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2009 Chrysler 300C SRT8

Hours after Chrysler's bankruptcy became official, I was pulling out of the parking garage in a 2009 Chrysler 300C SRT8. This may sound stupid, but I feel obligated to tell anyone who will listen that the car continued to drive like usual. Not once did I worry about getting a replacement part or whether my local dealer would still be in business come Monday morning.

I actually signed out the 300C because my friend Joe is trying to decide whether he will buy one in the next week. He is trying to decide between a Pontiac G8 GT and a Chrysler 300C (non-SRT8). The Pontiac is appealing because it's sportier, and he already has a Pontiac (a vintage Firebird) in his garage. A 300C is more luxurious and seemingly a little more spacious. At this point, it looks like Joe will be parking a new 300C in his driveway, and I can't blame him.

Most media reports have focused on the (possibly) upcoming 300C that Chrysler previewed to a small group of journalists in December and how much better that car is than the current 300C. Sure, the new car looks more more graceful and luxurious, but the current 300C still feels pretty good. I can't say I have no complaints after some time behind the wheel, but this is the quintessential American sedan, and I really hope the replacement survives the Fiat partnership and all the automotive-task-force BS, so that it can come to market as planned.

If there's still development going on for the 2011 300C, I hope Chrysler can find a way to remove some weight, improve the transmission's shift strategy, and keep this SRT8 version around.

Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor

Talk about the best of times and the worst of times. Chrysler is in Chapter 11, GM just joined them, and yet, the cars are better than they ever have been. Case in point: this 300C SRT8. Less than ten years ago, a shopper looking for a V-8, rear-wheel-drive American sedan was limited to Ford's ancient full-size lineup. Now we have a 425-hp, E-class-based monster from Chrysler, and most of us regard it with relative disinterest.

"Yawn, the interior is a little plasticky," or "I like Pontiac's rear-wheel-drive, 400-plus-hp sedan better."

In fact, the 300C SRT8 is still a very fun, fast car. Like the Charger SRT8 we sampled last fall, it really benefits from a firmer suspension setup compared with the "regular" Hemi cars. There have been improvements inside as well, with more soft-touch materials similar to what's in our Four Seasons Ram. The price--$50,000 and change--seems steep, but with the auto market, and Chrysler in particular, being where they are these days, you almost have to factor in a considerable discount (a quick glance at Chrysler's Web site reveals that local dealers are offering $3500 on this car before any negotiation).

David Zenlea, Assistant Editor

Well, wasn't THAT a childish evening spent roaring down the interstate just to hear the juicy roar of the 6.1-liter Hemi V-8! Yes, there was some stupid driving going down on I-94 last night, and I was right in the middle of it. But imagine my surprise and delight to pop out from behind a semi and onto my exit ramp, only to find a blinding refrigerator white 300C (a great color for this car) in front of me at the top of the ramp. I burbled along sweetly behind it for about a mile and a half, then just flattened the accelerator, which set off a sort of two-step power surge which sounded like ROAR, then RROOOAARRRR!! As I shot past and into the dark.

It felt as cathartic as shooting off a hand cannon. Pardon me.

Jean Jennings, President & Editor-in-Chief

I might have done a very bad thing. I gave my dad a ride in the 300C SRT8. Like many Chrysler retirees, he's worried about his health care and his pension in light of the Fiat/bankruptcy/bailout situation. And like many Chrysler retirees, he owns a Hemi-powered LX car (300/Charger/Magnum/Challenger), in this case an all-wheel-drive Magnum R/T. But I fear that he's now going to sell the proverbial farm to get into a 300C SRT8.

I can't blame him, though. This car has awesome gobs of addictive power ... but not in an overwhelming way like the last SRT8 I drove: a Charger in December. That Dodge could barely hook up in those cold temperatures, cocking its body sideways under moderate throttle, even with the stability control fully engaged. But now that spring is in full effect, the 300C SRT8 just goes and goes fast, with very little wheel spin--unless you try for it, of course.

I like the quick-shifting automatic transmission, which reminds me of the impressive five-speed autobox in all V-8-powered LX cars. That gearbox helped me achieve an indicated 20 mpg over 350 miles, which is a tick better than the car's EPA highway rating. Not that I was trying to get good fuel mileage; that sonorous 6.1-liter Hemi is too sweet to refrain from the occasional foot-to-the-floor flurry. Indeed, I still love the aging 300C (SRT8 or not) for cruising down the highway, for thundering around town, and for hurtling through the back-road twisties.

Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor

The 300C is not as eye-catching as it was when it debuted, but its distinctive design is still attractive and modern. The bright-red Brembos look a bit strange on such a big car (it doesn't help that they clash with the brick red exterior paint of this particular 300C) but I was glad to have them once I got this 4000-pound-plus beast really rocketing down the road. Under hard acceleration, the butt drops, the rear tires dig in, and it transforms from a boulevardier into a jet-powered locomotive. Holy smokes! The acceleration is so smooth and unrelenting that I chickened out long before it subsided. And it has such an amazing soundtrack that I found myself putting the pedal to the floor as often as I could just to hear its deep-throated growl.

I've recommended the 300 to a number of people over the past several years, but every time I drive one, I'm still surprised by how much I like it. I guess because of its size and brand, I expect it to be more of an old-school, American sedan with a floaty ride, mushy brakes, and lifeless steering. But the 300, especially in SRT8 drag, is the antithesis of that stereotype, with accurate steering and superb balance and stability. Add the Hemi, and the big Chrysler will feed your need for speed and then some.

Jennifer Misaros, Production Editor

2009 Chrysler 300C SRT8

Base price (with destination and gas-guzzler tax): $44,610Price as tested: $50,220

Options:Inferno Red Crystal Pearl $225SRT option group I $640SRT opton group II $90013 Kicker SRT high-performance speakers $685uconnect studios-video entertainment system $1460

Fuel economy: 13 / 19 / 15 mpg (city/hwy/combined)

Engine:Size: Hemi 6.1L V-8Horsepower: 425 hp @ 6000 rpmTorque: 420 lb-ft @ 4800 rpm

Transmission: 5-speed automatic

Weight: 4178 lb

Wheels/Tires:20 x 9-in aluminum SRT design wheels245/45R20 all-season tires