Car reviews - Chrysler - 300 - SRT8
Muscular Hemi V8, enormous list of standard features, well-presented interior, ghetto-cool styling, plush ride
Room for improvement
Prodigious thirst, below-par cabin space, cumbersome handling, foot-operated parking brake, huge steering wheel
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11 Jan 2013
Price and equipment
ON paper, the SRT8 looks to be a steal. Pricing kicks off at a flat $66,000 plus on-road costs, but the list of standard features rivals that of luxury limos at twice the price. Chrysler pitches it squarely at the HSV Clubsport ($66,990) and FPV GT ($70,790).
The cabin is a real gadget-fest, with standard fare like dual-zone climate control, adaptive cruise control that brakes the car automatically via radar, Nappa leather seats with memory, a sunroof, satellite navigation, a reversing camera, a proximity key and a 19-speaker/900 watt sound system.
Lovely premium touches include heated and cooled seats and a heated steering wheel (like the $200k Jaguar XJ). Even the cup-holders have heating and cooling.
Plush. No other word comes more to mind.
The front seats are huge and cushy, with electric adjustment, memory and good quality soft leather.
Highlights include the stunning blue and white dials that resemble – to our eyes – a Brietling watch (best viewed at night, when the blue illumination kicks in) and a substantial 8.4-inch touch-screen media system.
Despite its old-school appearance (note the 1950s analogue clock in the fascia), gadget geeks will get lost playing with the host of features on offer. Our personal favourites are the 0-100km/h sprint timer located in the trip computer and the heated and cooled cup-holders and steering wheel.
Back-seat occupants will appreciate the ventilated rear pews (a real luxury touch), and the flip-down rear row adds an extra dose of storage space: perfect for an extra set of golf clubs.
However, once the novelty of all this gear wears off, some real shortcomings begin to emerge.
Some of the cabin materials – notably the mock carbon-fibre inserts and door trims – feel cheap, and the satellite navigation display looks out-of-date. Luckily for Chrysler, the SRT is no worse than the equally below-par HSV and FPV in this regard.
We also dislike the oversized and cumbersome steering wheel, which features slippery metallic trim at the base, and the archaic foot-operated parking brake, which gets in the way of your left leg. Thank the big Chrysler’s previous-generation Mercedes E-Class underpinnings for this quirk.
The other serious deficiency inside the cabin is the lack of proper space utilisation. With dimensions of 5089mm (length), 1478mm (height) and 1905mm (width), the SRT is both wider and taller than a Holden Caprice limo, and only about 70mm shorter.
However, front headroom is far tighter (your 195cm tall correspondent’s head hit the roof even with the seat at its lowest setting), and – despite a 40mm longer wheelbase – rear legroom is not within cooee.
Boot space is a decent 462 litres, but it quite narrow given the space taken up by the wheel guards, and there is only a space-saving spare wheel underneath.
Engine and transmission
Phwoar. At a time when car-makers the world over are embracing EVs, hybrids and downsized, small-capacity turbos, it’s a real novelty to sit at the helm of a car with a big, noisy V8.
The 6.4-litre Hemi (now there’s a tag laced with history) engine has an impressive 347kW and 631Nm on tap, but more impressive is its ability to be both a relaxing cruiser and a straight-line bruiser.
The heavy burble might be a little more muted than a rev-head like yours truly would wish for, but it still has spade-fulls of character and charm, acres of low end torque and the ability to haul this circa-2000kg monster from zero to 100km/h around the low five-second mark.
But after some heavy-footed driving, we suddenly remembered exactly why the aforementioned turbos and hybrids are so in vogue.
Despite featuring Commodore-style cylinder de-activation that shuts off four cylinders when cruising, this is one thirsty car, with a claimed average of 13L/100km, and a propensity for sitting towards the 18L/100km when pressed.
The five-speed automatic transmission features a paddle-shifter manual override, but is really suited more to lazy cruising than serious performance driving.
Still, its shifts are smooth and ratios well-placed, and it rarely needs to hunt around thanks to the vast wells of torque on tap.
Chrysler recommends not towing any loads, while its six-cylinder stable-mates can tow between 1724 and 1996kg.
Ride and handling
The SRT is more a straight-line monster than an agile cornering tool. It’s a big, heavy car, and feels every bit its size.
The fully hydraulic steering may lend an extra dose of feel and feedback, but is far heavier at city speeds than the electro-hydraulic systems on other 300 variants. Expect to make more than few two-stage turns when tackling tight multi-level car-parks.
Pick up the pace and throw the big Yank at some tight corners and the car becomes a heavy handful, and to paraphrase one of our other writers, feels none too happy at being hurried along with so little elegance.
Still, it’s easy to raise a quick smile when powering out of corners – or even stepping on the throttle in a straight line, for that matter – with the SRT only too willing to step the tail out, and the lackadaisical stability control only too happy to permit it for a short time before reeling it into line.
Ultimately, the SRT holds its own against the local rear-drive V8 brigade in terms of power and shades them with its well-specified cabin, but both the Ford and Holden run proverbial rings around it in terms of dynamism.
Far better, in our opinion, to slink back into the wide-backed seat, flick on the (excellent and not too hyperactive) adaptive cruise control and let the SRT cruise along melodiously.
Those big 245/45 tyres may sit on huge 20-inch aluminium wheels, but the pliant suspension and dampers provide a forgiving and relaxing ride over even the worst corrugations.
It’s not a sharp tool, but it sure is a comfortable one.
Safety and servicing
The 300 has not been tested by either Euro NCAP or ANCAP, but scored the maximum five stars from the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Standard safety equipment includes dual-front, side-curtain, seat-mounted thorax and driver’s knee airbag, front and rear parking sensors and brakes that automatically skim surface water from the rotors in wet conditions.
Like all 300s, the SRT8 comes with a three-year/100,000 new car warranty and Chrysler Roadside Assist.
Bad points first: we’d struggle to live with those monster fuel bills, the cabin packaging is poor and it’s not as agile as conceptually similar models from FPV and HSV.
But then, the SRT is in many ways exactly as you might suspect. Its cabin is absurdly well-specified, it’s engine and ghetto-chic styling add plenty of drama and (in the front seats, at least) you won’t find a cushier mileage-eater for the money.
That exhaust note ain’t bad, either.
HSV Clubsport:, From $66,990 plus on-roads
FPV GT:, From $70,790 plus on-roads
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