I love horsepower. I love the feel of it lingering underfoot, ready to explode into neck-snapping, stomach-churning, tire-shredding violence. I love the sound of it: the blend of Fortissississimo bellowing and heavy metal madness. I love the power of it, the ability to make “ordinary” machines look as if God grabbed their rear bumpers and yanked them backwards. Sure, my passion for accelerative overload is infantile, dangerous and about as politically correct as a 1920s minstrel show. But at least it isn’t impractical or expensive. Well, not anymore.
You can now buy a four-door 425 hp Chrysler 300C SRT-8 for a nickel under $40K. That’s a lot of numbers. And no matter how you look at it—size, performance or style—the 300C SRT-8 is a lot of car. So let’s take this road test thing nice and slow . . . . Only we here at TTAC don’t do anything “nice.” And “slow” is not a word in the SRT-8′s vocabulary (I have a hard time understanding it myself). So what the Hell. Let’s strap in, mash the go pedal and see where it takes us.
Straight to the brake pedal. We’ve traveled so far so fast we need to slow down RIGHT NOW, and hope that Chrysler’s Street and Racing Technology (SRT) knows as much about brakes as they do about big-bore powerplants. Fo shizzle. When caning a 425 hp car weighing 4160 lb, there’s no time to ponder the finer points of rotor size, “swept area”, ABS, etc. It’s strictly press and pray.
Did I mention that the 300C SRT-8 doesn’t like to let go of its revs? Lift off the gas and there’s no danger of engine braking; starving the 6.1-liter Hemi of dead dinoflagellates has about as much immediate effect as switching off the afterburners on an F15. Not to put too fine a point on it, the 300C SRT-8 is a blat – coast – blat kinda car. Oh, and the five-speed gearbox (a Mercedes E-Class hand-me-down) is as fond of kickdown as the Toyota Prius is of low revs. The big Chrysler can resist anything except acceleration.
Right. Where were we? Oh yes, in dire need of stoppage. And stop we shall. If a car is only as good as its brakes, Chrysler’s flagship muscle car is a match for the very best. Both the SRT-8 and BMW’s M5 require only 110 feet of pavement to slow themselves from sixty to zero. While the SRT-8′s left pedal doesn’t offer much in the way of initial feel, the massive anchors are powerful enough to yank you out of the trouble that the steroidal engine can oh-so-easily put you in. Now, let’s try a little cornering . . .
Before tackling the twisties, switch off the ESP traction control. I don’t usually recommend thrashing a Nanny-less sedan with 420 lb·ft of torque, 20″ wheels and three-season tires (Vivaldi would not be pleased with that concept), but the SRT’s chassis is so well sorted, the power reservoir so deep, instant and controllable, that you can drive this monster like you stole it without an electronic safety net—and not die. Simply steer with your right foot.
Muscle car aficionados know the drill. When you enter a sharp turn, throw the wheel hard over and floor it. As the rear tires spin and the back end drifts sideways, apply the appropriate amount of opposite lock with the steering wheel. Then ease off the gas, let the back end ease into line and keep on going. If it’s good enough for The General Lee, it’s good enough for the SRT.
Of course, Chrysler had to sacrifice a significant measure of the donor car’s ride comfort. And? The supremely-engined 300C SRT-8 is aimed at g-force junkies and serious stunters. They’d consider it a badge of honor if a pothole knocked a filling loose. Alternatively, you can dismiss a rough section of road by applying max power and dryquaplaning over irregularities.
I don’t mean to leave you with the impression that the Chrysler 300C SRT-8 is all about raw power. It’s about raw power AND satellite radio. And a 180 mph speedo, sports seats, a fearsome front spoiler, an integrated rear wing and the usual trim upgrades and performance badgery. Other than that, the 300C SRT-8 is the same gangsta-style luxobarge that’s wowed press and punters alike.
Which is no bad thing. With the addition of a glorious, pumped-up Hemi and vastly improved driving dynamics, the 300C SRT-8 transforms a great car into an instant (though proletariat) classic. If you’re a horsepower headcase on a budget, go on. You know you want to.