Chrysler 300 SRT

Never mind the heft; c’mon feel the noise

DAMION SMY

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

THE powerslide at the end of Temora’s airstrip wasn’t planned, it just happened.

And it felt bloody great – controllable, smooth and backed by a raucous benteight soundtrack.

The new 300 SRT (no ‘C’ for some time, and now no longer an ‘SRT8’ either) has been given its own launch following the arrival of the facelifted, V6-powered 300 a few months back. Yet this is the one that Aussies will want, as we love performance cars. And as the folks over at Holden and Ford will tell you, especially rear-drive V8s.

Chrysler knows this only too well, and is offering two variants of the facelifted 300 SRT. The previously limited-edition SRT Core is now a full-time model, and starts at $59,000, while for $69,000 there’s the ‘SRT’ (sans Core), which adds forged alloys, leather upholstery, sat-nav and – most importantly – adaptive dampers.

The 300’s classic high waist and chopped roofline have been spruced up with stylish new bumpers while inside has been given a spit and polish.

Both Core and SRT are endowed with the same powertrain: a thumping great 6.4-litre ‘Hemi’ V8 pumping out 350kW and 637Nm.

The increases – 3kW and 6Nm – are due mainly to the new electric power steering, while the most significant improvement is a new eight-speed automatic in place of the previous fiver.

The new transmission helps improve the SRT’s manners substantially (but oddly, not its fuel economy), and in tandem with the new steering tune gives the 300 a broader character. Both work with the three drive modes – Street, Sport and Track – that also alter throttle sensitivity and, in the flagship SRT, the firmness of the adaptive dampers.

Track mode is the most brutal: a throwback in time to a raucous, barbaric persona that cares not for ride comfort but is all about speed.

Here, the steering has much more bite, the transmission shifts are done by the shift-paddles – it won’t change up on you – and the old-school V8 warble is at its best.

Switch to Sport and there’s still a firm ride, but the auto will shift after revving out longer, and can feel a little clunky doing so.

The 300’s transmission is buttery smooth at slow speeds, but when up it for the rent, it’s not awfully fast for kickdown or snapbang manoeuvres. It works best as a cruiser, rather than as a razorsharp sports transmission.

The SRT is a fast car in a straight line, and there’s hardly any squat, dive or roll for such a large car. Yet the heft of the 300 is constantly felt through the wheel and the pedals, making this more grand tourer than sports sedan. Still, its long-legged feel on country roads and its punk/rat-rod style will win many over with its unique appeal. t speed

Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Kerb weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Chrysler 300 SRT 6417cc V8 (90°), ohv, 16v 350kW @ 6150rpm 637Nm @ 4250rpm 8-speed automatic 1965kg 5.0sec (estimated) 13.0L/100km $69,000 Now

PLUS & MINUS

Weight; no improvement in efficiency despite new eight-speed auto Visual presence; bulk grunt teamed with a lairy s runt soundtrack; composure

No Yank in this chain

YOU cannot buy the 300 SRT in the USA. Yet, somehow, we get a right-hook SRT for Australia. This is amazing when you consider Holden is flogging between 600-1000 V8 Commodores a month, whereas Chrysler has sold only 618 300s year-to-date, meaning someone inside Fiat-Chrysler has successfully made the business case for a rear-drive, V8 sedan that sells in the hundreds per annum. Thank you, whoever you are.