the auto tailgate with kick-open function, 14-way power adjustable and heated front seats, electric folding door mirrors with reverse kerb adjustment, puddle lights, front fog lights, proximity key and a start button. The 132TSI Comfortline also has more safety equipment than the 132TSI, which we’ll cover below.
That was the gear that comes on the 132TSI Comfortline over the 132TSI. Here’s what they both get: there’s the LED tail-lights, roof rails, three-zone climate control, front and rear parking sensors with visual display, floor mats, halogen headlights, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, eight-speaker stereo and a leather wrapped steering wheel.
Is it good value? Yes. The 132TSI Comfortline is the sweet spot for value in the range. Is there anything that should be there that’s not? Yes. A head-up display – or the option for one would be good. Ventilated seats are welcome in Australia, but not offered on the Passat, neither is a heated steering wheel.
The Holden Commodore RS Sportwagon will cost you less at $39,490, but it’s 13cm longer – that could be the difference between making it into a parking spot or not.
Engine & trans
Forget hybrid, forget turbos, the Chrysler 300 SRT is powered by 392 cubic-inches of Detroit iron… although the 6.4-litre ‘Apache’ V8 is actually built in Mexico.
The engine’s block is indeed cast iron although the heads are aluminium, with the ‘Hemi’ name derived from its hemispherical combustion chamber design.
It’s naturally aspirated, direct fuel-injected and produces 350kW (470hp) at 6150rpm and no less than 637Nm of torque at 4250rpm.
Drive goes through an eight-speed automatic transmission to the rear wheels with a limited-slip diff standard.
Shifting gears for you is a seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission.
You and I know this isn’t a performance car, but a 0-100km/h time of 8.1 seconds means there’s enough oomph to move quickly if you need to with confidence, such as in overtaking situations.
A model of fuel efficiency this car is not. Claimed economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 13.0L/100km, the 300 SRT emitting 303g/km of CO2 in the process.
Over roughly 300km of city, suburban and freeway running we recorded 18.5L/100km (at the bowser), and the on-board computer threw up some horrifying short-term numbers as we explored the car’s performance potential.
Minimum fuel requirement is 95 RON premium unleaded and you’ll need 70 litres of it to fill the tank… regularly.
I measured our test car’s fuel consumption at the petrol pump and after 177km of inner-city peak-hour commutes in the morning and late nights on empty motorways measured 8.0L/100km when it came to fill up. That’s still good mileage.
Roll onto a smooth, dry surface, engage the SRT’s standard launch control function and you’ve dialled in the ability to storm from 0-100km/h in a ludicrously rapid 4.5sec.
Unlike smaller capacity turbo engines, the big atmo Hemi takes a while to develop maximum torque (637Nm), hitting peak pulling power at 4250rpm. Keep the throttle pinned and full power (350kW) is achieved on the cusp of the rev limiter at 6150rpm.
All this fire and fury is accompanied by a beautifully brutal V8 roar courtesy of an active exhaust which tweaks the pulsing note it produces according to drive mode and throttle position. It’s hard not to love it, complete with rude pops and crackles on the over-run.
Beware though, this car is relatively loud all the time, so you’ve got to hope the love affair is a long-term one.
Suspension is by a short and long arm (SLA) and upper A-arms at the front, with a five-link set-up at the rear, and Bilstein adaptive dampers all around.
The switch between Comfort and Sport is swift and marked, with the latter best kept for billiard tables and race circuits. Around town ride in the more compliant setting is agreeably smooth.
Push the big 300 along your favourite backroad and you know you’re asking two tonnes of metal, rubber and glass to move against its will.
The eight-speed auto responds well in manual mode (with wheel-mounted paddles), and the grippy sports front seats do decent job of keeping their occupants stable and balanced, but the sheer mass of this car means you’re never going to get a corner-carving hot hatch-like experience.
And despite a chunky, leather-trimmed sports wheel, the hydraulically-assisted ‘SRT Tuned’ steering isn’t exactly the last word in road feel or sharp response.
Having said that, the fat 20-inch (245/45) Goodyear Eagle F1 rubber grips hard with minimal impact on ride quality, and in a more relaxed mode the SRT is a stress-free and comfortable tourer.
Big acceleration is balanced by big brakes, with beefy ventilated rotors (360mm fr / 350mm rr) clamped by Brembo four-piston calipers front and rear.
The system’s outright power is impressive but can be abrupt on initial application at around town speeds, until you get used to greasing the pedal pressure in.
‘SRT Performance Pages’ allows you to scroll through multiple real-time data screens (timers, G-force, engine performance, etc), which is fun, with outputs downloadable to a USB stick or SD card. The 19-speaker harman/kardon audio system absolutely cranks, and the active cruise control works intuitively, without the frustrating conservatism (taking forever to pick up the throttle) of some other systems
In a word: easy. The Passat 132TSI Comfortline is easy to see out of, easy to park, easy to sit comfortably in for long periods of time whether it’s in peak-hour traffic going nowhere or on the motorway at 110km/h.
The cabin is quiet, the ride is composed, and on-board tech such as gesture control for the media adds to its all-round easiness.
Easy, but not perfect. The halogen headlights are dim and while they’re fine in the city you’ll really notice on Australia’s poorly lit country roads and highways – I strongly recommended optioning the 'Luxury Package' which brings the incredibly bright LED headlights.
The dual-clutch auto transmission isn’t perfectly smooth at low speeds, either. But I feel I am just looking for problems where there really aren’t many.
If you’re after a more sporty driving experience and looks to match there’s the Passat 206 TSI R-Line – much more power and aggressive styling to go with it.
The 300 SRT hasn’t been assessed by ANCAP or Euro NCAP, but the NHTSA in North America has given the 2019 Chrysler 300 a four-star safety rating (from a possible five).
In terms of active tech a lot of major boxes are ticked, with AEB a notable exception.
Standard features include, ABS, ‘Ready Alert Braking’ (primes system when driver lifts off the brake pedal quickly), ESC, ‘Electronic Roll Mitigation’, traction control, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, rear cross path detection, and advanced brake assist.
A ‘Rain Brake Support’ function is triggered by the rain-sensing wiper system to periodically ‘wipe off’ the brake rotors with the brake pads, keeping them as dry as possible in the wet. And Chrysler has cleverly piggy-backed ‘Knock Back Mitigation’ into the arrangement.
In aggressive cornering front wheel assemblies can flex, pushing the brake rotor against the brake pads and ‘knocking’ them back into the caliper, potentially leading to an alarmingly long pedal the next time the brakes are applied. Not a factor in the 300 SRT, with the pads automatically pushed up into their optimum position.
If, despite all that, a crash is unavoidable, the airbag count runs to seven (dual front, dual front side, dual curtain and driver’s knee), and the front head restraints are active.
There are three child seat/baby capsule top tether points across the back seat, with ISOFIX anchors on the two outer rear positions.
Wondering what else the 132TSI Comfortline gets over the 132TSI grade below it? More standard safety equipment. Yup, while all Passats come with AEB which works at lower city speeds, manoeuvre braking (front and rear), a rear-view camera, and parking sensors, the 132TSI Comfortline also comes with blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert and lane departure warning.
Do I still need to tell you that the Passat wagon has a five-star ANCAP rating? It does.
For child and baby seats there are three top tether anchor mounts and two ISOFIX points in the second row.
Happy to report, too, that the 132TSI Comfortline comes standard with a full-sized spare wheel. That’s becoming a rarity with many car makers opting for a space saver spare, which might save weight and space, but in Australia where distances are vast a full-sized spare is an essential part of a good safety kit.
The warranty world has moved significantly in recent months, and the 300 SRT’s three year/100,000km warranty is now well off the pace.
Kia moved to seven years/unlimited km in 2014, and there are whispers of the Korean brand shifting to 10 years sooner rather than later.
Service is required every 12 months/12,000km, and no capped price servicing program is currently offered.
With the caveat that labour rates will inevitably vary between dealerships, Chrysler Australia estimates five year standard servicing cost at $2590 (including GST).
The Passat 132TSI Comfortline is covered by Volkswagen’s three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.
Servicing is recommended every 15,000km/12 months and pricing is capped.
You can expect to pay $476 for the first service, $671 for the second, $563 for the third, $857 for the fourth and $476 for the fifth.
It’s more than most Japanese and Korean brands charge for a service. Mazda for example caps servicing no higher than $341 for each service over five years for it’s 2.5-litre petrol GT Mazda6 wagon and has a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.
So, the Passat 132TSI Comfortline is losing marks here for its short warranty and relatively high servicing costs.