C/D Road Test - 2005 Chrysler 300C SRT-8

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, May 12, 2005.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    In baseball talk, this car would be facing a senate subcommittee inquiry.

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    BY TONY QUIROGA
    PHOTOGRAPHY BY KEVIN WING
    June 2005

    Chrysler's 300C SRT8 is the car we thought the American auto industry would not build again. After the muscle-car era, U.S. automakers relinquished the high-performance family-sedan formula to the Germans (who added refinement but charged elitist prices) and Japanese (who charged a little less than the Germans but somehow sterilized the whole thing).

    On occasion, the home industry was good for the affordable yet unrefined eye-opener that temporarily salved our pain—to name a few, the Buick Grand National and GNX, the Chevrolet Impala SS, and the Ford Taurus SHO. Those vehicles offered performance and price but lacked the refinement of the import brands. For 2004, Cadillac gave us the 400-hp CTS-V that matched the performance and refinement of the über-sedans, but at $51,485, GM charges fully for it.

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    What makes the SRT8 version of Chrysler's 300C exceptional is that it's the first sedan from anyone, anywhere, to combine the refinement and performance of the pricey supersedans with a sticker of $42,095, no incentive necessary. It's something the U.S. auto industry should have done long ago, but it was worth the wait.


    Without the 10Best-winning 340-hp 300C, which probably wouldn't have gestated in its current form had it not been for the Mercedes merger, SRT (Street and Racing Technology) director Dan Knott would not have had such a superb starting point on which to perform the modifications necessary to make the car into something worthy of SRT badging. For those whose free time is completely taken up by reruns of VH1's Strange Love, the SRT division of Chrysler and Dodge is akin to Mercedes-Benz's AMG and BMW's M division in that they take regular production cars and up the ante until they have about 50 more horsepower than you'd expect.

    In the case of the 300C SRT8, the enhanced engine makes 425 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque from a bored-out, high-compression-ratio 6.1-liter version of the corporate 5.7-liter Hemi V-8. Tricks such as variable valve timing or a multistage intake manifold are not present. New stuff includes just a single hot camshaft sitting in the block, 16 lightened valves, and a forged crankshaft that allows the large V-8 to spin to a melodic 6400 rpm. The torque peak arrives at 4800 rpm. That may sound high for an engine this big, but the copious displacement means enough torque is available off idle to put the limited-slip differential to good use. Compared with the 5.7-liter it's based on, the 6.1-liter feels sportier and, oddly, smaller because of its penchant for high revs.

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    An eager five-speed automatic modified by SRT provides immediate upshifts and downshifts and is a terrific partner to the 6.1-liter. Full-throttle shifts at the redline are accompanied by an explosive sonic boom from the exhaust. Back off the throttle, and the sound becomes mellow and unobtrusive.
    At 70 mph we measured 69 dBA of noise, but you don't hear the engine as much as you hear the wind rushing around the brick-like body and the hum of the wide tires. Following the logic of AMG's offerings, the German automaker's American operations do not offer a clutch pedal. Manual transmissions in sedans this large and with this much power somehow feel out of place and too often suffer from high efforts that make them difficult to drive smoothly.

    The SRT8 is a big sedan with 56 cubic feet of front passenger space and 51 in the rear. It isn't light at 4212 pounds, but at just below 10 pounds per horsepower the SRT8 will bust through 60 mph in 4.7 seconds on its way to a 13.2-second quarter-mile at 109 mph. If the SRT8 had been included in the "Executive Adrenalators" comparison [C/D, November 2004], it would have been less expensive and offered more sheetmetal and its acceleration would have been at the top of the heap. The SRT8's ungoverned top speed of 173 mph also would have placed it on top and is especially startling when you consider the block-like drag coefficient of 0.36 and the garage-door-sized frontal area of 25.8 square feet. Better yet, the SRT8 outpaces the ungoverned CTS-V by 12 mph and all AMG products (which are governed at 155 mph) by 18 mph. Academic for sure, but if you paid more for those other cars, you'd definitely want the bragging rights.

    The weight of the SRT8 is also effectively hidden by suspension changes that lower and stiffen the chassis.
    Striking 20-inch wheels that look nearly big enough to double as turbofan blades on a Boeing 777-200LR are wrapped by uncompromised Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar tires that adhere to the skidpad to the tune of 0.89 g. For those who don't want to buy new wheels and snow tires (you'd have to buy new wheels if you wanted snows, since a 20-inch snow tire doesn't exist at the moment), Chrysler will equip the SRT8 with all-season Goodyear RS-As that might have a better chance of getting you out of a snowy driveway. The tire sizes are staggered—smaller 245/45R-20 fronts and slightly larger 255/45R-20 rears—and on a dry, tight handling course there is some initial understeer, but it's easily canceled by a quick crack of the throttle. Steering feel isn't quite as award-worthy as the rest of the chassis. The power-assisted rack-and-pinion setup is predictable and never surprises, but it lacks the feedback you want in a car so willing to defy centripetal forces.

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    Standard on the SRT8 is a specially tuned stability-control system that allows for more slipping and sliding than the regular 300C's more intrusive system. As with Mercedes products, pushing the stability button on the dash doesn't completely disable the control system, but you'll be permitted even more freedom before the system finally intervenes. With the button pushed, hanging the tail out for those Dukes of Hazzard moments is as easy as cranking the steering wheel and matting the accelerator—Yee-haw!

    The Duke boys might appreciate the stiff ride of the SRT8, but if you're looking for a supple ride, the regular-strength 300C may be more your speed. In the SRT version you and your passengers will experience more bucking than Travolta did in Urban Cowboy. The dubs, the low-profile tires, and the firmer suspension increase the grip but degrade the ride over less than glassy pavement. Fortunately, even the harshest impacts don't elicit quivers from the unyielding unibody. The strong structure imparts the SRT8 with a feeling of refinement and serenity that rivals that of sedans from das Vaterland.

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    The brakes are also up there with the finest from the autobahn nation. Stops from 70 mph take only 162 feet of real estate, and these brakes do so over and over again with no sign of fade.
    The front rotors measure 14.2 inches, and the rears are 13.8 inches tall, with four-piston calipers doing the clamping at every corner. Despite the SRT8's remarkable braking performance at the track, after the car returned from testing, the brake-pedal feel became a bit spongy, requiring more travel than we like before biting down.

    What doesn't quite measure up to more expensive sedans is the interior of the SRT8. On the plus side there are new pseudo-suede and leather front seats that look like Viper seats let out between the bolsters. The chairs are supportive, and the wider size will fit big-and-tall shoppers with ease. An easy-to-use optional navigation system kept us from getting lost whenever we became disoriented by the SRT8's acceleration. The nav system is part of a $1965 package that includes an upgraded and crisp-sounding stereo with Sirius satellite radio. Metallic trim adorns the center console and doors, but it doesn't change the plastic-filled cabin to the extent that the rest of the modifications alter the character of the car. Some might call the interior understated, and it is certainly not an unpleasant place to spend time—it's just a bit dull in light of the stellar performance.

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    DaimlerChrysler must certainly recognize the greatness and appeal of the 300C SRT8 as it will soon be joined by SRT8 versions of the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Charger and Magnum. Right now, the only other car selling in the low 40s that approaches the joy we get from the Chrysler is the lightweight, uncompromised Lotus Elise. Obviously, the two cars couldn't be more different. So why do we want both of them in our garage so badly? Because in both cases a Ferrari-like devotion to driver happiness is the reason they exist, and no one does it as well for the money.

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    THE VERDICT - Chrysler 300C SRT8

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    Highs: Performance shames that of most sports cars, $42,095 base price, machine-gun exhaust note, Porsche-grade stopping distances, room for five.

    Lows: Acres of gray plastic inside, choppy bad-road ride, spongy brake-pedal feel.

    The Verdict: AMG-like performance, Mercedes-like refinement—at a Chrysler price.


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    COUNTERPOINT

    RON KIINO
    You can call the 300C SRT8 a poor man's Mercedes E55 AMG or a four-door Dodge Viper, but I just call it impressive. With a base price of about 42 large, the SRT8 runs right with a Cadillac CTS-V (about 10 grand more) and not too far behind a Corvette. Chrysler has built a true four-door American muscle car here—for pity's sake, it's a 4212-pound brick that can hit 173 mph! Perhaps more impressive is that from 70 to 0, it halts those two-plus tons in a fade-free 162 feet. This thing can stop and go better than LeBron. And it's got mad street cred, thanks to jet-fan dubs, Bentley-esque styling, and a lowered stance. As Chick Hearn used to say, "Slam dunk!"

    DAVE VANDERWERP
    The folks at Chrysler's SRT had better be careful. I doubt their German bosses paid much attention when the econobox Neon was turbocharged to within an inch of its life or when a Dodge Ram pickup truck was endowed with 500 horses. But now SRT has struck on something a bit dearer to those bosses' hearts—the Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG. At 4.7 seconds, the 300C SRT8 is just 0.4 second slower to 60 mph. However, the SRT8 outstops the E55 by 11 feet from 70 mph and outgrips it on the skidpad. The SRT8 is also more involving to drive and less like a tool for speed. One last detail: It costs $40,000 less than the Benz. Uh-oh.

    TONY SWAN
    What a brute. The steering is nothing if not manly. The ride quality is just this side of Fred Flintstone. The interior décor is distinctly austere for a $42,095 car. I mutter about these demerits as I rumble around Michigan's battered byways. Then I tramp on the gas, and—vroom!—a half-mile disappears before a sense of license preservation sets in. I repeated this process regularly during my travels with the SRT8 and emerged with the same conclusion every time: Horsepower is good. More horsepower is better. Not to mention habit-forming. As a child of the muscle-car era, I suppose I subscribe to the foregoing more than most. But I also suppose no one is immune.

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    CHRYSLER 300C SRT8

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    Vehicle type: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan

    Price as tested: $45,450

    Price and option breakdown: base Chrysler 300C SRT8 (includes $625 freight and $2100 gas-guzzler tax), $42,095; SRT Option Group II (includes navigation system, in-dash 6-CD changer with MP3 capability, Sirius satellite radio), $1965; power sunroof, $950; SRT Option Group I (consists of curtain airbags, cabin air-filtering system), $440

    Major standard accessories: power windows, seats, and locks; remote locking; A/C; cruise control; tilting and telescoping steering wheel; rear defroster

    Sound system: Chrysler/Boston Acoustics AM-FM-satellite radio/cassette/CD changer, 7 speakers

    ENGINE
    Type: V-8, iron block and aluminum heads
    Bore x stroke: 4.06 x 3.58 in, 103.0 x 90.9mm
    Displacement: 370 cu in, 6059cc
    Compression ratio: 10.3:1
    Fuel-delivery system: port injection
    Valve gear: pushrods, 2 valves per cylinder, hydraulic lifters
    Power (SAE net): 425 bhp @ 6200 rpm
    Torque (SAE net): 420 lb-ft @ 4800 rpm
    Redline: 6400 rpm


    DRIVETRAIN
    Transmission: 5-speed automatic with manumatic shifting
    Final-drive ratio: 3.06:1, limited slip
    Gear, Ratio, Mph/1000 rpm, Max test speed
    I, 3.59, 7.5, 48 mph (6400 rpm)
    II, 2.19, 12.3, 79 mph (6400 rpm)
    III, 1.41, 19.2, 123 mph (6400 rpm)
    IV, 1.00, 27.0, 173 mph (6400 rpm)
    V, 0.83, 32.6, 172 mph (5300 rpm)

    DIMENSIONS
    Wheelbase: 120.0 in
    Track, front/rear: 63.0/63.1 in
    Length/width/height: 196.8/74.1/57.9 in
    Ground clearance: 5.1 in
    Drag area, Cd (0.36) x frontal area (25.8 sq ft, est): 9.3 sq ft
    Curb weight: 4212 lb
    Weight distribution, F/R: 55.2/44.8%

    Curb weight per horsepower: 9.9 lb
    Fuel capacity: 19.0 gal

    CHASSIS/BODY
    Type: unit construction
    Body material: welded steel stampings

    INTERIOR
    SAE volume, front seat: 56 cu ft
    rear seat: 51 cu ft
    luggage: 16 cu ft
    Front-seat adjustments: fore-and-aft, seatback angle, front height, rear height, lumbar support
    Restraint systems, front: manual 3-point belts; driver and passenger front, side, and curtain airbags
    rear: manual 3-point belts, curtain airbags

    SUSPENSION
    Front: ind; 1 upper control arm, 1 lateral link, and 1 diagonal link per side; coil springs; anti-roll bar
    Rear: ind; 2 lateral links, 1 diagonal link, and 1 toe-control link per side; coil springs; anti-roll bar

    STEERING
    Type: rack-and-pinion with hydraulic power assist
    Steering ratio: 16.1:1
    Turns lock-to-lock: 2.8
    Turning circle curb-to-curb: 38.9 ft

    BRAKES
    Type: hydraulic with vacuum power assist, anti-lock control,
    brake assist, and stability control
    Front: 14.2 x 1.3-in vented disc
    Rear: 13.8 x 1.1-in vented disc


    WHEELS AND TIRES
    Wheel size/type: 9.0 x 20 in/cast aluminum
    Tires: Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar; F: 245/45ZR-20 99Y,
    R: 255/45ZR-20 101Y
    Test inflation pressures, F/R: 32/32 psi
    Spare: none

    C/D TEST RESULTS

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    ACCELERATION Seconds
    Zero to 30 mph: 1.9
    40 mph: 2.7
    50 mph: 3.6
    60 mph: 4.7
    70 mph: 5.9
    80 mph: 7.4
    90 mph: 9.2
    100 mph: 11.2
    110 mph: 13.3
    120 mph: 15.9
    130 mph: 20.0
    140 mph: 24.7
    150 mph: 30.7
    Street start, 5-60 mph: 4.9
    Top-gear acceleration, 30-50 mph: 2.7
    50-70 mph: 3.0
    Standing 1/4-mile: 13.2 sec @ 109 mph
    Top speed (redline limited): 173 mph


    BRAKING
    70-0 mph @ impending lockup: 162 ft

    HANDLING
    Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.89 g
    Understeer: minimal


    FUEL ECONOMY
    EPA city driving: 14 mpg
    EPA highway driving: 19 mpg
    C/D-observed: 14 mpg

    INTERIOR SOUND LEVEL
    Idle: 50 dBA
    Full-throttle acceleration: 76 dBA
    70-mph cruising: 69 dBA

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  2. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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  3. anjego

    anjego Invading your economy!

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    :cool:

    although i'd still prefer a CTS-V
     
  4. erobbins

    erobbins Active Member

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    so awesome :bowdown:
     
  5. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    I'd rather have the SRT, and I'm a GM guy.
     
  6. Bobby Ballsack

    Bobby Ballsack I could be a friend to you

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    I read that article while caking the can last night. I want one. A lot.
     
  7. zatar

    zatar New Member

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    Out of my price range, but very nice. :cool:
     
  8. Layman

    Layman New Member

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    Agreed.
     
  9. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    SRT Charger and Magnum will be even cheaper. :bigok:
     
  10. HandgunFantasy

    HandgunFantasy My purity you stole.

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    that thing got a HEMI?!?!?!?!?!11
     
  11. matrix243

    matrix243 Earn this. Earn it.

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    your really horny for them aren't you?
     
  12. SaintGRW

    SaintGRW OT Supporter

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  13. SaintGRW

    SaintGRW OT Supporter

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    DC > *
     
  14. ParTyBoy

    ParTyBoy New Member

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    Great looks on the exterior, but the interior still looks like a cheap piece of shit.. especially the center dash area..
     
  15. Layman

    Layman New Member

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    Yeah - the Charger looks pretty sweet.

    Gas costs would be insane, though. Sucks. American companies finally got it right just as gas prices make their cool cars too expensive to run.
     
  16. pixel804

    pixel804 yabba dabba do

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    IB bangwagon haters saying no stick no care
     
  17. SlowNegative

    SlowNegative Her name is Rio

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    Crazy quick for the price. With some weight reduction, it would be a beast on the track.
     
  18. Pro-X

    Pro-X New Member

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    For 2004, Cadillac gave us the 400-hp CTS-V that matched the performance and refinement of the über-sedans, but at $51,485, GM charges fully for it.

    You get what you pay for...
     
  19. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    It gets over 20 on the highway (according to the owners), really pretty good considering the monster under the hood and the weight.
     
  20. WickedLou9

    WickedLou9 Deep cover terrorist gerbil

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    45K is not exactly a bargain. :hs: why do they think that is "Cheap"

    a corvette costs about that much
     
  21. AJF GTO

    AJF GTO OT Supporter

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    Really nice, but I have my doubts about that car hitting 173.
     
  22. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    The SRT has a much nicer interior than the V does, and the V suffers from incredibe, diff eating wheelhop. The phrase is not true in this case.
     
  23. matrix243

    matrix243 Earn this. Earn it.

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    :mamoru:
     
  24. BLoG

    BLoG Scented Meat

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    Trishield is switching over to being a mopar guy before GM goes under :o :mamoru:
     
  25. BLoG

    BLoG Scented Meat

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    Damn, the cadillac has that crappy of an interior? :(
     

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