Fashion in the Front Seat: 2014 Chrysler 300C John Varvatos Luxury Edition Doesn’t Disappoint

Between the highway and the runway, this Detroit designer has L.A. style pegged

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In 1972, American Motors Corporation enlisted a Gucci fashion designer to bring his palette and swatches to Detroit. If you’re lucky, you’ve forgotten the AMC Hornet Sportabout Gucci Edition. The seats were upholstered in green, white and—shudder!—orange.

The practice of automaker and fashion house in collaboration has been widely copied. Luckily, no matter what pairing, the cars that the unions produced found an audience in specific cities. For instance, the 1993 Mercury Villager Nautica Special Edition can still dazzle ’em in Des Moines. 

Photograph courtesy facebook.com/johnvarvatos

John Varvatos—known for his stint on NBC’s Fashion Star and for recruiting KISS to model his clothes—partnered with Chrysler to design a car, and we had the opportunity to test drive it. Mindful of the mundane products of previous collaborations, we approached the Chrysler 300C John Varvatos Luxury Edition with due circumspection. Intended for a limited run in 2013, the model was brought back for 2014 and is now offered with optional all-wheel drive.

Sizing it up for ourselves, looking at it in our driveway, driving it around town for a week, we decided Varvatos, a Detroit native, must have studied up on the custom look that originated in California.

Chrysler’s usual bling is dialed way back. Exterior trim of a matte-finish titanium makes the sedan much more agreeable, and the black-chrome of the unique mesh grille could easily be used on a street rod. Huge 20-inch wheels (19-inch with the all-wheel drive) have leggy spokes. Pearls seem to glisten within the black paint. Inside, rich mocha leather upholstery adds its own splendidness.

But one piece of interior trim isn’t so Cali-friendly. After the car sits through a sun-drenched afternoon, the slender metallic ring that’s integrated into the circumference of the leather-wrapped steering wheel becomes a torture test for your thumbs.

Perhaps Varvatos’ Michigan heritage is to blame. During long stretches of winter, the sun is rarely seen there, so it’s easily forgotten. Otherwise, with its use of L.A. style, the 300C Varvatos wipes out memories of Detroit’s cold and, if you’re lucky, orange interiors. 

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