Usually, how a car drives, not how it looks, is what wins me over. Completely scratch that with the new Chrysler 300 SRT8. Even though the sedan’s insane amount of Hemi power is intoxicating, its stunning looks are even more seductive. While I prefer white paint on this model, our black 300 still had me swooning. The front grille is like a black lipstick smirk on an attractive fascia. The car has a great stance, and rides on a set of black-mirror-chrome wheels that immediately grab your attention. Everything on the dark exterior is a turn-on.
I wanted to spend as much time as I could gawking at this car, not driving it. 470 hp and I didn’t want to drive? That’s one good-looking automobile.
Chris Nelson, Road Test Editor
Comical as this might sound, we used the Chrysler 300 SRT8 as an instructional vehicle at Waterford Hills road course during an Automobile Magazine staff driver-training day. Handling, body control, acceleration, and braking are impressive for a 4365-pound car that probably weighed about 5000 pounds once we had a driver and three passengers aboard. Shifting performance from the five-speed automatic, however, leaves something to be desired, and only the more experienced drivers were able to drive the SRT8 smoothly around the track, because the aged gearbox delivers the huge torque unpredictably.
That’s just a quibble, though, because it’s hard to argue with 470 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque in a package this appealing. Still, I’d rather have the SRT version of the 300’s corporate cousin, the Dodge Charger. For the 2012 model year, the Chrysler 300‘s six-cylinder gets an eight-speed automatic, but unfortunately not the V-8s.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
I have now driven all three versions of the new Chrysler 300, and as you might expect, the fire-breathing, 6.4-liter Hemi-powered SRT8 is my favorite. It’s so preposterously fast that I actually laughed out loud the first time I mashed the throttle. Thankfully the brakes are up to scrubbing speed and the fat tires provide enough grip to keep the Chrysler from slithering into ditches. The SRT8 also looks thoroughly menacing thanks to its aggressive body kit and gloss-black wheels. Tint the windows and this sedan would command respect everywhere you drove.
It’s clear that the engineers at SRT love performance cars: witness the cool engine gauges and g-force meters accessible in the infotainment system’s “SRT” menu; the squared-off, thin-rimmed steering wheel; and the metal pedals that wouldn’t look out of place in a Mercedes-Benz AMG car. I get the feeling that the folks who built the 300 SRT8 really love driving fast and having fun in cars. As a result, it’s huge fun to drive.
I think the big story here is the fact that the 300 SRT8 starts at less than $50K. This car offers a serious amount of performance, style, and luxury for the money. I want one.
Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor
I’ve always loved the Chrysler 300 SRT8, but I also found it a bit silly. The classic muscle car formula – great engine and a dime-store interior — simply doesn’t work when you’re trying to be taken seriously as a luxury brand. With the new generation, there’s a big leap forward. Soft-touch plastics abound, and the leather, lo and behold, feels like leather. Chrysler has quietly done a great job integrating touch screens into its vehicles and succeeds again here, with a clear, easy-to-use system that doesn’t try to do too much. The front seats are a bit too big and thickly bolstered for my taste — somehow Porsche 911s don’t seem to need so much padding — but they certainly held me in place as we blasted around Waterford Hills. There are still a few hard shiny bits on the center console, and the whole design (particularly in the door panels) strikes me as a bit unimaginative — we’re not talking about an Audi A6. However, you can now pick up your company’s vice president in this car without shame. Just don’t smoke the tires.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
Like its SUV cousin, the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8, the Chrysler 300 SRT8 has an impressive level of performance, style, and, of course, speed, for an extremely reasonable price. I agree with Mr. DeMatio that the transmission is a weak spot, but it seems to play better with the 6.4-liter Hemi here than it does in the new Charger SRT8. Hopefully for 2013, the folks at SRT will be able to produce a gearbox that can withstand the Hemi’s output and perform shifts quicker and more smoothly than the current five-speed.
Others may not agree, but I think this is the best-looking new SRT vehicle to come out of Chrysler Corp. The Cherokee is also hugely attractive, but that car’s hood-mounted air intakes and prominent, low-slung front and rear fascias give it away as the Jeep with the mostest. By contrast, the 300 SRT8 could almost pass as a regular 300, particularly this black tester with the optional black chrome package. This aptly named package covers the most prominent bright bits — side mirrors, door handles, bumper caps, front and rear — in chrome’s evil twin, black chrome. Massive, black twenty-inch wheels and a blacked-out grille complete the look and turn this car into a stealth-mobile, possibly helping it to fly under the radar of law enforcement. And, let me say, the importance of this cannot be overstated. This car is so capable and stupidly fast that if it was mine, the local police and I would be very well acquainted, and not in a good way.
Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor, Digital Platforms
Jen, all I’m saying is that the local police and I are now well acquainted. And not in a good way.
Nonetheless, I can’t help but love the way this car rockets from 45 mph to 72 mph (in a 55-mph zone) to pass two cars at once. I’m not sure what my favorite thing about the 300 SRT8 is, though…the smoked-chrome-finished twenty-inch wheels, the raucous scream of the engine, the hard-hitting action of the transmission during wide-open-throttle shifts in sport mode, or how all these things are wrapped in a luxurious, stylish, practical sedan body with brash American styling. This particular test model has all the luxury goodies (ventilated seats, heated steering wheel and seats, double-pane sunroof) as well as Nissan GT-R-style techno gadgets to monitor the performance and status of everything from intake air temperature to cornering g’s to acceleration times to transmission temperature.
On the racetrack at Waterford, the throttle response was pretty jumpy, so a very careful touch on the pedals was critical for the quickest lap times. The 300 SRT8 is not the best track car on the planet, but it sure is fun in that setting.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
It was just a couple years ago that we feared Chrysler was about to be relegated to the dustbin of history, which makes it all the more remarkable that the company has managed to produce a car like the 300 SRT8. The 300 SRT8 is a modern muscle car — its 470-hp engine produces the deep-throated rumble you typically associate with American cars and accelerates to 60 mph in less than five seconds. Revised steering and Brembo brakes, along with a two-mode adaptive damping system, help you manage the extra power that this SRT8 has over lesser 300 models. This car is surprisingly good on the track, but that’s not really its raison d’etre. The 300 SRT8 car gives its driver a heavy dose of performance potential and yet doesn’t ask him to give up comfort or technological conveniences of a luxury car, and it looks good, with a black chrome grille and twenty-inch wheels that add to its aggressive character. Plus, it can be had for less than $50,000, a relative bargain when we’re talking about a car in this class.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8
Base price (with destination): $47,995 (est.)
6.4-liter HEMI V-8 engine
5-speed automatic transmission
20-in. forged aluminum wheels
Black front grille
4-in. dual exhaust tips
SRT-tuned active damping suspension
Dual pane panoramic power sunroof
Carbon fiber interior accents
Dual-zone climate control
Heated/cooled cup holders
Electronic vehicle information center
Remote start/windows down
Uconnect touch screen LED display w/Garmin navigation
Tire pressure monitoring system & display
Heated front & rear seats
Options on this vehicle:
Black chrome group
Nappa leather seats w/Axis perforated suede inserts
harman/kardon premium audio system
Key options not on vehicle:
Horsepower: 470 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 470 lb-ft @ 4300 rpm
Curb weight: 4365 lb
20-in. forged aluminum wheels