Auto companies have long extolled the virtue of attainable luxury in their upscale offerings, and Chrysler is no different in pitching its full-size 300C at a price a lot lower than similarly equipped rear-drive European models. But now, it's added another element, attitude, in the 2014 Chrysler 300C John Varvatos Luxury Edition. Working with the noted designer, Chrysler has created a distinctive package that is both understated and in your face. And it also demonstrates that you don't necessarily have to have a Hemi to stand out.

From a distance, the John Varvatos model has a subtle black finish. The chrome mesh grille with a titanium finished surround, complemented by 20-inch alloy wheels, immediately distinguishes this model from standard 300C. Get up closed to the Phantom Black tri-coat paint and you'll see plenty of metallic flakes that add to the bling factor. Inside, the cabin slips back into understated elegance mode, with rich, open pore wood accents and mocha leather seats featuring perforated inserts.

This Thing's Got a Pentastar

While you'd expect a car this mean looking and sounding (thanks to a 552-watt Beats audio system) to have the 363-horsepower 5.7-liter Hemi under the hood, our rear-drive test car was powered by the 292-horsepower 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 mated to a smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic. The nearly 300 horses proved to be more than sufficient to provide quick acceleration while delivering better fuel economy (19 city, 31 highway) than the V8. Plus, a Sport mode provided even quicker shifts at higher rpm which certainly added to the fun factor. Of course, if you have to have a V8, it is available, along with the option of all-wheel drive on both the engines.

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No matter the engine choice, the 300C has a well-sorted chassis, direct steering and a solid body. The driving experience is comfortable, but not floaty as you'd expect from a car of this size and weight. The suspension is taut, the body motions well-controlled and the cabin damped from road and wind noise. The controls and large touch screen are easy to see and use, although the shift lever, with its switch-like gear selection, doesn't provide the kind of positive feedback that you'd get from a mechanical lever. Sometimes I had look down to check whether I selected reverse or not when shifting out of park. 

The Price of Attitude

The base price of the package (including $995 destination) is $42,190, plus $500 for the paint and $995 for the sound system. Our test car also came with the Safety Tec package which adds blind spot and cross path detection, parking sensors, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning and rain sensing wipers for $1,995 and a $1,595 dual pane sunroof. Given the special paint, well-appointed interior, killer audio and well-sorted drivetrain and suspension, the as-tested price of $48,170 for the 2014 Chrysler 300C John Varvatos edition provides plenty of value considering the near bespoke nature of the package. Attitude is standard.

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