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Driven: Core value remains for Chrysler 300 SRT

8 ball: Chrysler has dropped the 8 form the SRT8 moniker for its latest high-performance 300, but it loses nothing in the way of power.

Chrysler’s 300 SRT has core appeal for performance drivers

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Chrysler logo28 Aug 2015

By STUART MARTIN

CHRYSLER’S 300 SRT performance hero has returned to its Australian line-up, with hopes it will inject some life into the dwindling large performance car sector Down Under.

The American car-maker has dropped the ‘8’ from its title, but rest assured it is still V8-powered and designed to go head-to-head with the performance machinery from HSV (Holden Special Vehicles) and Ford’s XR8, now that FPV (Ford Performance Vehicles) is extinct.

The Australian market is one of a select few (the Middle East being one of the other likely markets) to get the performance V8 version, one no longer sold in its United States home market since it was decided last year that Dodge would be Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ muscle car brand.

The 300 SRT will be sold from the outset in both luxury and lower-spec Core models, offering a fully loaded performance vehicle or performance-first base-model.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Australia senior manager product strategy Alan Swanson said Australian tastes – particularly relating to ride and handling – and feedback had been critical in the car’s development.

“We're pleased to say we were quite influential in the development of this car,” he said. “It existed before but to keep it in production with all the engineering developments and improvements that we knew the market wanted here, we worked closely with the US and they responded enthusiastically.

“The Australian market is quite biased in terms of performance variants sold. In the past ten years around 30 per cent of them have been SRTs. In the last year of the previous 300 model including the Core, it was 50 per cent,” he said.

Chrysler will be hoping the SRT leads a renewed sales charge for the updated 300 launched in July. So far this year just 555 have been sold, a 52.7 per cent drop from the 1174 sold in the same period last year.

The brand overall is down by a similar amount, given the small contribution of the Voyager people-mover. Just 596 Chryslers have found homes so far this year, down from 1227 to the same time in 2014.

Last year more than 564 SRTs were sold – 50 per cent were the late-arriving Core model, hence it’s retention – and more than 3000 SRT vehicles have found homes here since it was first sold in Australia in 2006.

The 300 5.7-litre V8 variant was dropped here during 2013, making the 6.4-litre V8 versions the only V8 option for 300 buyers, but don't look to it as a towing option as it has no official tow-load rating.

Sitting atop the V6-only 300 range, the SRT Core starts from $59,000 plus on-road costs, while the more luxuriously equipped 300 SRT is priced from $69,000, both wearing a $3000 price rise over the outgoing model.

The SRT-engineered 16-valve pushrod OHV 6.4-litre V8 produces 350kW (up 3kW) and 637Nm, (up 6Nm), by way of an active intake manifold with an active-valved exhaust system and cylinder dropout system that works more often to save fuel.

Official fuel consumption figures for the slightly lighter performance sedan sit at 13 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle (the same as the outgoing model) with 302g/km of CO2 emissions.

The addition of the long-overdue eight-speed automatic (replacing the veteran five-speed auto) might well be enough to justify the price increase for some.

Equipped with die-cast paddle-shifters, the TorqueFlite eight-speed auto also has an updated launch control system and long-legged cruising ratios.

Bilstein-developed adaptive damping is standard on the SRT, offering a Normal mode for daily driving, as well as Sport and Track modes, the latter adding performance shifting and a gear holding feature when using the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

While the “bare-bones” Core does not get the three-mode adaptive damping, both cars get the drive mode system which alters the steering, transmission and throttle pedal behaviour, including 37 per cent quicker shifts (400ms down to 250ms), a genuine manual change and an active exhaust system for a better soundtrack during enthusiastic driving.

As was the case in the previous model, Brembo Performance four-piston brakes (red callipers adorn the SRT while the Core has black) – 361mm front and 351mm rear slotted discs – bring the big sedan to a halt, with the Ready Alert Braking system that detects potential emergency stops and preps the brakes for full-force application.

Brake cooling and fade resistance has, according to Chrysler, been improved by brake cooling ducts, designed using wind-tunnel testing, to direct airflow to the slotted brake discs.

Both versions get the Getrag mechanical limited slip rear differential and the Core sits on conventional Bilstein-developed independent sports suspension with monotube dampers.

Both models are equipped with performance-tuned electric power steering system and both the new SRTs brings with it the mainstream models' aluminium axles, lightweight steel suspension and high-strength steel body components.

The features list includes an 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment system (with sat-nav standard on the up-spec model), almost matched in size by a full-colour 7.0-inch instrument display between the speedometer and tachometer, with myriad information displayed on both, including the ability to measure a variety of other performance yardsticks.

The Core buyer’s lower price tag sees audio entertainment supplied by a six-speaker sound system in place of the SRT’s 18-speaker Harman Kardon sound system (with 8.0-inch subwoofer and 900w amplifier) the lower-spec Core is 19kg lighter thanks to the pared-back features list.

The 300 SRT is now equipped with adaptive cruise control that's capable of a complete halt, as well as emergency braking assistance and forward collision alert (with auto braking), blind-spot monitoring and active lane departure warning system and adaptive ability for the bi-Xenon headlights with automatic high beam.

The SRT has not retreated into its shell in terms of styling, with the donor model's updates tweaked for a more aggressive demeanour, as well as having a bigger grille, the aforementioned headlights and Chrysler C-shaped LED daytime running lamps.

Sitting lower and more aggressively thanks to body add-ons and 20-inch alloys, the 300 SRT driver gets an SRT-specific flat-bottomed leather-wrapped steering wheel with paddle-shifters, real carbon-fibre interior trim pieces and sports pedals.

The SRT cabin has SRT-labelled standard heated and ventilated front seats with active headrests, a heated steering wheel, heated and cooled front cupholders, rear heated seats and carbon-fibre dash and console trim as well as leather/suede seat trim.

The Core model’s interior includes cloth sports seats also embroidered with the SRT logo but it loses the seat heating and cooling.

Chrysler 300 SRT Core is further differentiated by 20-inch satin black, machine faced cast aluminium wheels.

Chrysler 300 SRT pricing*
SRT Core $59,000
SRT $69,000
*Excludes on-road costs

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