The Truth About Cars » srt-8 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 16 Jul 2014 16:33:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » srt-8 Enter The Bigtruck: SRT Experience Reviewed Mon, 19 Aug 2013 13:00:55 +0000 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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Review: 2010 Chrysler 300C SRT-8 Take Final Tue, 07 Sep 2010 17:40:42 +0000

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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Review: 2010 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT-8 Mon, 05 Jul 2010 15:05:10 +0000

Behold the mighty off-road prowess of the Grand Cherokee SRT-8! Yes, my ratty-looking lawn is about as far off-road as most JGCs ever go. The 2011 Grand Cherokee even offers a couple of optimized drivetrain-and-suspension setups for those people who, as the nice Jeep PR man said during the introduction, “only go off-road… in their minds.”

The autojourno business is an odd one. Your not-so-humble author was one of the first people to have the chance to drive the 2011 JGC anywhere, and also very possibly the last journo on the planet to obtain a 2010 Grand Cherokee as a press vehicle. I’d like to think that, at the moment I achieved 88 miles per hour in the 2011 truck, I went back in time and successfully snagged a 2010 as a loaner.

There’s no SRT-8 in the 2011 lineup, although I strongly suspect there will be one debuting later on in the year, so if you want the combination of big-cube HEMI and Brembo brakes in your SUV, this is your only choice for now. The question is: with the demonstrated excellence of the new model, is there any reason at all to choose a 2010?

If you’ve just stepped out of the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee, stepping into the 2010 will shock you. The ergonomics are all wrong — at least, they are for me at 6’2″, 225lbs, and a 48 Long suit size — and the steering wheel seems to sit in one’s lap. The rear seat is cramped, as was the case in all Grand Cherokees prior to the new model, and the general state of trim quality seems a bit low for a $49,000 vehicle (as tested). I compared this back-to-back with my Ford Flex Limited and Audi S5; the Jeep comes in a distant third for interior ambiance. The dashboard and center stack, in particular, aren’t up to the standards of the class.

The instrument panel itself has a few nice surprises. It’s well-trimmed, with convincing chrome rings and two high-resolution two-line LCD displays. One of those displays can be configured on-the-fly to record g-force in four directions and time to distance for braking and acceleration. Set the display for 0-60, apply the brake, use the throttle to strain the big HEMI against the four big red Brembo brakes to the tune of 2200rpm or so, and release the brake when the light turns green. Instant no-hassle 5.0-second 0-60, with passengers, just about perfect, every time. If that sounds slow by magazine standards, don’t be fooled. Most exotic cars struggle to break five seconds to sixty in the real world, on dirty roads, with a slight curve or hill thrown in. The SRT-8 is extremely quick.

I find the first-to-second shift performed by the Mercedes-sourced WA580 transmission particularly charming. There’s a very brief ignition cutout during the shift, which happens with almost DSG speed, and when the ignition switches back on there’s a wonderful “brap” as the motor re-fires as the new, lower rev level. It’s pretty much the same thing you get with a PDK-equipped Porsche or a Nissan GT-R.

Both of those cars, by the way, will need to stay on their toes around the SRT-8. A normally-aspirated 911 won’t keep up with this truck from a slow roll, and the Grand Cherokee is capable of stealing a car length or two on a GT-R until the turbos really wake up. The 6.1-liter V8 may drink fuel at a rate that seems astonishing by modern standards — I recorded 15.5 average on the freeway and 10-11 during my two-lane commute, about which more in a moment — but it does the business in a straight line.

My current daily commute takes me about 108 miles from my front door to the garage at Switzer Performance. About thirty-five miles of that happens on Ohio two-lanes in “Amish country”. The roads are marked 55 and 65, but the traffic commonly crawls at 35 to 50, slowed down by tanker trucks struggling on hills and the desperate, rural poor in death-rattling old Cavaliers, trying to make it to work or their crystal-meth lab. In these situations, every possible pass has to be made, every time, no exceptions, no waiting. The difference between making every pass and waiting behind traffic is, literally, ninety minutes of commuting time every day.

Not every car is perfectly suited for this. My Boxster S is absolutely lousy, since I can’t see around the pickup trucks and it requires snagging second gear to step out with alacrity from behind the traffic. My S5 is better, since it has torque. A GT-R is better still, since it requires less space. Best of all is the Grand Cherokee SRT-8. The infamous “high and mighty” view, toned-down a touch by the low suspension, allows me to see the pass. The HEMI allows me to make the pass, and the Brembos allow me a solid haul-down back into the traffic line if I can’t snag everybody in one run. No, the Brembos probably aren’t enough for track work, since this truck weighs 5300 pounds, but for wiping off fifty or sixty miles per hour in a single press, they are spectacular.

The only fly in this back-road ointment is, regrettably, the SRT-8′s solid rear axle. Not all SRA cars are terrifying on rough roads — see “Ford Mustang, post-2005″ for an example of one that’s more than okay — but the Jeep’s weight, size, and rollover point combine to obtain one’s full attention when hitting potholes, pavement waves, or uneven patching. At full speed, the back end will step out, and the stability control seems to have little to say about it. After a few all-hands-on-deck episodes, I learned to be very careful about applying full throttle on broken pavement. The new SRT-8, when it arrives, won’t suffer from that problem.

Let’s tally up the pros and cons of buying a 2010 SRT-8. Pros: you can buy one now. You can get a hell of a deal. They retain their value in the used market and are likely to do so. It’s fast. It’s comfy enough for front-seaters. Cons: the new one is better in every single way, it will probably have more power, and your children/parents/other rear-seat denizens will thank you profusely.

Speaking personally, I’d wait for the 2011. If you want a truck now, then the SRT-8 makes a solid case for itself. You won’t go faster for less money in a truck, and you won’t really go much faster for two or three times the price. The mechanicals are well-proven, and you won’t have a hard time selling it. I wouldn’t blame you for pulling the trigger today, but don’t blame me when you see that the next one is far, far better, okay?

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Trackday Diaries: OSB, ESP, SRT. Mon, 14 Jun 2010 23:10:18 +0000

OSB. “Other Sports Beckon”. It’s what Skip Barber instructors reportedly used to write on the report cards of utterly feckless driving students. While the phrase may be long gone, the attitude persists among the instructing community that some people just shouldn’t be in the car. I often hear instructors at various events talking about just how horrible/dangerous/contemptible their students are. That’s not right. We are supposed to be coaching the driver to his or her best possible performance, not humiliating them by listing their flaws.

With that said, some drivers present an active danger to themselves, and to their instructors, on the racetrack. I’ve come up with a few guidelines to keep you, the reader, from becoming one of those people, should you decide to give this open-track business a whirl.

Do some reading. Everyone — and I mean everyone — who wants to set foot on a race track should read Speed Secrets by Ross Bentley. It will cost you ten bucks and possibly save your life. Read it. There will be parts about which you do not care, like the sections on passing during a race and all the parts where Ross complains about his Champ Car being a piece of junk. That’s okay. Read the whole thing. You may not understand it all. In that case, find your instructor before your first track session and ask him. Or you can contact me, personally, using the contact form at TTAC.

Practice the three phases of a corner on the street. The three phases of a corner are: brake, turn, accelerate. We don’t mix them on the racetrack unless we are working to do something very specific with the car’s balance. Practice getting all of your braking done before you turn the wheel into a corner. Don’t accelerate until your steering wheel is straightening out. In the middle of the turn, hold the throttle steady. Do it until it’s a habit. Do you want to kill yourself on a racetrack? The easiest way to do it is to steer and brake at the same time.

Learn to heel and toe, or don’t. It’s okay if you cannot heel and toe. If you cannot, we will keep you in fourth gear for the whole track. Don’t laugh. I did five full trackdays in fourth gear only when I started out. If you complain that you want to shift to “go faster”, I will explain to you that, of the forty-five seconds separating you and me around a racetrack per lap, only two of them are due to gear selection.

This is a race you cannot win. Because it isn’t a race. It’s an open lapping day. I know you will forget this. I know you want to pass people. That’s fine. If you listen to me, you will at least pass the students who ignore their instructors. Then you’ll “win”. Kind of.

Leave your friends, your significant other, and your camera at home. You cannot impress them. All street cars look slow on a racetrack. And you might kill yourself in the attempt. They can come to your first race, and you can then drive into the sand trap on Lap One because you’re so nervous about your friends being at the track.

The above is what I would tell people if they asked me about being prepared for the racetrack. However, they never do. They ask me which car they should buy/borrow/rent and bring. It doesn’t really matter. You will be slow on your first weekend, no matter if you have a Citation or a Corvette ZR1. So don’t worry about it.

That hasn’t satisfied you. You want to know what you should bring. Okay. The most important thing to do is to bring a “stock” car. Slower is better. The guy who spends all day lapping in a rented Camry finishes the day as a better driver than the one who missed two sessions fixing boost issues with his AMS Mitsubishi Evolution 1000XXX. If I could issue a car to every new trackday driver, it would probably be a four-cylinder Accord. They rarely break and you can learn a lot from the feedback provided by the controls.

I’d like you to have ESP/PSM/DSC/whatever. Some people absolutely panic and do the wrong thing on a racetrack. Normally, it’s a bad combination of brake and steering, often in the middle of a turn. ESP can sort that out most of the time. A bad driver “drives on the system”, continually overcooking into turns and brake-steering his way out with all four calipers chattering overtime from the stability system. Don’t be that guy. Use ESP as a safety net, not a crutch. Your instructor will show you how.

Some cars are exceptionally tough to learn with. My student yesterday had a Challenger SRT-8. Big, fast, two-ton cars present a lot of problems for instructors. The brakes fade without warning. The available power upsets the car and engages ESP at the slightest throttle misstep. It’s far too easy to arrive at the next corner at a deadly speed, and the student doesn’t always understand why I feel he is entering the corner too quickly.

By the end of the day, Mr. Challenger was doing just fine, but we spent two of our available four sessions fixing problems mostly brought about by the availability of 425 horsepower in the middle of a slow corner. Had he brought a Chevrolet Cobalt LS, he’d have finished the day a better driver.

I finished my day by driving the five-hundred-something miles home, arriving at 3am. In a few days I’ll be driving at a Grand-Am test day. Driving against the guys you see on Speed TV can be a bit scary. One time last year, during a Koni race, I had a GS-class Porsche run me off the end of the Climbing Esses at VIR. It was somebody I’d cheered on while watching World Challenge races. To this day, although I know I was in the right in that situation, I feel bad about it.

I thought a lot about my test day on the drive home. Long trips alone will make you think. I’m not always sure where I’m going, or why. There’s one thing I do know. For me, this is the sport that beckons.

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