Car reviews - Chrysler - 300 - SRT8 Core
Stellar straight-line performance, under-bonnet bangs for bucks, still get all the fancy electronic gauges, doesn’t feel $10,000 poorer
Room for improvement
Front seats lack shoulder support, steering lacks performance edge, most of its talent is in a straight line
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9 Aug 2013
By BARRY PARK
Price and equipment
To strip cost out of the auto-only Core, you’re going to have to make a few sacrifices, most of which will be easy to live without.
At the luxury end off the losses, you’re missing out on heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, illuminated cup holders, and cloth trim instead of soft Nappa on the sports seats.
The reversing camera makes its way onto the options list as do the sunroof and satellite navigation, although front and rear parking sensors remain – a good thing given the 300’s slightly slammed glasshouse. Big 20-inch wheels still fill the plumped guards, but are of a different design to the range-topper.
You also lose adaptive cruise control and a blind spot warning system, as well as an alarm that sounds if you get too close to the car in front.
On the upside, Chrysler has not tinkered with the big 6.4-litre donk under the bonnet, nor has it stripped functionality from the comprehensive in-car electronics that show up all sorts of gauges, statistics and G-forces – including the SRT button that turns everything up to 11. There’s also a Core badge on the bootlid.
Compared with a 6.2-litre HSV ClubSport, the SRT8 is cheaper by several thousand dollars, more powerful, and better equipped in terms of looking after a performance car anorak’s hunger for real-time performance data than the Holden-based stripper. An FPV GS is slightly more money, and its 5.0-litre V8 engine is supercharged, but once again it can’t compete with the Chrysler on equipment or poke.
Score one up for the Yanks, then.
Aside from a little chintziness to the chrome highlights and the analogue clock that features same-length hands, the SRT8 Core’s interior is enough to make it look, and feel, a premium product.
The seats adjust electrically, and aside from the fact that they lack adequate shoulder support to stop you flopping around in the corners, are deep and comfortable. Taller drivers, though, will graze against the low roofline.
The driver grasps a thick-rimmed, leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel with a squared-off bottom finished in faux brushed aluminium trim that also features a pair of half paddle shifters. They’re only half shifters, because the SRT8 Core carries over the behind-the-wheel audio controls on the lower part of the cross arms, directly under the shifters. Stabbing for one of the shifters mid-corner can get a little hilarious as a result.
The best bit, though, is an almost nine-inch colour screen that doubles up as the controller for most of the media and climate control functions. It has a separate function that divines nuggets of performance or triage statistics – think cornering G-forces, transmission oil temperatures, 0-100km/h sprints, 0-400m times and the like – and regurgitates them in front of wrapped front- or rear-seat passengers.
The wide, low stance of the 300 makes it a comfortable cruiser for five occupants, although the low, wide boot will take a bit of planning to swallow all their luggage.
Engine and transmission
Up front on the SRT8 Core is the same 347kW 6.4-litre V8 producing a stump-pulling 631Nm of torque from fairly high up in the rev range. Both the supercharged Boss and the HSV iron look limp-wristed by comparison.
The low rumble from the rear is made a little louder by pushing the SRT button on the touchscreen, sharpening up the throttle response and remapping the five-speed gearbox to hang onto lower gears rather than snatch high in the name of fuel efficiency. The exhaust noise is still muted, though, and there is no sign of life from under the bonnet in the way of induction noise.
Unlike its rivals, too, the SRT8 Core features cylinder deactivation that shuts down half the pots when under light engine loads. You’re hard-pressed to see it work, largely because the tractable engine is always there waiting to be tapped at every heavy-footed opportunity, and because chasing an official 13.0L/100km average is never going to be easy once enjoyment is factored in.
Expect numbers anywhere between 18L/100km up to 25L/100km as a result.
The SRT8 Core’s launch control system is different to others I’ve used, and set up by stopping the 300, pointing the steering wheel straight ahead, and punching the electronic stability control button twice. You don’t put a foot on the brake pedal, stomp on the accelerator and then release the brake – unless you want a big cloud of tyre smoke in your wake. Instead, lift the foot off the brake and put it straight on the accelerator.
In that respect, it is more of a scrabbling rear-end dance with a fancy traction control system than a blistering 0-100km/h launch. It feels more lethargic than it probably is.
Ride and handling
Like the more upmarket SRT8, the 2.1-tonne Core’s ride is firm without being harsh. It is more set up as a high-speed cruiser than a corner-carving performance car. It can give the sense that it is rather nose-heavy thanks to the big block up front, making it a nervous thing to tip into a corner with aggression, not helped by city-light steering that lacks feel, and therefore confidence.
When cold, the driveline will thunk and clunk under a light throttle until things warm up – or you drive it a bit more aggressively.
The brakes are still the four-pot calipers front and rear, wrapped around big 360mm vented discs up front, and slightly thinner 350mm discs down the rear. We didn’t push the Core too hard on public roads, but the brakes did feel as though they were up to the task, although lacking a little feel.
Safety and servicing
Standard safety equipment includes dual-front, side-curtain, seat-mounted thorax and driver’s knee airbag, a stability control system with a more playful mode, front and rear parking sensors and brakes that automatically skim surface water from the rotors in wet conditions.
Chrysler products carry a three-year, 100,000km warranty, and includes roadside assistance should something go wrong.
The Core is a welcome addition to the firebrand SRT line-up, and buyers will be laughing all the way from the dealership knowing they’ve robbed the taxman of a little bit of revenue.
The big thing, though, is that the Core doesn’t lose much along its higher-priced sibling, aside from that $10,000 that will buy a heck of a heck of a lot of fuel. Side by side, too, you get more car than the stingy-by-comparison entry-level offerings from both HSV and its natural enemy, FPV.
In a straight line, the SRT8 Core a likeable car. At the sight of the first corner, though, you’ll probably be wondering why you didn’t consider the sharper-driving rivals.
HSV ClubSport auto (From $62,990 before on-roads).
We’re yet to live with the entry-level HSV for a week, but early indications are the new Gen-F sedan is a big advance on the model it replaces. It comes with cloth sports seats and bespoke instrument cluster, six-speed auto and includes a parking function that self-steers into a space. Tame body kit and lack of telemetry make it feel povo.
FPV GS (From $57,870 before on-roads).
Same price for six-speed auto as six-speed manual. Sticks with old-school hydraulic rather than electric steering, and boasts both poise and performance in spades. Silly key/start button combo, and a sense of cheapness in the cabin detract from one of the best throwbacks to the Aussie muscle car scene.
MAKE/MODEL: Chrysler 300 SRT8 Core
ENGINE: 6.4litre V8
LAYOUT: Front engined, rear drive
TRANSMISSION: Five-speed automatic
TOP SPEED: N/A
EMISSIONS: 303g/km CO2
SUSPENSION: Double wishbone (f)/Multilink (r)
STEERING: Electrically assisted rack and pinion
BRAKES: Ventilated discs (f)/Ventilated discs (r)
PRICE: From $56,000 before on-roads
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