It is a car ministerial in demeanor — attractive and off-putting in its formality, at once urbane and urban.
It is decidedly male, reminding me of all of the strong men in my life — my late father, Daniel Sr., and my now-departed eldest brother, Daniel Jr., proud people whose adult lives were shaped largely by service in the U.S. Army.
They wanted everything just right — elegance without ostentation, circumstance minus pomp. They would have loved the 2013 Chrysler 300C John Varvatos Luxury Edition sedan, a full-size car with optional all-wheel drive that hits all the right notes for people who have been through hell and have now arrived at a sweet point in their lives, but who feel no need to announce their presence.
Not everyone will like the Chrysler 300 or its S, C or John Varvatos variants. Not everyone is supposed to like them.
The car is assembled in Brampton, Ontario, Canada. But it was conceived in Detroit, the permanent residence of its soul. It is stubbornly but beautifully old school — big in the manner of American sedans of old, broad-shouldered and flab-sided, yet strong and attractive in the way of a man who knows he has paid his dues and no longer has to ask anybody for anything, or be concerned much about what they are saying behind his back.
There is a self-assured arrogance about it, an attitude manifested by its optional 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 gasoline engine (363 horsepower, 394 pound-feet of torque). There is little pretense here about concern for fuel economy. The V-8 swallows 5.6 gallons of gasoline — regular grade okay, premium “for best performance”— every 100 miles of city-highway travel. That works out to a combined city-highway mileage of 18 miles per gallon, or about 15 mpg in the city or 23 miles per gallon on the highway, assuming you are into parsing fuel-efficiency numbers.
And if you are, you don’t want the 300C John Varvatos Luxury model anyway. You want something such as the Chrysler 300 with standard rear-wheel drive and a 3.6-liter V-6 gasoline engine (292 horsepower, 260 pound-feet of torque). The car’s boldly boxy, bare-knuckled exterior sculpture, which embodies much of its attitude, remains. But the V-6 will get you where you want to go with enough power and fewer gasoline-pump stops (estimated mileage is 19 mpg city and 30 highway with rear-wheel drive, 18 city and 27 highway with all-wheel drive.)
It is difficult to sit inside of the 300C John Varvatos Luxury model without picking up hints of Chrysler’s once-close association with Germany’s Daimler-Benz (1998-2007). Elements of the Mercedes-Benz E- Class sedan — the weight of it all, a bit more than 5,500 pounds in the case of the 300C John Varvatos Luxury — remind you of the car’s partly German heritage. Attention to detail provides other reminders — perfectly matched dual-tone luxury leather trim; panoramic glass roof; retractable sun shade for the rear window.
Although weighted with a formal and somewhat stiff bearing, the 300C John Varvatos luxury is not certifiably “old fogy.” It is far from it, in fact, largely thanks to interior touches by menswear designer John Varvatos, the inclusion of a premium sound system by the Beats Audio Group, an onboard Garmin navigation system, and optional safety technologies such as blind-spot monitoring and rear park assist.
Yet, I get behind the steering wheel of the 300C John Varvatos Luxury and am immediately transported to Woodward Avenue in Detroit, Bourbon Street in New Orleans, or a Sunday visit to church on the South Side of Chicago — where the good people, many of whom came north in the Great Migration of blacks from the South, are reflecting in the polished glory of their Chrysler, Buick, Chevrolet and Ford automobiles.
The potential difficulty for the Chrysler 300 line is that you had to be there to understand the history and emotion invested in those automobiles. Not many of today’s car buyers were, which I think foreshadows a relatively short run for the 300C John Varvatos Luxury Edition and its Chrysler 300 brethren. I hope I’m wrong. It is a beautiful car.