Rental-Car Luxury Upgrade Review: The Pimptastic 2005 Chrysler 300

"What I gotta do to get that brand new 300C up outta you?, " hip-hop impresario Snoop Dogg wrote to Dieter Zetsche, CEO of Chrysler Group, this past May. Back then, the company's new 300 sedan was as rare a sight as a West Coast rapper rolling up to a nightclub on, say, a Puch moped.

Snoop, a piece of advice: Holla Alamo.

By way of something we in the industry like to call a "rental upgrade," I recently spent four days cruising South Florida, not in a generic grocery getter, but in Chrysler 's brand new pimpmobile, the 300C. It was the Touring Edition, not Snoop 's choice — the top-line model with a Hemi V8 and chrome wheels as large and glittery as the P-Funk mothership. Would that we were quite so fly.

Still, the baser models share the same blocky comportment, which articulates a style language at once retrograde and modern, and not always appreciated by onlookers. One guy in his 50s said the sedan was the ugliest bugger he' d ever seen, while another in his early 30s was impressed with the 300C's leonine nose cone, but stopped short of an endorsement due to a personal problem with Chrysler that remained unnamed. Haters.

The rental was painted in Cool Vanilla (re-dubbed retirement-village beige by one snarky traveling companion), which intensified the blazing Florida sun to near-nuclear radiance, and I was glad to have accidentally brought dark-tint snowboarding sunglasses instead of my regular polarized ones. At twilight, however, the finish reflected a dazzling afterglow befitting a South Florida sunset.

The 300C 's window-to-door ratio, approximating 0.5 to 1, is the most evident departure, design wise, from its peers' cigarlike profiles. At the same time the asymmetry adds a sinister appeal, it makes the common practice of hanging a limb out the driver s-side window nearly impossible (excepting drivers with freakishly lengthened torsos and tiny necks). As I soon found out while trying to slide across five lanes of West Palm Beach traffic, the fat pillars and short window glass also create black-hole-sized blind spots that swallow plumber s' vans and Mazda Miatas whole.

The 300 's 3.5-liter, 250hp V6, a smallish but swarthy motor offered with the Touring package, provided ample motivation to propel the car 's bulk, at a curb weight of nearly 4,000 lbs, without breaking a sweat. Of course, with the air conditioning set on stun, which kept us Northerners from vaporizing in the August heat, the beast felt more like it was running on used French-fry grease instead of gasoline.

In defiance of an accelerator pedal that suggested wet laundry, the 300 felt deceptively nimble on the road. It had no problem arranging and rearranging its mass along serpentine coastal roads, and did so with little rock and roll. In town, it handled main-drag stop-and-go bouts like a champ in his corner, owing to a smooth-shifting four-speed automatic (whither the standard fifth cog, Chrysler?) with a natural bias toward comfort, a wholly expected condition.

Interior space was generous, and the 300 rankled no one — not even the largest among us — as it shuttled wedding guests, parents, infants, and various gifts and accessories from planned community to gated community to country club and back (plus several solo trips to the "store" to test out it s acceleration in peace). With the AC off, the V6 pulled off the line smoothly, if not with neck-snapping vigor. Merging with highway traffic, it's got just enough juice to make overzealous BMW 330i drivers at least offer to buy lunch, if not actually buy it.

Back at the rental lot in proximity to its cohorts, the 300 stood out proudly, with equal parts 1955, 1975 and 2004 in its DNA. In that alternate time zone, the 300C is most definitely the king of the road. Nonetheless, dressed in such a pedestrian color, its new-radical bodywork is wasted — like Antonio Banderas in a Sears sportcoat. Perhaps a nice metallic green or purple would bring out the 300's inner pimpmobile. Maybe some curb feelers, spinner hubs, fur interior, landau roof, 24K gold trimwork, and a jar of musk oil on the dash would better fulfill its destiny. I can t wait to see what Snoop does with his.