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Car reviews - Chrysler - 300C - SRT-8 sedan

Launch Story

Chrysler logo21 Apr 2006

By MARTON PETTENDY

HSV... FPV... SRT...

Buyers of big, brutish V8 performance sedans now have a new acronym (Street Racing Technology) to acclimatise to. And the 300C SRT-8, on sale now from $71,990, is quite the bahn stormer.

Chrysler has shoehorned a larger V8 engine into its Trans-Atlantic luxury liner, for a 25 per cent increase in power over the previous V8 range-topper.

It hopes to lure around 300 potential purchasers of the $70K HSV Senator and FPV GT-P... and even the odd Audi S4 that costs almost twice the price.

At the heart of the 300C is a 6.1-litre HEMI (named for the engine’s hemispherical combustion chamber design) V8, brandishing 317kW of power at 6000rpm and 569Nm of torque at 4600rpm.

This compares to the 5.7-litre HEMI V8’s 250kW at 5000rpm and 525Nm at 4000rpm.

Necessitating 98-octane premium unleaded fuel, and running an increased compression ratio compared to the 5.7 V8 (10.3:1 versus 9.6:1), the 6.1’s output jump is a result of a 3.5mm wider cylinder bore, redesigned cylinder head, intake and exhaust systems and the implementation of ‘performance orientated’ camshaft profiles, among other innovations.

For greater durability Chrysler’s engineers reinforced the engine block, as well as implemented a forged steel crankshaft, high-strength powdered-metal connecting rods, floating-pin pistons and a more efficient oil pan to cope with higher-engine speeds.

The result is an engine that is almost unrecognisable compared to its smaller V8 sibling.

It also literally stands out thanks to an orange-painted cylinder block and black valve covers – just like the famous HEMI ‘sixes’ produced in Australia for the hotter VH Charger models of the early 1970s.

However, the SRT-8’s 6.1 lacks the 5.7’s MDS Multi-Displacement System technology that shuts off four cylinders during cruising speeds for improved fuel economy.

The Mercedes-supplied five-speed automatic gearbox - complete with its ‘AutoStick’ sequential shift function - carries over from the lesser 300Cs.

Also coming in for a reboot is the suspension, featuring retuned dampers, stiffer spring rates, revised suspension bushes and fatter anti-roll bars, along with a heavy duty four-flange prop shaft and upgraded differential and axles.

A lower ride height comes courtesy of new suspension knuckles and 20-inch forged alloy wheels wearing Goodyear F1 tyres.

Big Brembo brakes, now boasting four-piston callipers and larger-diameter discs all-round, as well as a recalibrated stability control system, help keep the SRT-8's formidable performance in check.

There wasn't too much more that Chrysler could do to glam the 300C up, so the SRT wears its more-muscular mantle with surprising subtlety.

They include a discreet rear spoiler that’s said to increase downforce by 39 per cent without drag, redesigned front and rear air diffusers, and body-coloured trim.

New sports seats finished in suede trim front and rear, leather-swathed steering wheel, gear shifter and door pulls, and racier trim peppering the otherwise fairly stock dashboard complete the SRT makeover.

Like all 300Cs, the sportiest edition includes front and side curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes, High Intensity Discharge lighting, parking radar and premium CD audio, with a $2430 sunroof being the only factory option.

But buyers brooding for more automotive jewellery can settle on a new range of dealer-fitted accessories.

Dubbed ‘Startech’, and available throughout the burgeoning 300C range, they include a chromed cross-hatch grille design that does a great Bentley impression, as well as side skirts with illuminated entrance lights (that sadly don’t stay lit once the car is on the move, LA-style), a series of spoilers, and louder exhausts.

To recap the 300C story so far, the regular car - based on the rear-drive Mercedes-Benz W210 platform (you may know it better as the 1995-2002 E-class), is Chrysler’s brash bash at the Holden and Ford luxury contenders.

In fact, since the Chrysler’s successful launch here late last year, it has given the Statesman cause for big concern, as well as consistently outsold the once-invincible Fairlane.

And up until last week’s SRT-8 launch, the Austrian-assembled American was offered in either a $54K V6 or a $60K 5.7-litre HEMI V8.

In the third quarter of this year DaimlerChrysler will release two new versions of the 300C - the Touring station wagon (in all three guises if we’re lucky – although the SRT-8 load lugger hasn’t been confirmed as yet for Australia) as well as a turbo-diesel.

The latter is the 3.0-litre CRDi unit pinched from partner Mercedes-Benz and featuring in the Jeep Grand Cherokee - among other Chrysler products.

However, it is unlikely that the long-wheelbase 300C, unveiled at the New York motor show just before Easter, will make it to Australia if it gets the production green light.

These, along with the SRT-8 released this week, should boost the 300C's already healthy sales to around 2000 units this year. In 2007 the company hopes to hit the 3000-unit mark.

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