ROAD TEST: CHRYSLER 300C

OK, I confess. I hated the Chrysler 300C when I first saw it at auto shows. Its gaping grille and slab sides reminded me of my dad's 1971 Plymouth Gran Fury. On the street, though, it seems more evocative of a Bentley. And after a week behind the wheel, I finally understand why 50 Cent and Snoop Dogg have made this the new hip-hop hot rod. With chrome everywhere (door handles, side mirrors, wheels), this is a bling-mobile. But there's plenty of dash to go with the dazzle. The 340-horsepower Hemi engine has sports-car speed, and it handles with the agility of a much smaller car. Its old-school rear-wheel-drive gives a satisfying lurch. The big cabin is comfortable, if a little claustrophobic because those steel-tank doors don't leave much room for windows. The optional tortoiseshell steering wheel and shifter add a nice retro-geek touch. But what's up with those cheap plastic volume buttons on the steering wheel? Still, the 300C is the hottest Detroit iron I've driven since, well, the '70s.

Tip: On a budget? Go with a slightly tamer V-6 300 starting at $23,595.