Chrysler's Monolith Gets the SRT8 Treatment
Detroit's most maligned carmaker shows off high-performance version of 300.
2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8
Nothing about the Chrysler 300's steel-slab design screams versatility. But at the 2011 New York International Auto Show, Chrysler unveiled three new versions of its flagship luxury sedan, designed to reel in a wide variety of potential buyers.
With its lux leather and wood interior and tight mesh front grille, the 300C Executive aims for a baby Bentley look, and a correspondingly older demographic. The 300S skews younger, with a 12-channel audio system tuned by Dr. Dre, and red leather seats stamped with a superheroic "S." Finally, the SRT8's high-performance engine and race-inspired handling and stylistic touches cut across age lines, appealing to speed addicts of all stripes.
What's surprising isn't that Chrysler is trying to capitalize on the 300's success by repackaging it, but that something as trivial as a change of seat color and front grille pattern goes so far to differentiate each new model. Whether this strategy draws new interest, or simply overexploits a cornerstone of the Detroit automaker's comeback, the point has been made: steel slabs make for great clean slates.
2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8
What is it? A performance-oriented take on Chrysler's flagship luxury sedan.
What makes it hot? Chrysler's Street and Racing Technology (SRT) division continues its inexorable march through the automaker's brand family, installing the same 6.4-liter HEMI V8 and precision-handling features in a 300 sedan that were shown off just a few hours earlier in the new Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8. The engine musters 465 horsepower and 465 lb-ft of torque, and it can reach 60 mph in the "high 4s," according to Chrysler, with a top speed of 175 mph, and a 60 to zero mph brake distance of 120 feet. Even if their daily commute doesn't take them through the mountaintop twisties and leaf-strewn straightaways of the average car commercial, buyers can test out these specs for themselves with a complimentary day of training at the Richard Petty Driving Experience racing school, a standard perk across all SRT vehicles.
What concerns us? Most of the SRT8's design tweaks are pitch-perfect, from the black chrome on the wheel spokes to the brick-pattern front grille and lower overall stance and fascia. The only potential misstep is a stubby little spoiler. It's a detail that wouldn't stand out on many models, but clutters the 300's razor-sharp angles and monolithic rear end.
How much and when? Chrysler hasn't announced the price of the 300 SRT8, which will be available in the third quarter of this year.
Our verdict? Unlike the Grand Cherokee SRT8, which seems to target an odd subset of self-loathing SUV owners, the 300 SRT8's marriage of size, luxury and track-worthy performance is a natural fit. Chrysler may have gone overboard with some of the racer styling, but, along with generating headlines, we expect this new 300 to generate real sales.
Based out of the Boston area, Erik Sofge is frequent contributor to Popular Mechanics and Slate.com. He specializes in everything scientific and technical.
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@xpert1, since when doesn't Chrysler offer fuel efficient vehicles? That's a bogus claim that keeps getting perpetuated by many media outlets. While the SRT8 version of the Chrysler 300 isn't for everyone, you CAN get a Chrysler 300 with the new 3.6L 292 HP Pentastar V6 and achieve 27 MPG highway, same as a Nissan Altima V6 or Hyundai Azera. That goes for the Dodge Charger as well. I know I'd rather be driving the 300 or Charger over the smaller boring Camry V6 that gets only a slightly better 29 MPG highway.
Further, Chrysler offers the Dodge Caliber which gets 32 MPG highway and the Camry-sized Avenger which gets 31 MPG highway. The Jeep Compass and Patriot get 29 MPG highway. You can hardly call any of these gas guzzlers.
Under the 10 year control of the Germans from Mercedes-Benz, Chrysler DID make a strategic mistake when replacing the Neon. That was a car that owners claimed they could get 38 MPG with. Having offered no good replacement for the Neon hurt Chrysler on the low end of the line-up, but you can't really gripe about the progress they made in fuel mileage, especially with their trucks. Toyota and Nissan can't match the fuel economy of even a Hemi-equipped Ram pickup or Durango SUV. Funny how Chrysler and GM were able to bring full-size hybrid SUVs to market but the supposed hybrid leader, Toyota, didn't and instead offers Tundras and Sequoias that can't match Dodge/Ram, GM or Ford in fuel efficiency. The Chrysler and Dodge minivans also top the new Toyota Sienna in fuel efficiency as well. And just wait for the new 8- and 9-speed automatic transmissions Chrysler has coming in the next year or two for class leading fuel mileage. Even the 650 HP 8.4L V10 Dodge Viper can get 22 MPG highway, unheard of efficiency out of such a large displacement engine on a vehicle that has set more than one world record for speed for a regular production car.
Detroit's most maligned automaker????
I suppose the new 300 is another feeble attempt by Chrysler to survive?
We here at Chrysler have no intention of throwing in the towel or fading away. Drive our new 300 and decide for yourself whether or not this car has the cajones and class to rewrite the rules of the road. I think it does.
I have had 4 different 300's since they 1st came out as the 300 M. I have had Cadillac's and Oldsmobile's as my personal cars over the years, but from my perspective there is more value, comfort and economy in these 300's I have had, than any vehicle I have ever owned. I am 6 ft 6 in tall so leg room is something I cherish but rarely find in a car. I have yet to find any make or model with as good of leg room as the 300 -all of them I have had over the years. I do run a lot of road miles but I get 27.5 MPG and have on all the 300's I have had running regular fuel with good acceleration and running 75-80 on the highway with excellent quiet and smooth ride. At the price I would challenge you to show me any car that matches what the 300 brings and the fewest miles I have on any of them when I sold or traded them was 115,000 miles and they still looked good and had not cost me much other than routine maint!