By on August 19, 2013

bts

We’d like to welcome TTAC contributor, point-of-view video auteur, and fan favorite Bigtruckseries to the site for his first contribution. Bigtruck, as many of our readers know, is the owner of a Chrysler 300C. After adding a Jeep Cherokee SRT-8 to his fleet, he decided to attend the SRT Experience and chronicle the event for us. Bigtruck’s not the only reader we’d like to see contributing feature articles, so if you’re interested, please contact us. In the meantime, enjoy a one-hand-on-the-B-pillar romp through Chrysler’s enthusiast event. Naturally, there’s plenty of video! — JB

“SRT” stands for “Street & Racing Technology”. I always assumed it stood for “Street Racing Technology”, but for litigious reasons, “street racing” is something that I’d doubt Chrysler LLC would want to promote.

SRT EXPERIENCE is a driving course designed to acclimate SRT drivers with the extreme handling abilities of their vehicles using tight race courses and slaloms under instructor supervision. My nearest SRT Experience track was in Englishtown NJ, a 56 mile drive from my house in Queens. Fortunately, it was a beautiful day yesterday with calm 80 degree temperatures.

Each course lasts from 8AM – 4:30 PM. Upon arrival, we were given a name badge and an “SRT” branded flash drive. Each car has a Race Keeper digital media recorder which created video on our drives to keep for Facebook or Youtube. We were provided with a full breakfast and lunch with a very NASCARish – country western feel: Hot Dogs, burgers, bacon, eggs and pulled pork among them. Each course segment had their own coolers and snack racks where we could eat chips, cookies, Gatorade or soda on a whim.

There were approximately 40 SRT owners at the event. We marveled at each other’s cars and mods as we arrived in the parking lot. No Vipers… plenty of Chargers, Jeeps and Challengers and 2 other 300SRT just like mine. I’ve never seen that many SRT vehicles in the same place before and the immediate thoughts about “global warming” and “fuel costs” were inevitable.

The cost of the event was $699 for people who just want to try out the cars While this would be good for car reviewing outfits that want to sample all the vehicles at once, it’s quite expensive if you were “considering” buying an SRT instead of a 5.7-L and wanted to test drive the vehicles first. The cost for non-drivers is $150 which is really steep considering they aren’t driving, but I’m sure the cost of feeding them is factored in.

I’d like to see Chrysler offer a discount of the track experience to people who purchased the cars used – perhaps a 50% discount – and perhaps a shorter course (i.e. 10 – 12am).

Included vehicles were:
3 x 2013 Chrysler 300SRT
3 x Dodge Charger SRT/ Super Bee SRT
3 x 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT
3 x Dodge Challenger 392 SRT

The Dodge Viper was NOT included in the experience. A real let down – but understandable considering the price of the car ranges well beyond $100,000. It was available on the road course in the first year, 2005, and I think the first half of the second year, but they lost two or three in that time. One was literally ripped in half when a lady spun it sideways into a barrier. After $200,000 in losses, they restricted them to the autocross portion for a few years. They took them out completely during the production hiatus. Might not bring them back, given the new hard edge they have now – even the autocross course might not be safe.

The first course was two Slalom laps using the Challenger. The objective was to complete it fastest without knocking over cones (2 second penalty per) and coming to a final dead stop in a stop zone. I ran 34 seconds in the first run with 1 cone penalty and 34 seconds in the second run with no penalties. I easy acclimated to the Chargers and the 300 (since I own one), but the Challenger took more getting used to because It felt lighter and abnormally long through the Slalom – probably my least favorite to drive.

The second course was a Drag strip where we had to face off against another driver in the Charger. We were to not only start properly as soon as the tree’s green light hit, but come to a full stop at the end of the drag and then make a turn through into another slalom with a full stop in the pit. I won 3 out of the 4 races.

It was quite funny that the instructors instructed us to drive with hands in the 10-2 position, but I naturally used my right hand on the wheel with left hand holding the window frame to drive – and still did it perfectly. I was so used to driving that way, I even used my turn signal!

After lunch, we went to the main roadway for alternating drives in the 300, Charger, Challenger and Jeeps. We were first instructed how to keep a position behind the instructor – basically following his tracks. We were not allowed to turn off ESC or pass and needed to keep a 3 car length behind the next car.

We recently leased a 2014 JEEP SRT to accompany my 300SRT so we have a second track experience which I’ll have my girlfriend attend. I’d still have to pay $150 to sit with her through the course if I wanted to accompany her. The 2014 JGCSRT SRT was the one product I went to the SRT Experience simultaneously determined to beat on, but absolutely terrified to do so.

I’ve gotten so used to speeding in my sedans that I’m absolutely terrified of speeding in an SUV due to the ride height. There was a lingering fear in my mind that my Jeep SRT joyriding would end in a rollover. It didn’t. The Jeep SRT handles like magic and the suspension does everything it has to in order to stay planted. It’s fast, but the 2010 model seemed faster – partly because it weighed around 500 pounds less. I also preferred the look of the original. In white paint, the 2014 looks more like a Porsche Cayenne than a Chrysler product – wherein the 1st generation model was unmistakable for a “Jeep” at any distance.

The 8 Speed transmission adds just 1 MPG (during Highway-speed heavy driving rather than city) and the electronic shifter STILL SUCKS. I haven’t been happy with the 8-speed since I test drove the Audi A8 – long before the Chryslers got it.

The Jeep offers Launch control with the ability to personally set the RPM meter at which to launch, but just like the Charger, Challenger and 300, the Jeep feels too heavy.

On the street – these cars are monsters… especially when facing down 4-cylinders, and v6 powered econoboxes dominating the roadways, but on a track, these cars are overwhelmed by mass and immense dimensions. The highest speeds we saw (even the pros) were well below 101 mph and pushing them into the 80′s on straights caused us to panic break constantly due to the foresight that stopping these beasts or forcing them to turn once we past 75mph was tremendously hard. Driving behind instructors was a harrowing experience. We were supposed to maintain 3-car length distances, but it was too difficult to accelerate to high speed when the instructor did, stay on his tracks, and then decelerate around turns. I found myself staying 1 car length behind, constantly worried that my pursuer would rear-end me.

At one point, the instructor of a Challenger took a hard skid right off the track, through the grass and into the oncoming lane. He had a young non-driver in the car with him. Had there been an oncoming vehicle, they could have been hit.

I learned plenty about the limitations of the SRT vehicles as I abused them. All of these cars are straight line cruisers only. Even from what I’ve seen of the more attractive Viper SRT, it appears that the new Corvette is more ready for the party.

Overall, my experience at SRT’s track meet was fantastic. Lincoln doesn’t offer a product like this and Cadillac doesn’t offer a program like this for their V-series. Neither Mercedes nor BMW offer these programs either. I’m proud to be a 3-time SRT owner and hopefully the products will continue to improve with aluminum blocks and better fuel economy.

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47 Comments on “Enter The Bigtruck: SRT Experience Reviewed...”


  • avatar

    THANKS, but my first contribution was actually about “not using HELOC to purchase cars” under the name “flashpoint”…

    thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/02/the-truth-about-using-a-heloc-to-buy-a-car/

    I also should mention that SRT EXPERIENCE comes free when you purchase a new SRT. The price is factored into your sticker price and you need only register your VIN.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Gotcha, I didn’t know if you wanted to draw the link between your past and present user names.

      • 0 avatar

        It’s fine. Though so long ago, I doubt anyone but Farago would remember.

        And thanks again for featuring my work!

        • 0 avatar
          romanjetfighter

          I remember! Also, there was food served? Was it worth the $150?

          • 0 avatar

            Breakfast: eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, toast, french toast, coffee, juice

            Lunch: hot dogs, burgers, pulled pork, brownies, cookies, salads, and a bunch of other stuff.

            All you could drink 20-ounce bottled soda, all you could eat cookies, potato chips, pretzels, gatorade.

            Considering the insurance fees and the fees involved with paying staff and replacing brakes, tires and GASOLINE… yeah, I think $150 was a fair price for a non-driver.

            I’m just glad the cost was factored into the new vehicle cause I got my 300 and the Jeep for around $10,000 off MSRP!!!

  • avatar
    danio3834

    I thought really hard about hitting the SRT experience when it was at MIS this past June, but alas I only have the R/T, so I would have had to pay full pop. I decided that $700 can buy a lot of lapping time at local road courses, so I’ll do that instead.

  • avatar
    hf_auto

    Great story, it’s hard to find honest reviews of the SRTs on the track (or thorough reviews in general that go beyond “OMG V8 TORQUE!!! BURNOUTS!!!”). Did all SRTs have the 8 speed, or just the Jeep?

    It’s a little disappointing these cars weren’t better around the track. I was hoping all that SRT magic would result in a car that feels smaller the harder you drive it. This doesn’t really justify the upgrade over a Pentastar 300S to me (I’ve had exactly one stop light race in my life, 12 years ago).

    • 0 avatar

      The only SRT with the 8-speed is the JGCSRT.
      The Challenger is the only SRT with an optional manual 6-speed Tremec.

      The torque and horsepower do make the cars feel lighter, and the steering gives road feedback, but on a track (especially a small track) they are too big and too heavy.

      On highways and boulevards, however, both the cars and Jeep feel like predators.

      One of my friends has a Nissan GT-R. That’s what a “track” car should feel like. That thing could turn a student driver into Mario Andretti. Too small for me, but I fully endorse it!

  • avatar
    highrpm

    Sweet! An article from Bigtruckseries! I’ve enjoyed your comments on this site for years!

  • avatar
    SomeGuy

    Cool article. You read about these things, but not many people actually give details. Appreciate the insight.

  • avatar
    mike978

    Interesting article. You said some companies don`t offer things like this, but I thought BMW did offer a performance day when you buy or lease a car at their Spartenburg, SC facility.

    • 0 avatar

      I haven’t heard of any of the German companies or GM offering a track experience with their vehicles. I’m not sure if Corvettes, V-series, AMG’s, M’s or Audi S offers a free track run with their high performance cars, but till now, SRT is the only group I’ve heard of that offers a full day of track skill development.

      The SRT:E is just like a day of Professional Development at my business. They feed you (quite well), they give you nice keepsakes (video footage, bags, shirts, jackets, etc) and the program forces you to do more than just drive around the track, while allowing you to sit with pros.

      I don’t think any of the Germans sell their high performance cars in numbers high enough to justify a nationwide program like this one. SRT:E is hosted in over 15 states.

      Ultimately, SRT wants to be its own brand – differentiating themselves from Chrysler/Fiat and when you really think about it, there is no competition doing what they do for the prices they do it.

      For just $50,000 – $70,000, you are essentially getting a street-legal “NASCAR” experience. Only problem is:
      these cars belong on the street, rather than the track!

      • 0 avatar
        Brian E

        Saab actually used to offer something like this called Aero Academy at Road Atlanta, which was included in the price of the Aero models. Unfortunately Saab is no more…

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Fiat gives you the exact same thing at the same places when you buy an Abarth – “The Abarth Experience”. So far I have not managed to use mine, hoping there is one early enough in the year next year to do it. I was registered to do one at Englishtown in June or July but work got in the way and I had to cancel.

    • 0 avatar
      Monty

      BMW offers a similar experience for Canadians, but only at The Congress Centre in Toronto. It’s $300 for the intro course, $600 for the advanced course, and a lot more for the M3 course.

      High performance M3 courses are offered through BMW USA at Greenville SC – they’re a minimum of $4600.00 for one day course, but that includes airfare and accommodation, I believe.

      TBH, though, the SRT course sounds like it would be a lot more fun.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    TWO THUMBS UP, BTSR!

  • avatar
    sportsuburbangt

    I did the SRT track experience in 2006 at Lime Rock and 2008 at Englistown. The Lime Rock was amazing, Englishtown was very good. The GC SRT8 was my favorite on the track, initially I thought the same thing about the rolling, but once i got into it i was amazed at the traction and handling. The Viper on the autocross was way over the top. At Englishtown we had the Caliper SRT4 it was not a good as the Neon, but it was fun on the roadcourse.
    BIgTruck was spot on on the event, its run very well and lets you really experience the cars. I had a RamSRT10 from 2007-2008, just a brutal machine, I loved it. My current Magnum RT is perfect for a daily driver, the SRT8 and SRT10 was too over the top for the NYC roads.

    Mother Mopar, you need an SRT4! Build a Dart SRT4 please! The Neon SRT4 was an unbelievable car, if you drove one you would not doubt this statement. The SRT lineup needs a small fast car, the current line up is amazing, I’m a fan, but the line up is not complete. You need a SRT4 350 hp AWD or 290 hp FWD.

    • 0 avatar

      Only a company that built a jet-turbine powered car could come up with the SRT-10. I know a guy with one who drives it and hauls absolutely nothing! It’s a beautiful truck, but gas prices were destined to make it extinct along with the Hummer and Excursion.

      I’ve driven a 400-HP Stage 3 Neon. I’m not sure why Chrysler is taking so long to make the Dart SRT, but I’d like to see one with AWD and more than 300 HP so I could personally destroy BRZ and FRS on video.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Thanks for the POV on this little niche in the manufactures meet enthusiasts world. I had forgotten how many SRT vehicles there are.

  • avatar
    hubcap

    Good review and its nice to know what the SRT vehicles are capable of in that environment. I’m sure I’d have the same reservations about flinging the Jeep around the course. Something that big shouldn’t stick the way it does.

    Other manufacturers do offer similar programs. Here’s a short list.

    BMW – http://www.bmwusa.com/performancecenter#overview

    CADILLAC– http://www.springmountainmotorsports.com/driving-school/cadillac-v-series-academy

    AMG- http://www.amgacademy.com/

    CORVETTE- http://www.springmountainmotorsports.com/driving-schools/corvette-performance-driving-schools

    JAGUAR- http://www.jaguarusa.com/academy/overview/

    AUDI- http://microsites.audiusa.com/ngw/09/experience/driving_experience/

    PORSCHE- https://www.porschedriving.com/Default.aspx

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks for the list Hubcap. I know other companies offer driving programs, but I’ve never seen one this extensive or this wide reaching.

      The prices for BMW alone are ridiculous. $700 and all the way up to $5000 for hotel stays. That’s not part of the buy price.

      • 0 avatar
        dude500

        I think you’re right that only SRT offers the driving program included in the price. I think BMW M used to have it included as a dealer comp, but not specifically as part of the purchase.

        If only all cars came with a driving school (even a Corolla) perhaps we’d be a nation of better drivers.

        Great review BTS!

      • 0 avatar
        buildbright

        I have been to three German driving schools two of which were free. I have also done the SRT experience below is my review of a few.

        BMW gives owners a delivery experience which includes free hotel, breakfast, lunch, and dinner at a wonderful steak house. The driving experience only last till 2pm but is great fun. I did mine after my free European trip thanks to BMWs Euro Delivery program.

        Benz gave me a free one day AMG Driving Academy. Amazing you drive C63′s up to SLS 63 Black series which is over $200,000. One of the best driving schools I have ever been too.

        Porsches we had to pay for but it is another great school with all pro race driving instructors.

        Nissan GTR’s School was free and had our own racing paddock! Best freebies so far I got a $800 custom Arai racing helmet and jacket. We were treated like pro race drivers.

        The SRT driving experience I went to when my dad got his SRT 300 was sorry to say the least comprehensive. It’s more like a glorified autocross. I recommend you checkout some of the other ones I mentioned if you would like a “true driving” experience.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Kudos to Chrysler for continuing to being the “comeback kid” and actually build multiple products with balls. Many larger companies with equally talented folks neutered themselves long ago.

  • avatar
    Adam

    Many thanks from this Dodge Magnum R/T owner for taking all the time and effort to document and describe this event here on TTAC!

    I’ve dreamed of a JGCSRT8 for a few years, and I am currently overseas piling up cash to try and make that a reality.

  • avatar
    CompWizrd

    How old were these instructors that they were still teaching 10-2?

    • 0 avatar

      10-2 is a good position, because these steering wheels are so beefy that it’s very difficult to handle the cars 9-3. I have big hands and I have a hard time with 9-3.

      Also, it prevents the airbag from breaking your wrists if you happen to hit someone!

    • 0 avatar
      number9ine

      Old enough to know that two hands on the wheel means better control. 10 and 2, 9 and 3, doesn’t matter so long as your hands stay on the wheel while you’re driving. Makes sense for street and for track, basically anywhere that the car isn’t tracking relatively straight for miles on end.

      BTSR, thanks for the article, it’s not often we get perspective on a factory-sponsored track day. I have a one-armed friend who is a track junkie and would love to have two hands on his wheel… I’m sure he’d borrow your lefty if you’re not gonna use it. :)

  • avatar
    TOTitan

    Too bad I cant come play with my 335d. With 425 lb ft @ 1750 SRT vehicles are fair game….lol

  • avatar
    Pinzgauer

    This review makes me happy I didn’t buy the Challenger SRT-8 for a number of reasons. Cant wait to go to Boss Track Attack in October.

    • 0 avatar

      The Challenger needs the refresh to uconnect touch with SRT apps like our 2014 Jeep got.

      It’s the only “coupe” with enough space for a family of 5 and any engine you desire – or a MANUAL!!!

      Only other option is the Accord Coupe.

    • 0 avatar
      JoeBOSS

      You will have a BLAST! BOSS Track Attack was sooooo fun. I went July 2012. All day on a real race track with professional drivers teaching you, and then letting you have at it after the training. All done in their BOSS 302s (roll cages had been added for safty reasons). If that wasn’t enough the pro drivers take the wheel at the end of the day and really show you what the car can do! AMAZING!!!

      I think more companies need to start doing things like this to help people learn more about the capabilities of their cars, and to learn to respect the power they have with their vehicle.

      Good read thanks for the write up!

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Queens represent!!! Rosedale on the roll call

  • avatar
    Monty

    Thanks for the great post! It’s very exciting to see contributions from the B&B – and this is an excellent review, without your usual commenting hyperbole. Well done sir. I would like to see more from you on this site in the future.

    I would add, though, that I would like compare my E92 with it’s twin turbo I6 against your 300SRT – that would be a hoot! Unfortunately, I won’t be driving to the NYC area anytime soon. Maybe someday, though.

  • avatar
    highdesertcat

    Great article! Loved it!

    My oldest son sure loves his 2012 All-Black JGC SRT8 but he never went to any SRT EXPERIENCE driving course.

    It’s his daily driver in Southern California and intimidating as all hell for those mini rice grinders and econoboxes most commuters use there.

    Extreme? Yes. He sure had me screaming like a little girl when he took me four-wheel drifting around a nearby dirt track.

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    I was liked the “driving one handed” comment. Ayrton Senna was known for doing that because back in the day his McLaren-Honda F1 car was a stick shift. He would drive it through the chicane at Monaco in the rain with one hand on the wheel and one on the shifter. That car had over 1000 HP…
    Oh! And a great read!

  • avatar
    Dimwit

    BTSR: what about the shifter didn’t you like? Was it the tranny itself or just the shifter?

    • 0 avatar

      #1. The 8-speed shifter has very soft detents and you cannot instinctively shift without looking like you could on any of the dozens of automatic or manual cars you’ve ever driven. This is a shifter for the digital age and belongs on an EV.

      #2. With sufficient upwards force or pull, it pops right off! Same in the Audi A8.

      #3 neither the 5 nor 8 speed have a manumatic lockout for either stick or paddles. It’s too easy to activate by accident.

      I find myself using the paddles more to compensate for the computer dropping into low gears and power delivery being cut.


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