Three hundred and forty horses would seem to be enough in a two-ton sedan. So would 18″ rims, a taut suspension, and grippy leather seats. In fact, you’d figure the standard Chrysler 300C would prove more than enough car for pretty much anyone-and the shelves of awards and accolades DCX’s baby has amassed in its time on the market would seem to prove that.
For a certain type of person, though, that isn’t the case. We’re talking here about the kind of guy who thinks 250 horsepower is appropriate for a Neon, and that 500 sounds about right for a full-size pickup. We’re talking about the folks who conceived of and built the original Dodge Viper-hard-core car guys. We’re talking about the brain trust at DaimlerChrysler’s Street and Racing Technology team-the SRT guys-the guys who have probably the best jobs in all of the auto industry.
These are our kind of guys. And these are the guys who have now bestowed upon us a 300C on steroids-the 2006 300C SRT8.
In keeping with the old hot-rodder axiom that “there’s no replacement for displacement,” the SRT8 starts with a bored-out version of the standard 5.7-liter HEMI-to 6.1 liters. Horsepower hits a heady 425 as a result of this and other steroidal mods like an improved intake, freer-flowing exhaust system, and an increased compression ratio.
No wussy, fuel-saving “Multi-Displacement System” here-the 300C SRT8 gets a rated 14/19 m.p.g. city/highway and is damn proud of it. The SRT8 actually shows off its dissimilarity to the C via more aggressive fascias front and rear and a small spoiler.
Overkill is again the watchword when it comes to the suspension-where the 300C is by no means lazy, the SRT boys’ work makes this chassis simply sing. Spring rates are increased, shocks are stiffened, and the standard rims become 20″ tank-tread monsters. The 255/45 rubber itself is reminiscent of a Corvette’s-all the more to burn.
Adding up all the above doesn’t make for a complex equation, but by way of simplifying it even further, you can sum it all up in one word: fun. We clocked a zero-to-sixty run in well under five seconds, hit 160 easily at the top end, and pulled a full .9 Gs as measured by the G-Tech. Cliché as it may sound, 425 horses and 420 lb./ft. of torque means that when you punch the throttle, this car makes just about everything else on the road seem to be standing still.
Admittedly, it’s a strange sensation, piloting a road-rocket the size of an ’80s Oldsmobile past pretender sporty-cars wearing German badges and their owners (wearing embarrassed faces). Still, aside from getting used to the additional length of the 300 chassis-you still have to allow a wide berth when zipping into holes in traffic-the feeling is a lot like being at the helm of one of those cigarette boats popularized in the ’80s.
That’s where the boat comparison ends, though; the SRT8 does not wallow on the road. Throw any curve you like at it, too, and there’s no hint of hesitation; just some mild understeer as the sedan takes its set and digs in. Glorious levels of grip come courtesy of that wide rubber, and steering response is right-now quick thanks to the quick-ratio rack and pinion setup. And yet even with all this immediacy, switchbacks don’t unsettle the 300’s chassis as much as you’d think; unwanted body motions are well-damped, possibly as a result of this chassis luxury-car origins (the LX platform originated from the Mercedes E-Class design). In all, the SRT8 feels buttoned-down and glued to even the twistiest of roads-while a car of this size can’t really be called nimble, it’ll just about keep up with anything that can. (And if you ever do fall behind, floor the go-pedal when the road straightens out and you’ll be back on your opponent’s bumper in no time.)
We opened it up on an empty highway or two, too, and were amazed by the right-now throttle response and seemingly endless torque. For such a big motor, the over-sized HEMI revs freely, and sounds like a chorus of bulldogs snarling.
Inside, the SRT8 gets the best of everything on the 300’s option sheet, plus a few unique goodies. Best of the bunch are the front bucket seats, done up in suede and stitched with the SRT logo-deep and contoured, they grab you like a good pair of gloves, while remaining comfortable even on long trips.
The nav system in our tester wasn’t the best we’ve seen, but not the world’s worst, either. It lacks a touch screen, but the user interface is simpler than that found in some of DCX’s German-badged models. It’s integrated with a six-disc CD changer with mps playback capability, meaning you can load nearly a thousand songs at one shot. The sound system itself is of audiophile quality-we suppose the SRT boys figure a world-class driveline deserves a world-class entertainment system as well.
Out back is room for three abreast, although it’s really only comfortable for two due to a pronounced middle hump. From the outboard seats’ vantage point, though, the 300 feels like a limo-there’s leg, hip and shoulder room galore. Even head room isn’t nearly as restricted as the low roof would make you think; anyone under six feet can avoid leaving hair gel-stains on the headliner without ducking. Cavernous as well is the trunk; there’s 15.6 cubic feet of stowage back there, in a simple rectangle shape.
The SRT’ed 300 gets a lot more than just those sizeable, polished ten-spoke wheels to differentiate itself from the more plebian C model. There’s a slick ground-effects package that’s certainly aggressive, if a bit juvenile for some tastes, and pronounced fender flares. chromed dual exhaust tips are another clue to this machine’s potency, as is a unique mesh-like grille insert. Overall it’s a good look; long, low and mean.
Chrysler has an unmitigated hit on its hands with the 300 (and its Dodge Magnum and Charger stablemates). The 300C has been recognized and the sports sedan value of the decade, with levels of power and convenience that would cost twice as much in any other dealership. What DCX’s SRT team has done here, then, is simply refine and expand upon the concept-the SRT is like the 300C squared. Faster, sexier, and even more luxurious inside, the SRT8 of course commands a premium price. However, in what is perhaps the best news here, the cost hasn’t been elevated as much as the limited-edition status of this model might’ve allowed. Our tester, loaded to the gills and giving us grins aplenty, stickered at a mere $42,500. That’s about equal to a well-equipped BMW 330, for literally twice as much car. At $10,000 more, it’d be hard to refuse-as it is, it’s a no-brainer.