By on September 7, 2010

The look on my passenger’s face says it all. I’ve just late-braked a fully-prepped BMW M3 on Hoosier race tires and we are about to straight-line the infamous “Climbing Esses” at VIR. At well over one hundred and twenty miles per hour. Listen to the photo. Put your ear up to it. You can hear my passenger, a student of mine who wanted to see “the fast way around”, gritting her teeth. You can hear the 6.1-liter HEMI catapulting us down the track at full throttle, a Sprint Cup racer stuffed beneath a Deep Sea Blue bonnet. And, if you listen very carefully, I think you can hear Sara Watkins, who is to me what Mike Rowe is to “The Booth Babe”, singing “Lord Won’t You Help Me.”

The boss man emeritus, one R. Farago, reviewed the 300C SRT-8 more than five years ago. Has the car changed? Not much. So why review it again? It’s simple. The fact that Robert’s article has a whopping three comments means you probably didn’t see it. And, of course, as the self-appointed bad guy in TTAC’s pro-wrestling pantheon, it seemed appropriate that I would use the big Chrysler to ruin the day of some club racers. Here’s how it went.

This was an unusual weekend for me in that I had an all-female student crew. The lady pictured above would be worth a story on her own. A retired servicewoman in her late forties, bought a Mini Cooper (non-S) a few years back and went on a few “Tail of the Dragon” drives. That didn’t satisfy her. Now she’s on-track, absolutely kicking ass in her little Cooper and regularly forcing young men in Vettes to give her the point-by. If she had an M3, she’d be the fastest Intermediate driver in nearly any club.

My other student was a former SCCA National Tour winner, a respected autocrosser who agreed to work with me on a couple of articles about the opportunities for women interested in motorsports. I expected her to take to VIR like a duck to water and was not disappointed. I also rather hoped she’d have some room for me in her suite at the VIR Lodge, and I was bitterly disappointed. I used all my traditional never-fail seduction stories on her — “My Fearless, Yet Stylish, Brushes With Death”, “I’m Lonely For My Distant Son And Just Don’t Want To Be Alone”, and “Give Me Your Opinion Of This Sportcoat Fabric” — but I still ended up sleeping in the car, as seen here:

No wonder, then, that when the second day of the event rolled around I was ready to wreak my vengeance on everybody unlucky enough to be in front of the Chrysler’s big black grille. In my test of the Challenger R/T I disabused TTAC’s readers of that stupid old Internet myth that “a Miata would totally dominate a fat-ass American musclecar on the track”. Compared to that R/T, the 300C SRT-8 has fifty more horsepower and much better brakes. Chrysler’s “Brembo package” is much better than Ford’s, and it holds up much better under the rigors of racetrack use. It’s still not “enough” brake — I personally think the Corvette ZR-1 has about “enough” brake — but it means you can run hard for ten laps at a time if you’re willing to manage pad temperature a bit.

We were scheduled to run the VIR Grand East course, which adds the twisty, elevation-change-filled “Patriot Course” to the “Full” course. I figured it meant that I’d spend the entire Patriot section holding-off smaller cars before blasting away from them down the “Roller Coaster” to the front straight. That wasn’t quite right. Hammering down the truncated back straight, I approached a group of Spec Miata racers practicing for the upcoming NASA event. This being the “instructor” group, no point-by was required, so I asked for none. Instead, I used the big HEMI to torque my way to the door of the last car and then stood on the ABS going into the corner. Hello, pass one. Reaching over to stab the ESP off, I used wheelspin on exit to catapult up to the next Miata. We went side-by-side over the next elevation change and then I waited him out on the brake. Oh no! A twisty section. Now I can’t shake the Miata behind and I can’t catch the one ahead. Oh, wait. I could shortcut that inside a bit. ESP back on and I put two wheels on the dirt, letting the traction control manage me past. Two more colorful Mazdas heading the group, taking the outside line to the Roller Coaster. ESP off. Full throttle. Buh. Freakin’. Bye. Never saw those cars again, although I think the organizers of the trackday heard from them in the “Complaints” section of the feedback form.

That’s the SRT-8’s “g-meter” for that session. It doesn’t go past .99, so rest assured that I was absolutely hammering this thing through the Patriot section. How does a car this big get grip like this from 20″ tires? Simple. The chassis is simply that good and that predictable. No, it can’t live with a BMW or Porsche for outright grip, but you are free to sit right at the limit of the tires and trust the Chrysler’s basic nose-first stability to save the day. The suspension can straight-line every curb and the steering gives some decent enough feedback. I hate to say it, but to some degree this car is more fun to drive fast than the Cadillac CTS-V is. I certainly prefer the HEMI’s character to that of the LS-whatever. More importantly, there’s clearly some room in the chassis for more power, which I would expect to see in the 2011 version.

I ended up driving this car over 2600 miles during my week with it, and I just about fell in love with the 300’s big-hearted spirit during that time. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some genuine complaints to be made. This car costs $49,195 and it has the interior of a $23,000 Hertz Charger. The stereo is monstrous but the iPod integration can’t touch SYNC. It’s not as roomy as it should be, particularly in back. You could buy a new E-class for this money, although the E-class you could buy wouldn’t touch this Chrysler on the road. You could also buy a Hyundai Genesis 4.6, if you want to make some kind of point. I’m not sure the Genesis really does much better in the interior-feel department, and it’s gutless compared to the Chrysler. Still, we are talking fifty grand here. Approach with fiscal caution.

There’s a looooong two-lane drive out of VIR for us headed towards Ohio. It’s maybe 100 miles of twisty roads and blind hills. And wouldn’t you know it, somebody pulled out in front of me right at the beginning…

…so I had to follow them all the way. Oh, who am I kidding? I was past that Bonnie before the end of the next turn. On the back roads, this 300C is even more of a monster than it is on the racetrack. In a world without speed limits or sensible driving standards, I could have averaged eighty-one miles per hour over the next sixty miles of that road. Since we don’t live in that world, I chose to listen to Miss Watkins on the excellent Kicker sound system.

This is now an old car, and it’s partially based on an even older one. If you’re a patient person, wait for the 2011 “LY” model. If you distrust the idea of a big V-8 and an old five-speed automatic, you can pay about the same real-world money for that nice new STi. If you just want the most kickass new sedan fifty grand can buy, call up Chrysler and ask if you can buy this one.

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53 Comments on “Review: 2010 Chrysler 300C SRT-8 Take Final...”


  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    “Long Live The Yank Tank.”  That should be Chrysler’s slogan for this car.  (I know it doesn’t exactally embody the “virtues” of the orginal throw pillow appointed mosters of the 50s, 60s, and 70s but it’s a dang nice update.

    • 0 avatar
      Disaster

      Shouldn’t it really be, “Long Live the Mercedes W210 E-class” since that is what the 300C is based on?

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      It has the transmission, some rear suspension bits and the cruise control stalk from the E-Class.  That’s it.

    • 0 avatar
      agroal

      psarhjinian: Wait. There’s More!
      Front & rear 5 link suspension, electrical architecture, ESP, TCS, brake assist, adaptive cruise control (Mercedes stalk on left replaced with conventional type on right side ’08 and up), automatic electric tilt-telescope steering column, seat frames, AWD (4Matic in Mercedes speak) if so equipped. The 300C is also made on the same production line as the Mercedes S-class in Germany. OK, I bullshited on that last one!

    • 0 avatar

      THANKS BARUTH for a great article.

      I agree with pretty much everything you said. Especially that the “Genesis is GUTLESS compared to the 300″  and that the SRT8 is more fun to drive than the CTS-V.

      I think the problem is, the CTS-V’s magneto shocks make the road feel too unnatural.
      http://www.epinions.com/content_519962726020

  • avatar
    brkriete

    Recent model years with low mileage are all over for low to mid 20s.  Seems like a great deal for a hell of a car, since someone else has soaked up the brutal initial depreciation.  I hear very little of systemic problems with them either, probably because it is as Jack says mostly an older design.
    I can’t wait to see what Chrysler has coming for next year.  I’m assuming somewhere around 500 horsepower but I’d really like to see what they do to freshen up the chassis and rest of the drivetrain.

  • avatar
    Ingvar

    To be fair to Faragos review, I don’t think commenting was technically possible at that early stage. Does anybody remember when commenting arrived?

    • 0 avatar
      ash78

      Only a couple years ago…so the lack of comments on a 5-year-old article has nothing to do with the article’s popularity–it’s just that very few commenters went back to old articles to add their two cents.

  • avatar

    I came this -><- close to buying one of these. I ended up buying a CPO CTS-V instead because I wanted a manual transmission, damn it, and the car I found was a mint gem in the right color. The CTS-V is a blast to drive and I have no regrets. But I did love that Hemi… and I was shocked at how well it stuck to the ground. If only Mother Mopar would put a Tremec 6spd in it…

  • avatar
    benzaholic

    Isn’t that “old five-speed automatic” also basically a Benz unit? For a slushbox that has to deal with a lot of torque, that’s honestly one of the best choices.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, the NAG1 gearbox in all the Chrysler HEMI cars is the Mercedes-Benz 5G-Tronic in drag. The rated torque capacity is 796 lb-ft., making it suitable for the V12 S600 and S65 models.
       
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/5G-Tronic
       
      The “basic” 5.7L HEMI V8 makes about 390-400 lb-ft., about 50% of the NAG1’s rated torque capacity. That sort of over-engineering is rare in this penny-pinching day and age, and part of what makes the powertrain in the Chrysler V8’s stand out.

  • avatar

    Interesting take, Jack. What aspects of the 6.1’s character do you prefer over an LS motor?

    • 0 avatar

      My take: the HEMI sounds better and feels better.

      These SRT cars just drip with character, and nothing seems out of place.

      I haven’t driven the new CTS-V. But with the CTS, as much as I like it, something’s missing. GM cars never feel quite alive and real the way that the big Chryslers do.

      Reliability has been about average for 2005-2007, and better than average for the 2008. Insufficient data for 2009+.

      http://www.truedelta.com/car-reliability.php

      Bottom line: the main reason I’m not hunting down a 2008 Magnum SRT8 is that no stick was offered.

  • avatar
    shiney2

    Great review! Very well written.
    I’ve never driven a 300c SRT, but a female friend of mine has a Magnum SRT8 and it is frickin’ magnificent to haul ass with on long drives. Maybe my favorite car camping vehicle ever.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Jack I think this says more about your track experience and skill than it does about the 300 SRT-8.

  • avatar

    Jack, you reviewed the Taurus SHO last year. How about comparing the two? The SHO and 300C SRT-8 seem to me to be direct competitors.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Ford would tell you the SHO is a direct competitor to the 300C 5.7, and the pricing reflects this.
      I would take this car over the SHO just for the engine and the drivetrain. The rest of the Taurus is nicer.

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      Jack…
      But why would you buy this car over the SHO JUST for the engine and drivetrain when it so much more coin?
      I mean. LOTS more coin.
      And lots more everything, gas ect.
      The Ecoboost can and is reflashed and bringing in 420 plus HP and torque, torque be the important thing for me.
      I thought the car only came with a 5.7. Where can you get a 6.1? I am not familiar with the Chrysler engines so I would like to learn more of the 6.1
       

    • 0 avatar

      The driving experience in the SHO is not remotely comparable.

    • 0 avatar

      All Chrysler SRT8 models have the 6.1L, 420hp engine (as of MY2010). Non-SRT models have the 5.7L, 375hp engine.

    • 0 avatar

      Jack, I’d take the SRT8 over the SHO for the non-bunkerized interior and the fact it has way more power.

      Some jerkoff on Youtube made a video entitled “SRT 8 vs. SHO”  but they used a fricking 5.7 rather than the 6.1.
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8eqaEGmQgk

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    Should have brought this to the CTS-V dog and pony show, at least would have added some additional American iron.

  • avatar
    Nick

    I’d be very happy with one of these.  I don’t mind flying, but I have to confess most of my vacations involve me driving to my destination, and this would be a perfect conveyance.  Smooth enough for long stretches of open highway, but gutsy and fun for secondary roads.  Given my current finances, I will have to wait for a well-cared for example coming off lease.

    Pity you couldn’t get a snap of that M3 driver’s face.

  • avatar
    Morea

    ABS? ESP? Jack, were you driving or was it the software engineers in Auburn Hills?

    • 0 avatar
      srogers

      OK Morea. We’ll put you and Jack on the same track in the same SRT8 with ABS and ESP turned on the for whole lap and see if you keep up.

    • 0 avatar
      Morea

      You miss my point.  I have no doubt Jack is faster than I am, but where does it all end with the electronic gizmos?  The Japanese are working very hard on robot technology.  In the US, DARPA is funding lots of autonomous vehicle technologies.  What happens when the car can drive itself faster around the track than you can drive it?  What’s the point then of going to the track at all?  May as well ride a roller coaster at the local amusement park where you are equally just a passenger.  Soon Jack will be like the passenger in the photo: although instead of letting the driver scare her to death the software can do it more effectively!

      There is a reason that electronic technology is limited in many sports: once you remove the human element, who cares?

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Where ABS is present in a car, I will absolutely use it on track. I typically don’t use ESP on-track but in a limited case like this, where I would like the computer to manage traction on two dissimilar surfaces at 80-90mph, I’m happy to use it. Without ESP, I’d have taken a stronger run at the curb and gone maintenance throttle across the dirt instead of accelerating on it.
       
      My race car has none of this stuff; hell, it doesn’t even have power steering :)
      This article talks about my feelings re: ESP and its effect on novice track drivers:
       
      http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/trackday-diaries-osb-esp-srt/
       

    • 0 avatar
      Stingray

      I saw it more like putting invincible mode in a video game. Like Doom or Quake.
      Also, he was instructing, not racing F1 (which fits better with your DARPA/Japanese example)

    • 0 avatar
      Morea

      Good reply Jack! I knew you were a purist at heart!

      To push the point further, I believe that power steering on small performance cars is another unecessary abomination. On a Suburban driven by the fairer sex, great. On a weekend track toy, why?

  • avatar

    Anyone checked True Delta numbers on it yet?

  • avatar
    ajla

    Please, we all know that last picture was taken after the Bonneville kicked your ass all over the road.

  • avatar
    IGB

    The SRT8’s are under-appreciated. I had a Magnum for a couple of years that I still miss terribly. The 300’s are sprung a bit softer than the Charger/Magnum versions from what I recall when I drove them in the SRT Experience that they throw in when you buy the car. The Magnums handle the best actually.
     
    They are torque monsters and sound fabulous. The best seats this side of a Saab 9-5 Aero. I always hated the manumatic though. Always seemed too slow.

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    Suddenly it’s 1960.  Seriously, I have always had a weakness for BIG performance cars.  This car seems to do justice to the best of the big 300s of yore.  Let’s hope Chrysler keeps developing it.  It is a nice choice to have available.

  • avatar
    jimboy

    As the (very happy) owner of a Magnum RT, I LOVED this review. I couldn’t step up to the SRT models, but I have lusted after the Chrysler version for several years. Even with a near 50 grand price, it will kick ass and take names of anything remotely near its price point. It is well overdue for an update though, and the 2011 looks to be just what the doctor ordered. I only hope they grace us with an estate version (wagon), as well. Great Review Jack.

    • 0 avatar

      Fellow Magnum RT (AWD) owner who also loved this review checking in. If my job holds for a few more years I may yet be able to live the SRT dream.

      Even so, the mere 5.7L Mopar V8s will outhustle 90% of what’s on the road and keep up with the next 5% without much trouble.

  • avatar
    cardeveloper

    Car begs for an upgraded suspension system.  Couple of aftermarket suppliers have done an excellent job really tightening that 4400 lb beast up.  Throw in a computer tuner, and you have a car that is a dream to drive for thousands of miles, and fun to toss around on the track.  I LOVED my charger R/T with RT package, SRT is even better.  By far one of the most versatile cars I have owned, or even driven.

  • avatar

    Jack, I find it remarkable that I love everything you write.

  • avatar
    Ringer

    I saw you sitting by this beast in the paddock, and I’ve been waiting on the review.  Interesting stuff, thanks.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    Are STi’s real world now up to 50G’s?  I paid just over 30 out the door for mine, NEW in 2005…holy cow.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Equip an STi to not-quite-match the 300C for features, and it’s $41,605. With incentives, I can’t imagine too much distance will separate it from the SRT-8 300C.

  • avatar
    itsgotvtakyo

    The SRT cars are always big, snotty fun. My father has always been a wagon enthusiast, adamant in his belief that an SUV or pickup would never be as good a utility vehicle for him as a full size wagon is. You can imagine his excitement when he heard about the Magnum SRT8. I spent uncountable hours and miles driving it behind him while he towed his race car, falling as far back as I could get away with and then blasting well into triple digits catching up. Big, fast, comfortable car; tremendous place to spend time in for long trips on good roads.
    Also, on the subject of SRTs, there’s a guy in town with a no sh*t caged and blown 300 SRT that looks and sounds like an absolute monster.

  • avatar
    mcs

    If the roles were reversed and you were in the spec Miata and one of the Miata drivers was in the SRT-8, would the results be the same? How about a novice. Would they be faster in a Miata or the SRT-8?

    In my experience, it takes more skill to push a beast through a course than a lighter weight car. Even if you throw out the performance differences (if any), a smaller lighter lighter vehicle can give some drivers more confidence.

    A good driver can wring performance out of any vehicle, Car A may be faster than car B when driven by a skilled pro, but B might be faster than A in the hands of a lesser skilled driver. That’s why it can be difficult making vehicle decisions based on the skills of a pro driver. What may work well for a reviewer may not work well for you.

    • 0 avatar

      I would believe you except for the fact that we are dealing with automatic transmissions hooked to massively powerful engines.   Sure a skilled driver has the advantage on a course, but once you hit a straightway, an SRT8 is an SRT8.

      I don’t have to be skilled to get a Veyron to 200MPH.

  • avatar

    A few years ago I attended an SRT Track Experience that included all of the SRT cars. It amazed me how the instructors where able to take these big cars sideways through practically the entire road coarse at MIS. This certainly wasn’t the fastest way through the course, but was quite entertaining. No doubt Jack could do the same.

  • avatar

    to those that are asking for the manual, isn’t this the same platform as the Challenger, so would that car (which does have the 6 speed) be a similar beast on track?

  • avatar
    nrd515

    One of my friends bought an ’06 SRT 300 last year for $30K, it looked brand new and had 6k on it. It had headers, a mild cam, high flow cats, a cold air intake, suspension mods, and a custom exhaust on it when he got it. Oddly enough, the trans failed on the way home from picking it up (He bought it about 250 miles from home). The factory warranty was still on it, so it was fixed for free. Te dealer gave him a new 5.7 car off the lot for a loaner, and a week later, he went back and picked it up.
     
    Since then, it’s been perfect Well it was, until he got a bigger cam for it and ignored all kinds of warnings, including a sticker on the cam box itself, that without mods, there would be major engine damage, and there was, right after he took it out for it’s first spin. It got stroked and some head work done when he had it fixed, and it’s running mid 12’s on street tires and would be quicker if it didn’t have the stock rear gears in it. It sounds insanely great at full throttle, and has embarrassed several pinheads driving ‘Vettes and new Camaros and high end Mustangs who think it’s stock. Just the sound of it idling should have told them something was up, but they didn’t get it.
    My “lottery fantasy” is to buy an old Mopar, like a late 60’s Charger or Roadrunner for a fun toy, and build a near duplicate of his car, except using a 08+ Challenger SRT8 as the basis instead of the 300 as my every day car.

  • avatar
    Areitu

    I’m curious about the transmission performed on the track and on the backroads. Did you shift it, let it do the work, or something between the two?

  • avatar

    Great article Jack. I drove one of these from Stowe to Londonderry (Vermont) back in 2009 and I loved it. The chassis was very predictable and I found it quite easy to hang at the limit (when not blocked by a slow-moving vehicle ahead of me). It was a pleasure to drive, though not necessarily a pleasure to look at.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    nrd515…….a simple cam swap will not damage the engine if the work is done right and the cam is properly broken in.
    Hemi SRT8  cars frequently run well into the 12’s with nothing more than exhaust and software upgrades.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    But as far as cam changes go, the hemi is very easy in that department. You don’t even have to remove the intake, just like you didn’t have to in the old big block wedges.

  • avatar

    Reading this makes me realize how special my G8 GXP is. It was > $10k less expensive than this SRT-8, came with a 6-speed manual, and has the LSx aftermarket when I feel the need for more. A shame the SRT-8 doesn’t have the new-model competition any longer.

  • avatar

    PROS:

    + I don’t think there is anything else this large you can buy under $50,000 which moves as fast as it does.

    + The loaded SRT8 has every luxury feature you’ll need with the exception of high quality interior feel. 

    + Its FUN to drive. Almost addictive.

    CONS

    – Have you ever watched a gas needle just …slump?   10 mpg (observed)

    – Brake dust fro the OEM brake pads  turns the wheels from chrome to black in 3 days.

    – SRT8 seats are heavily bolstered and takes away alot of percieved interior space.

    – punishing ride on stock 22″s.  Like a Corvette.


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