Feature: HEMI versus Hybrid Challenge   Chrysler 300C vs Lexus GS 450h car comparisons
Chrysler 300C and Lexus GS 450 h. Click image to enlarge

Articles and photos by Paul Williams

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Hemi versus Hybrid

The concept

Our “HEMI versus Hybrid” event emerged from a discussion over dinner about V8 engines and battery power (yes, cars are all we talk about…). People still swoon over classic muscle cars, the argument went, but what’s to love about a hybrid?

Then again, a modern V8 is a pretty sophisticated piece of engineering, and hybrids can be quick. It’s about time they went head-to-head, we thought. It’s about time somebody dropped the chequered flag.

Feature: HEMI versus Hybrid Challenge   Chrysler 300C vs Lexus GS 450h car comparisons
Chrysler 300C and Lexus GS 450 h. Click image to enlarge

But when we initially presented our “HEMI versus Hybrid” idea to colleagues and industry executives, most thought it was a bit goofy.

“What’s the point,” they reasonably asked, “of pitting a muscular Chrysler 300C against a performance milquetoast like a Prius?” Surely the Chrysler would eat the Prius for lunch on the dragstrip, and the Prius would kill the Chrysler in fuel economy. End of story.

Well, yes, but who said anything about a Prius? As far as performance is concerned, if the subject hybrid was a Lexus GS 450h — the “V6 hybrid with V8 power” — things would surely even up. And if the HEMI was fitted with Chrysler’s Multi-Displacement System (MDS) cylinder deactivation technology, as all 300Cs are, then perhaps it could be taught to politely sip its fuel when asked nicely.

Maybe not so goofy, after all.

Anyway, we’re always interested in a good showdown, especially of the supposed “brawn versus brains” variety. Our TV colleagues at Motoring 2008 thought so, too. They agreed that HEMIs and Hybrids blasting down a converted airport runway would at least be intriguing, and would certainly be cool. So Motoring’s Brad Diamond and cameraman extraordinaire Dan Bailey spent the day with us filming the event from every angle. They got some terrific shots, which you can see when the show airs on June 14, and on Autos subsequently.

Feature: HEMI versus Hybrid Challenge   Chrysler 300C vs Lexus GS 450h car comparisons
Lexus GS 450 h. Click image to enlarge
The cars

You might assume that the 2008 Chrysler 300C and the 2008 Lexus GS 450h have nothing in common (granted, they’re not likely to be cross-shopped) but there are similarities. For instance, which is the heavier car? It’s the Lexus, actually, by 40 kilograms. But at 1,875kg and 1,835 kg respectively, they’re both heavyweights.

Which car has the edge in horsepower? We know, you’d think the Chrysler and you’d be right, but it’s the slimmest of edges (340 hp for the Chrysler, compared with 339 net hp for the Lexus). So, pretty even there, as well.

These cars don’t lack torque, either. The Chrysler 300C makes a whopping 390 foot-pounds at 4,000 rpm, but the Lexus, while producing 267 lb.ft. of torque from its gasoline engine, is supplemented by another 203 from its electric motor. That torque (from the electric motor) is available from 0-3,840 rpm, and while no overall torque figure is provided by Lexus for the GS 450h (it’s not a simple addition of torque numbers from the engine and electric motor), suffice it to say that there’s plenty.

Feature: HEMI versus Hybrid Challenge   Chrysler 300C vs Lexus GS 450h car comparisons
Chrysler 300C. Click image to enlarge

Both cars are rear-drive sedans, but it’s at this point that they diverge — the Chrysler would be classed as a full-size vehicle, and the Lexus a mid-size. And there’s no doubt that the Chrysler looks the more massive of the two.

Transmissions are a five-speed automatic for the Chrysler with a “manual” mode, and a continuously variable transmission (CVT) for the Lexus (it has a virtual six-speed “manual” mode, if you want to shift).

Aerodynamically, you’d expect a considerable difference, and you’d be right. The Chrysler is very much about its tall, broad, substantial presence, while the Lexus goes for sleek and slippery. Yes, the coefficient of drag (Cd) of the 300C is higher than that of the Lexus, but apparently Chrysler worked hard to bring its down to the 0.33 – 0.35 range (although the 20-inch wheels on our test car probably raise those numbers). The Lexus rating of 0.27 Cd is consistent with its wind-cheating profile.

But the big difference, apart from motive power and dimensions, is that the Lexus is squarely in the luxury segment, while the Chrysler, even though it has an abundance of luxurious appointments, kind of straddles the family/luxury class.

This is reflected in the prices. Our test vehicles were an “Icicle Blue Pearl” Lexus GS 450h with a base price of $71,100, compared with the $51,190 “Inferno Red” Chrysler 300C ($45,195 base). The Lexus arrives fully optioned “out of the box,” but the Chrysler added some goodies to its base configuration, like the SRT8 Design Package ($1,795, which includes 20-inch alloy wheels, performance suspension, performance seats, side curtain airbags, performance exhaust, adaptive speed control, sunroof, and the MyGIG Infotainment system with Navigation.

Here’s the “tale of the tape,” for those who like to compare the numbers:

Lexus GS 450h Chrysler 300C
Base Price $71,100 $45,195
Price as tested (incl. freight) $72,875 $51,190
Motive Power 3.5-litre V6 – all aluminum, DOHC – with Lexus Hybrid Drive 5.7-litre V8 – iron block, aluminum heads, pushrod
Transmission CVT Five-speed automatic
Horsepower 339 (net) 340
Torque 267 (V6 only) 390
Weight 1,875 kg 1,835 kg
Length 4,825 mm 4,999 mm
Width 1,820 mm 1,882 mm
Height 1,425 mm 1,483 mm
Wheelbase 2,850 mm 3,048 mm
Wheels 18-inch alloy 20-inch alloy
Tires 245/40-18 Michelin performance 245/45-20 Goodyear performance
Coefficient of drag 0.27 0.33-0.35
Fuel Premium required Mid-grade recommended; regular acceptable
Fuel Economy (Energuide) 8.7 L/100km (city); 7.8 L/100km (highway) 13.6 L/100km (city); 8.6 L/100km (highway)
Emissions Tier 2, Bin 3 Tier 2, Bin 4

The event

The plan was to compare fuel consumption and vehicle performance. To this end we computed fuel consumption on our drive to and from the Niagara Drive Centre (a combined distance of approximately 1,000 kilometres), where we staged acceleration runs from 0-100 km/h, braking runs from 100-0 km/h, a slalom and a one-eighth mile drag race.

Feature: HEMI versus Hybrid Challenge   Chrysler 300C vs Lexus GS 450h car comparisons
Chrysler 300C and Lexus GS 450 h. Click image to enlarge

For the performance testing, Franczak Enterprises (operators of the Niagara Drive Centre) supplied expertise, cones, support personnel and a former Indy Lights and Formula Atlantic professional race driver (now performance driving instructor), Rob MacDonald. The facilities were perfect for our needs, and the weather, forecasts to the contrary, was cooperative.

Everything went as planned, we had a great time, and you may be surprised at how the cars performed.

No replacement for displacement? Check back next Sunday for the shocking outcome, extra pictures and some cool video of the “HEMI versus Hybrid.”




About Paul Williams

Paul Williams is an Ottawa-based freelance automotive writer and senior writer for Autos. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).