Chrysler 300 VS Volkswagen Passat
- 6.4 litres of scream
- Well equipped
- Standard safety
- Thirst like a dredger
- So-so dynamics
- Poor ownership package
- Executive styling
- High quality cabin
- Extensive safety equipment
- More expensive than competitors
- Engine is just okay
- Dual-clutch auto jerkiness
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.
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The once-ubiquitous family sedan segment championed by the home-grown Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore is, in 2020, a shadow of its former self.
Dwindling sales in the face of the growing popularity of SUVs has forced nameplates like the Ford Mondeo, Subaru Liberty and Insignia-based Holden Commodore to be discontinued in Australia, leaving just a few models to compete against the dominant Toyota Camry.
Does Volkswagen do enough with the Passat 140TSI Business sedan to warrant a look over a more popular rival or SUV? Read on to find out.
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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 VW Passat 140TSI Business sedan might not be the last word in styling, performance or dynamics, but it offers a tech-laden interior wrapped in a smart package.
Those after a dependable, easy-to-drive commuter with room to spare for the family and luggage can do a lot worse than VW's Passat.
Sure, the competition might offer attention grabbing features like a petrol-electric hybrid powertrain or fashion-model-like styling, but the Passat is so perfectly adequate at everything it does, it really is greater than the sum of its parts.
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.
Volkswagen's Passat has always tilted towards a more conservative design, and the current sixth-generation version is no different.
From the front, the Passat wears the same corporate identity as seen on most other Volkswagen models with an emphasis on the horizonal grille that incorporates the headlights, the latter featuring a segmented design akin to luxury cars from Germany.
The lower bumper also wears a chrome strip that ties together the LED fog lights to give the Passat a wide-but-not-aggressive stance.
In profile, the Passat's standard three-box design is as innocuous as they come, though the grey-coloured 18-inch 'Dartford' alloy wheels adds a bit of visual flair.
The rear of the Passat is punctuated by wraparound tail-lights and prominent badging, while the lower bumper hides the exhaust outlet from view.
If we had to describe the styling of the Passat in a word, it would be inoffensive, and the single-grade Business moniker is likely a pointer to the target demographic.
If wearing a suit or smart business attire is part of your day-to-day wardrobe, then think of the Passat as an extension of the same corporate look.
While there is certainly nothing wrong with that aesthetic, the Passat – much like an off-the-shelf suit – doesn't exactly stand out from the crowd and can look quite bland amongst the sea of competitors.
To emphasise the point even further, six exterior colours are available though only one (Aquamarine metallic) is not a variation on white, black or grey.
Inside, the Passat looks much like any other modern-day Volkswagen, with controls that are ergonomic and easy to use.
We appreciate the physical volume knob on the multimedia system, while the large touchscreen also shifts the cabin closer to premium than economy.
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.
Measuring 4775mm long, 1835mm wide, 1457mm tall and with a 2791mm wheelbase, the Passat is certainly large enough to easily accommodate four adults and plenty of luggage.
In the front row, storage solutions are available at every turn.
Two cupholders sit between the front passengers, good for a morning cup of coffee on the way to work, while the door pockets will easily accommodate a medium-sized water bottle.
The glove box is also cooled, though what practical function this serves is still unclear (are you really going to put a drink bottle in there?), while a roof console, driver's side dashboard cubby and storage pockets behind the front seats can accommodate all manner of paraphernalia.
The front passengers also have an armrest with storage box, while the rear occupants are treated to a fold-down armrest with cupholders.
The rear seats offer enough head-, leg- and shoulder-room for our 183cm (6.0ft) frame, but the middle seat is a bit of a squeeze.
As evidenced by our photos, a large and medium suit can fit side-by-side in the Passat's boot, leaving room in the side storage pockets for smaller items that may roll around once underway.
The sedan's 60/40 split rear seats can also fold from latches in the boot to boost storage capacity to 1152L, though the wagon (with its 650L/1780L boot capacity) is still the choice for those who value practicality.
Cargo restraining hooks are available, as are shopping bag hooks (always a win) and a 12-volt socket.
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.
Priced at $46,590, before on-road costs, the Volkswagen Passat 140TSI Business sedan is on the pricier end of the mid-size sedan segment.
However, Volkswagen Australia has taken the kitchen sink approach to specification, and thrown everything it could at its mainstream mid-size sedan.
As standard, the Passat is fitted with a tri-zone climate control, LED exterior lighting, second-row air vents, automatic boot release, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, 18-inch wheels, heated side mirrors, electronically adjustable and massaging driver's seat, heated front seats, multi-function steering wheel, cooled glove box, leather-appointed interior, and rear window blinds.
An 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen system, with wireless Apple CarPlay/wired Android Auto connectivity, satellite navigation and Bluetooth connectivity, is also included.
While it is nice to see wireless Apple CarPlay come down to a 'mainstream' model instead of the usual upper-luxury suspects, we did notice the lack of digital radio in the Passat.
Instead, the Passat is fitted with a multi-function display nestled between the speedo and tacho, which works to convey driving data such as fuel consumption and speed warning, but feels much more budget than boujee in appearance.
It's also pleasing to see Volkswagen adopt a future-forward approach with three USB-C ports overall (two up front, one for the rear passengers), despite the current-generation Passat's underpinnings dating back to 2014.
A bevy of high-end safety equipment is also included at no extra charge, including adaptive cruise control and surround-view monitor (more information on safety down below).
The only option available to Passat buyers is the choice of premium paint, but the long list of standard equipment is tempered by the high price tag.
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.
The engine is paired to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission that sends drive exclusively to the front wheels for a 0-100km/h sprint in just 7.1 seconds.
Volkswagen used to offer the Passat with lower-output engines, as well as a more potent Golf R-driveline-sharing 206TSI grade, but those versions have been discontinued in Australia.
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.
Official documentation pegs the Passat 140TSI Business sedan's fuel consumption at 6.4 litres per 100km, while carbon dioxide emissions are 147 grams of CO2 per kilometre.
In our limited week of testing (just before Melbourne entered the second wave of lockdowns), we managed a figure of 9.7L/100km limited exclusively to inner-city driving.
Our figure is still slightly higher than the 8.3L/100km urban consumption rating though, which can be chalked up to our very short and slow speeds to the local shop and back as our average speed over 523km is just 27km/h.
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
Well, the opposite is true of something like the sedately-styled Passat 140TSI Business sedan.
Don't be mistaken, though, as that is not meant as a form of criticism, and those looking to buy a Passat generally aren't looking for a canyon carving track attack weapon.
Instead, the Passat feels very neutral and easy to drive day-to-day.
With the punchy 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine serving up the 320Nm of torque from a very low 1450rpm, the Passat feels responsive around town, while the smooth-shifting seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT) works smartly and seamlessly.
There can be some jerkiness from the DCT when slowing to a stop as the start/stop system likes to cut the engine early to save fuel, but that can be remedied by simply turning if off with the press of a button.
The 140kW available is also never really enough to overwhelm the front axle, and the Passat handles with predictability and precision.
The suspension set-up is also geared much more towards comfort and compliance than sportiness.
This mean the Passat is easily soaks up bumps and road imperfections instead of transmitting every jolt through the chassis to the driver.
While the Passat can feel a little numb to steer, the light steering is a plus at slow speeds around town, making U-turns and parallel parks easier.
Though VW offered a less powerful and more potent engine in the old Passat range, we're glad to see the brand stick with the sole 140TSI engine that hits the sweet spot of usable performance in real-world situations.
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.
The Volkswagen Passat wears a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating, though the current-generation model was first tested in October 2015.
At the time of testing, the Passat scored 14.89 out of 16 in the frontal offset test, while the side impact and pole examinations yielded the full 16 and two points respectively.
Overall, the Passat was awarded a score of 35.89 out of a possible 37, though ANCAP's testing criteria has since become much more stringent.
For starters a five-star car must include autonomous emergency braking (AEB) as standard across the range, a technology that is now fitted to all Passats.
Other standard safety equipment includes Volkswagen's 'IQ Drive' safety suite, which bundles together a drive attention alert system, lane-keep assist, front and rear parking sensors, automated parallel parking, surround-view monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control.
ISOFIX anchorage points are also available in the two outbound rear seats, while there are three top tether spots.
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).
Like all new Volkswagen vehicles, the Passat 140TSI Business sedan comes with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty with 12 months of roadside assistance.
Scheduled service intervals are every 12 months/15,000km, whichever occurs first.
The first, third and fifth service costs $389 each, with the two-year/30,000km and four-year/60,000km maintenance blowing out to $602 and $923 respectively.
So, the first five years of servicing will set you back $2692, though buyers can also opt for a three- or five-year car plan at the time of purchase for $1300 or $2300.
Each care plan includes scheduled servicing for that time period, saving up to $389 compared to paying for each individually.