Designed by Ralph Gilles, the 300C was first shown at the 2003 New York auto show to almost universal acclaim. Few thought that Chrysler would go much further with this apparently radical shape but the company was deadly series about productionising the show car and in just over a year, it was on dealer floors.
Three versions were initially offered. The first was a rather underwhelming 3.5-litre V6 petrol model, while of far more interest was a lusty 5.7-litre 'Hemi' model, so named because of its hemispherical combustion chambers. The most relevant engine, however, was a 3.0-litre CRD common rail diesel that Chrysler had purloined from Mercedes. All too often, the relationship between Chrysler and Mercedes had been a little one sided, a good example being the way that the Germans foisted their old SLK engine and chassis onto Chrysler to market as the Crossfire. In this case, it was different. While there were some aspects of the old Mercedes E Class to the 300C's underpinnings, it was impossible to grouse about the diesel engine, which was at the time the pride of Mercedes' C and E Class models.
In Spring 2006, further developments were made to the 300C line up. In came the 425bhp 6.1-litre SRT-8 muscle car and at much the same time, a Touring estate version was added which, amazingly, looked almost as good as the stub-tailed saloon. In February 2008, the 3.5-litre petrol V6 was dropped and at the same time, an SRT-Design diesel variant added to the range which brought a little of the flagship SRT-8 model's 'street racer' appeal to CRD customers. There were also a number of tweaks inside to give the cabin a more up-market feel, plus revised rear light clusters.