Chrysler 300 SRT unleashed
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Can the Chrysler 300 SRT do subtle? This favourite muscle machine will have the Germans worried
It's a pleasing state of affairs to be living in a time when, were you to look up the phrase "bang for buck" in the Great Big Book of Car-Related Colloquialisms, you'd find a chocolate box assortment of likely value-packed options.
And as far as the "modern muscle" sub-index goes, the updated Chrysler 300 SRT pretty much has that section to itself.
Because it's very good.
In fact, when you add together the sum of its vast array of parts, it's AMG-worryingly good.
First, the headlines.
The 300 SRT remains a thoroughly potent piece of weaponry. Its 6.4-litre HEMI V8 pushes out peak power of 350kW and a full twist of 637Nm of torque. It's a monster of an engine and sounds suitably rowdy in full flight. Well, you didn't buy the car for its subtle points now, did you?
Although funnily enough there are subtle elements to the Chrysler 300 SRT's exterior.
I know; that seems a somewhat laughable statement, but shouty badging is kept to a minimum (there are small SRT emblems in the upper corners of both the cliff-like grille and boot lid, but nowhere else) and chrome is generally banished in favour of body colour-matched detailing.
The only brightwork to speak of is to be found in the window surrounds, the jewel-like Bi-Xenon HID headlight clusters and, of course, the alloy wheels.
Helping stir things along is the new TorqueFlite eight speed automatic transmission that utilises a rotary controller like that found in the Jaguar XF, albeit fixed in place rather than exhibiting the reactive rise-and-fall theatrics of the British brand.
Auckland | Wairau Valley
$322.59 p/w $1,290.36 p/m
Photo / Ted Baghurst
Large metal shift paddles behind the multi-function steering wheel allow you to swap ratios manually too.
If you're expecting lazy performance that builds and builds into a fuzzy-at-the-edges crescendo, you're in for a shock.
Rather, power is delivered as crisply and consistently as any of the big calibre Euro competitors.
Stomp on the accelerator and this car is instantly looking for the other end of the quarter mile; it's impressive and a mite scary at first.
If you want the full back-of-knees-tingle experience, navigate through the richly detailed Uconnect touchscreen menu until you come across Launch Control.
Much like the technology in other (vastly more expensive) performance models, this race-ready software does what it says on the tin.
Hit the button and wheel spin will be reigned in to improve off-the-line performance for straight-ahead acceleration.
You can even pre-set the desired RPM before the system lets you go; less for softly-but-smooth, more for full-noise histrionics.
Once you're on the move, the 300 SRT's Adaptive Damping suspension allows the driver to switch between comfortable and stiffer performance settings.
Again, if you're anticipating a wallowing ride with the edges beveled off, then you'll have to re-set your expectations; the 300 SRT feels much more succinctly tuned these days, offering actual feedback through the seat and steering wheel.
Photo / Ted Baghurst
Stopping is no issue when you feel the need either; bright red four-piston Brembo calipers combined with dinner plate-sized slotted brake rotors (14.2-inch in the front and 13.8-inch at the rear) ensure even heavy braking is completed in a satisfactorily short amount of time and with plenty of reassuring bite.
Chrysler has got it right in the cabin, too.
The interior does feel far more premium than before.
Rather than La-Z-Boys disguised as front seats, the updated 300 SRT features seats that remain somehow XL-sized, but still provide plenty of lateral support; handy for track day shenanigans.
The leather and Alcantara suede mix looks great, while multi-way power adjustability is a given.
An impressive 19-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, which features a massive subwoofer and a 900-watt amplifier, will enliven things should the bellowing exhaust note should grow tiresome.
In front of the driver, bright and clear instruments (and a great hot rod-style font used in the cluster) provide all the data required, while you cannot fault the Uconnect touchscreen in the centre console for allowing simple, easy access to a wide variety of entertainment, comfort and vehicle settings (including interactive SRT 'Performance Pages' in the top model).
A peg below the 300 SRT (but no less impressively kitted-out in its own way), the $79,990 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 Chrysler 300 S looks the part and retains many of the SRT's game pieces, including the new eight-speed TorqueFlite auto, a slightly less-monogrammed leather interior, the intuitive 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen, 20-inch rims, Adaptive Cruise Control and other safety equipment.
It remains a convincing car with more than its fair share of street cred.
But Chrysler has carefully structured the options list, meaning that while you can up-spec your 300 S, you'll not get it looking too close to an SRT on its watch.
Besides, it's probably best to have that "Hey, what's another twenty grand between friends?" conversation with your bank manager and go for the real deal. Just use that 'bang for buck' argument and he or she will see your point.
CHRYSLER 300 SRT
ENGINE: 6.4-litre HEMI V8 (350kW/637Nm)
PRICE: $98,990 plus ORCs
PROS: Gadget list, value for money muscle, sheer in-your-face-ness
CONS: A rich seam of alternative competitor muscle available, sheer in-your-face-ness
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