Two years ago, when the Chrysler 300C elicited acclaim bordering on hysteria, the exact cause of the commotion was a minor mystery. Was it the look of a Bentley Mulsanne massaged by Monster Garage? The Hemi V-8 under the hood? The recycled Mercedes-Benz E-class underpinnings? The answer is all of the above. That conclusion became clear on a weeklong honeymoon drive to Tennessee, during which we named Chrysler's savior our 2005 Automobile of the Year. The 300C is Detroit, with a little help from Germany, dusting off fundamental verities for another run. Key factors of the formula were established a century ago: rear wheels for driving, front wheels for steering, room inside for four plus a fifth in a pinch, plenty of power, and a wrapper that commands attention. "Let the courage breathe freely, keep the price attractive, and the world will beat a path to your door," is the 300C's unspoken design credo. The underlying soul of an autobahn runner reads clearly through the steering and in the set this sport sedan takes exiting a bend under power. Never mind the 300C's two-ton curb weight or the mere traces that remain of the sacred hemispherical combustion chambers. The burst of enthusiasm released by tromping on the throttle jumps you back to the 1960s, when muscle cars ruled Woodward and eight bucks filled your tank with Sunoco 260. Confirming proof that Chrysler has struck greatness is the 300C's ever-expanding family of brothers and cousins. The Dodge Magnum is the bad boy's wagon. The 300C SRT8 is an E55 AMG minus a second mortgage. Come Charger, come Challenger, come Donner, and Blitzen. These are the reindeer yanking Chrysler's sleigh into outer orbit.
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