What’s this SRT badge about? I thought the Hemi was the hot one.
SRT, or ‘street and racing technologies’ is Chrysler’s answer to BMW’s M, Merc’s AMG and Audi’s RS monikers. Big power, big wheels and big attitude; that's what it's all about. But you're right, the original 50's and 60's Hemis were the top dogs in their day and it seems a shame that Chrysler has squandered the badge's reverie by plastering on every mid-spec car in its portfolio.
Calm down and tell us what's so special about this 300C
The big news is under the bonnet. The regular Hemi engine is reamed out from 5.7 to 6.1-litres, gets a hike in compression ratio, reworked cylinder heads with bigger valves, a lumpier cam and new inlet and exhaust manifolds. Chrysler has even borrowed from famous Hemis past, painting the block orange and the rocker covers black though neither has much to do with the 425bhp and 420lb ft totals, up from 340bhp and 387lb ft for the regular Hemi. It's rear-wheel drive of course and linked to a five-speed auto box. You can waggle the stick from left to right in Drive to change up and down the ratios but there are no gearshift paddles.
So what'll it do down the quarter?
High thirteens apparently, which is about the same as an original Hemi Cuda managed in 1970. For those of us living in the 21st century, the relavant figures for the SRT-8 are 5.0sec to 60mph and a top end of 168mph. Not exactly slow then.
But can it keep up with the Europeans in the curves?
Don't be daft. Underneath the 13mm lower body is a set of special bilstein dampers, uprated anti-roll bars and four 20-inch forged alumninium rims. So its no wallowing mess, but it still lacks the precision of an M-car and feels every inch the 1965kg behemoth that it is. It can be hustled along at a fair lick but it's natural pace is more moderate, it's natural environment higher speed A-road and motorway stuff when you can sink the throttle past the final detent, kick down two gears and blast past the dawdlers terrified at the truck-like shape that's been looming in their rear-view mirror.
Ok, but if I'm going to cruise I need a suitably cool cabin.
Consider it done. The Main dashboard is pretty Korean in look and feel and the upright driving position and near vertical window makes for an interesting ambience but the huge SRT8-specific sports seats are comfortable for long journeys. The kit count is pretty extensive and the Boston Acoustics hi-fi deserves a special mention. And if passers by don't notice the noise they'll probably notice the chunkier bumpers and rear spoiler (both supposedly more than cosmetic).
So what's it cost?
It's available now for £39,040. Which, given the performance, is pretty spectacular value for money. You'd need to spend an awful lot more money to find anything made in Europe of a similar size and offering so much punch. But every time you glance back at the interior plastics or aim it down a twisty B-road you're reminded of the cost difference.
If you like the in-yer-face styling of the 300C then you might as well have some in-yer-face performance to go with it. And you'd have to go for the gangster black paint over this sensible metaliic grey. The SRT-8 is amusingly quick, fun to drive, if hardly in the sophistacted manner of a European performance saloon, and brimming with character. It's this last quality that will find it friends but for most of us the diesel 300C offers almost as much performance, style and silliness for a lot less outlay.