– Tremendous engine
– Cabin space and features
– Ride and handling
– Understated cabin design
– Low ground clearance
– Mirrors on the small side
Some discount the Chrysler 300C as, well, a discount version of an older Mercedes-Benz E-Class on whose platform the American is allegedly based on. But tell us this — when was the last time the Germans built a 485 hp super-sedan for the price of a measly E300 Benz? It’s amazing that Chrysler still offers the 300 SRT for 2016, considering it’s now exclusively sold only in low-volume markets such as South Africa, Japan, Zimbabwe and the GCC, but not in its home market of North America.
To put it is basic terms, this is the more elegant sibling of the brutish Dodge Charger SRT8, a full-size bruiser that’s been the centre of attention this year due to its optional Hellcat trim level, to put it mildly. The 300 SRT looks nothing like the Dodge, featuring a more angular styling theme that incorporates mirror-finished 20-inch alloys, a lip spoiler, and slightly more aggressive bumpers as well as a lower ride height than the standard 300. In fact, you’d need a keen eye to distinguish it from the a “regular” 5.7-litre 300 S, although Chrysler has taken the extra step of removing all Chrysler badges from the exterior, leaving only “SRT” badges on the grille and the tailgate.
The 300 SRT costs a bit more than the Charger SRT, and this is reflected in the Chrysler’s nicer door handles. The cabin itself is completely different as well, and is arguably understated, even with the carbon-fibre patterns and the abundance of soft-touch trim materials on the dash, upper-door panels and even the centre console. The doors and armrests were also lined with swaths of leatherette, matching the chunky SRT-specific seats. Build quality is generally very good except for a couple of panels looking like they’re a bit out of line.
Being a large boxy sedan, there is no shortage of headroom or legroom, both front and back. The powered front seats are thickly-bolstered, with a very adjustable steering wheel, so getting comfortable is easy. Rear passengers have more headroom than in the Charger, although legroom is not much more than, say, a midsize Toyota Camry. Practicality is a given, with four covered cup-holders, pockets and bottle-holders on all doors, power outlets for front as well as rear passengers, a cargo net, a cubby to hold your phone, hooks in the boot to hang small grocery bags on, and even separate holders for different-sized coins. The luggage boot is also sizeable, and the rear seatback folds down. Thankfully, the outgoing version’s humongous full-size spare wheel that was awkwardly placed right in the middle of the boot floor has been replaced with a space-saver spare wheel in the new model, freeing up the massive boot.
Chrysler’s big 8.4-inch touchscreen multimedia system is standard on the SRT. With big icons and colourful graphics, it is easier to use than Ford’s SYNC, although we didn’t play with any voice commands, and it can be a bit hard to read in direct sunlight. The Bluetooth phone, strong CD/MP3 stereo and navigation all worked well. There’s even a full-colour info screen between the gauges now. Other features include a panoramic sunroof, cruise control, auto HID headlights with LEDs, front and side-curtain airbags, tyre-pressure monitor, keyless starter button, rear camera with parking sensors, capless fuel filler, a strong dual-zone a/c with rear vents and more.
The 6.4-litre naturally-aspirated V8 is a legend in our book. Pumping out 485 hp at 6000 rpm and 637 Nm of torque at 4300 rpm, we managed a 0-100 kph of 5.9 seconds during our August test, if only because it’s tough to balance the revs just enough on Dubai’s sandy road surfaces without launching into a full-on burnout. But that’s just initial take-off. If you want to overtake while already cruising at 100 kph, putting the pedal to the metal generates such a massive punch that, combined with the insane growl on kicking down a gear, you start chanting “there’s no replacement for displacement” while watching the scenery becoming increasingly blurry with speed.
The SRT’s biggest problem has always been that it has way more power than you could ever use legally. But it also means the engine is barely strained when cruising city streets. Combined with the smooth-shifting new 8-speed automatic, it’s supposed to have a slight improvement over the old 5-speed model. We got 15.0 litres/100 km, fairly palatable for such a powerful car. It’s got paddle-shifters which aren’t the quickest to respond, but then again, the gears are surprisingly well-selected in auto mode anyway. It can feel a bit jumpy in “sport” mode thanks to a more sharpened throttle response and a propensity to sit in the lower gears, so it’s best to leave it in “normal” mode at city speeds.
The rear-wheel-drive 300 SRT handles pretty darn well as long as you keep your inputs smooth. It’s a car that requires skill to drive fast around corners. There’s excellent grip from the 245/45 tyres with a constant throttle around curves, or you can do crazy things like tighten the radius by just pumping the pedal to briefly spin the rear wheels and swing out the tail by a bit, even with the ESP on. The well-weighted steering isn’t sports-car quick, but offers a bit of feedback, while the brake-pedal feel is pretty linear, making it easy to modulate the strong Brembo brakes. You also get the occasional bits of tyre squeal now and then on take-off at junctions and u-turns, which keep things exciting even when all you’re doing is going down to the market.
It’s amazing how well the 300 SRT manages to keep body-roll at bay, while also retaining a luxury-grade ride. We remember back in 2006, when the 300C SRT8 was overly harsh, but these new ones come with adaptive dampers, so the electronic nannies smooth out most road imperfections, while giving the option to go even firmer at the touch of a button. It still rides a bit on the firm side, but it’s no firmer than any BMW 5-Series with low-profile tyres. Wind noise is virtually non-existent at legal highway speeds, with only a bit of tyre noise and the faint engine rumble on light throttle applications, although nowhere near levels that would be annoying. Other issues we came across were the too-small side mirrors and the too-low ground clearance, the latter of which led us to scrape the front lip on a protruding curb, although issues can be avoided with a bit of care while driving.
The Chrysler 300 SRT is a very impressive piece of machinery, even though its most significant bits are just old-school brute power and limo-like ride, while backing them up with ultra-modern bits such as the adaptive suspension and the multimedia system. It’s an expensive car, but it’s hard to argue when there is nothing else to buy with this much capability for anything less, except maybe for the Dodge Charger SRT.
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