The performance cars of Chrysler's SRT (Street and Racing Technology) division July 7, 2005 Story and photos by Paul Williams Mont Tremblant, Quebec - Formed in 2002 and first applied to the Dodge Viper SRT-10 for 2003, the acronym "SRT" (Street and Racing Technology) has quickly acquired a life of its own in DaimlerChrysler's model line-up (it supersedes the former Performance Vehicle Operations, or PVO group). DaimlerChrysler is diverting five per cent of its production to any vehicle wearing the SRT badge. "We're now seeing SRT as a brand," explains Mike Accaviti, Vice President of Marketing for DaimlerChrysler Canada. "The focus is on five SRT cues: powertrain, ride and handling, braking, exterior and interior appointments. "The goal," he continues, "is to produce the ultimate performance vehicle from DaimlerChrysler - an SRT." To get a better idea of what the SRT badge means on the road and on the track, DaimlerChrysler Canada recently assembled examples of all its SRT vehicles, including the soon-to-be-released Dodge Viper SRT-10 Coupe, Dodge Charger SRT-8 and Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT-8, at the Mont Tremblant racetrack, midway between Ottawa and Montreal. Along for the ride (and providing valued pointers to the invited press) were a team of professional race drivers including Richard Spenard and Claude Bourbonnais. And in an ironic twist, just to make the point that these cars can also haul in a straight line, DaimlerChrysler commandeered the 6,000-foot runway at Mont Tremblant International Airport (Canada's smallest international airport) for dragstrip-style standing starts. Although the Viper SRT-10 Coupe, Charger SRT-8 and the surprisingly striking Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT-8 were only available for photography, journalists were able to drive the Dodge SRT-4, Chrysler Crossfire SRT-6, Dodge Magnum and Chrysler 300 SRT-8, Dodge Ram SRT-10 and Dodge Viper SRT-10. Here are some impressions 2005 Dodge SRT-4 "First and foremost, the SRT-4 is a car created by tuners for the tuner market," says Mr. Accavitti. Second only to the Dodge Viper in the Dodge car line-up (0-100 km/h in an estimated 5.9 seconds, according to DaimlerChrysler), the SRT-4 is kind of a front-drive mini-NASCAR. Generating 230 horsepower and 250 foot-pounds of torque from its turbocharged 2.4-litre, 16-valve, double overhead camshaft four-cylinder engine, the SRT-4 puts power to the ground through a T850 five-speed transaxle and limited slip differential (designed in conjunction with Quaife). A high performance suspension and race-style seats with suede inserts (all SRT vehicles use suede inserts to prevent the driver from sliding in tight cornering manoeuvres) complete the package. This was a popular car at the Mont Tremblant event, with novice and experienced drivers enjoying its nimble handling and lusty acceleration. The brakes were effective at quickly bringing the car down from speeds that approached 180 km/h. The seats were particularly notable for keeping the driver in place around the tight Tremblant corners. The Dodge SRT-4 retails for $27,490 plus $1,000 destination charges. 2005 Chrysler Crossfire SRT-6 This car is available in coupe and roadster, and seems somehow too artistic a creation to lock horns with its Dodge relatives. But it's got a hand-built, supercharged 3.2L V6 engine that makes 330 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque, and superb handling from its rear-drive chassis and performance-tuned suspension. Braking is also enhanced with 330 millimetre (front) and 300 mm (rear) ventilated disc brakes with dual piston callipers. The 15-spoke wheels are SRT-6-specific - 18" in the front and 19" in the rear. The SRT-6 runs from 0-160 km/h-0 in 16 seconds and has an electronically governed top speed of 254 km/h. This is a surprising car to drive - far quicker off the line than you'd expect and very stable. Power comes on early, but at around 5,000 rpm the SRT-6 gets a second wind that propels you forward yet again. The exhaust note is deeper and sportier than you typically hear from V6 engines (it has dual, centre-mounted exhaust outlets). Chrysler has held several events to demonstrate the Crossfire's performance driving ability (the dazzling looks perhaps get most of the attention). Like the standard Crossfire, the SRT-6 version is no poseur. On the track it's a genuine sports car; on the road it's elegant and urbane. The 2005 Chrysler Crossfire SRT-8 Coupe retails for $64,075, and the Roadster retails for $67,925 (plus $1,400 destination charges). 2005 Chrysler 300C SRT-8 After reviving and redefining the full-size North American car, you might wonder what Chrysler has up its sleeve for the striking 300C. The SRT-8 version adds 85 hp and 0.4 litres to its signature Hemi powerplant, generating 425 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque from 6.1 litres of V8 engine. DaimlerChrysler engineers are quick to point out that this isn't achieved simply by increasing cubic centimetres. It has a higher compression ratio, faster engine speed, better "breathing" through special cylinder heads and manifolds, and is strengthened with a reinforced engine block, forged steel crankshaft and high-strength connecting rods. Match this with the larger diameter sway bars, performance tuned spring rates, Bilstein dampers, Brembo four-piston disc brakes and 20" wheels and you have a very satisfying, if unlikely, drive on the racetrack. Satisfying because the power, handling and braking provide a genuine performance experience; unlikely because, well, it's a very large sedan with all the space, amenities and practical features that you'd expect from a car of this type. It is still a heavy car, however, that requires proper placement on the track when driving hard, and sufficient respect for its mass when coming down from speed. A lip spoiler on the rear decklid is discreet, but functional, we were told. The 2005 Chrysler SRT-8 retails for $51,795 plus $1,200 destination charges. 2006 Dodge Magnum SRT-8 What we said about the Chrysler SRT-8? Ditto for the Magnum. Looking more the chopped, hot rod wagon, the Magnum SRT-8 offers astonishing performance from a vehicle that doubles as a practical cargo hauler. Mind you, it's debateable how many Magnum SRT-8 owners will be piling in lumber from the local Home Depot. But they'd sure get there in a hurry, as this car runs the quarter-mile in the high 13-second range, and goes from 0-100 km/h in around 5.5 seconds. What's even more impressive is the 33 metre stopping distance from 100 km/h - that's genuine sports car territory. Like all the vehicles on the 300/Magnum/Charger platform, the SRT variants use a five-speed automatic transmission with AutoStick. A heavy-duty drive shaft sends the torque from the transmission to an upgraded differential and axles. Dodge says the chassis set-up for the Magnum SRT-8 is aimed at all-around performance, and the ride height is about 1.25 cm lower than the Magnum R/T. The electronic stability program has been specially tuned for the Magnum SRT-8's increased performance, and this translates to a system that doesn't unnecessarily interfere with spirited driving. The Magnum and 300C SRT-8s behaved similarly on the track. Their raucous exhaust note should win a Grammy. The 2006 Dodge Magnum SRT-8 retails for $45,995 plus $1,200 destination charges. 2005 Dodge Ram SRT-10 Marketers like to use the term "bold" when referring to the design and execution of their vehicles, but in the case of the Ram SRT 10, "bold" is an understatement. This is, according to the Guiness Book of World Records, "the world's fastest production pickup truck." (Measured speed over a flying kilometre is 248.783 km/h). So a pickup truck powered with an 8.3 L Viper V10 engine that cranks out 500 hp and 525 lb-ft of torque is beyond bold. It's definitely in the realm of outrageous, but surprisingly, these trucks can be quite civilized on the road (unless provoked). We did take them on the track, however, and found that they will respond as directed, but you need plenty of braking room to drive them properly. Experienced drivers would know this, as you're piloting 2,472 kg (5,450 lbs) of truck, which has a tendency to want to go straight, once up to speed. Nonetheless, find the correct line, and brake well in advance, and the Ram SRT-10 is easy to control (especially when you have a professional race/test driver sitting next to you, telling you what to do!). Along with a performance suspension and brakes, and special interior, the Ram SRT-10 Quad Cab features a super-duty four-speed automatic transmission, the ability to tow 7,500 lbs, a special transmission cooler, heavy-duty torque converter, and special front and rear strut and spring assemblies. The Ram SRT-10 Regular Cab runs a T-56 six-speed manual transmission fitted with a Hurst shifter. A new 4.56 axle ratio is supplied for 2005 to improve launch feel and low-end acceleration. Brakes, by the way, consist of 381 mm (15") rotors in the front and 356 mm (14") rotors in the rear behind a 22" wheel. Custom red four-pot opposed piston callipers are new for 2005. We also had fun with the Ram SRT-10 at the airport, where, completely abandoning thoughts of fuel economy, we floored the truck from a standing start - first in one direction, then the other - all morning. But then we came to our senses, and wondered what kind of mileage you get when engaging in this crazy activity. Fortunately (or unfortunately if it's your gas) the Ram SRT-10 keeps track of such things, and informed us that 30.6 L/100km was the damage (about 9 MPG). Could be worse. The 2005 Dodge Ram SRT-10 Regular Cab retails for $58,580 plus $1,225 destination charges. The Quad Cab version retails for $64,890 plus $1,225 destination. 2006 Dodge Charger SRT-8 - 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT-8 - 2006 Dodge Viper SRT-10 We didn't get to drive these vehicles, as they come to market during the second half of 2006, but we did get a good look. In the 2006 Dodge Charger SRT-8, DaimlerChrysler finds yet another use for the 6.1 litre, 425 hp, Hemi V8 as found in its siblings the 300C SRT-8 and Magnum SRT-8. The choice between these vehicles is really one of style, as they are very similar in engineering. The Charger nameplate recalls Mopar muscle of the 1960s and 1970s, and although the current version is a four-door sedan, rather than the original coupe, it does have a somewhat coupe profile. For those who think the new Charger should be a coupe, DaimlerChrylser replies that the market for coupes in this class of full-size vehicle would be very small indeed. The Charger SRT-8 will feature a revised front facia with integrated ducts to help cool the front brakes, and an air dam to reduce lift. The hood features a functional scoop. The rear fascia features integrated lower strakes and large cutouts for the dual 8.9 cm exhaust tips. A decklid spoiler set on dual stanchions increases downforce. A range of interior appointments, including performance seats with contrasting red stiching, a 300 km/h speedometer, unique gauge faces, and special finishing on the centre stack. The 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT-8 is the first SRT vehicle with four-wheel drive. Its Hemi V8 engine makes 415 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque, that propels this SUV to 100 km/h in about five seconds flat. The Grand Cherokee SRT-8 is lowered and features an all-new front fascia that reduces lift and drag. The interior is equipped with performance seats, a "carbon fibre" technical finish on the steering wheel, instrument panel and shift knob, and aluminum trim. The Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT-8 looks very much like a tuner Grand Cherokee right from the factory. The 2006 Dodge Viper SRT-10 Coupe joins the Viper SRT-10 Convertible that was introduced for 2003. Powered with an 8.3 L V10 making 500 hp and 525 lb-ft of torque, the Viper SRT-10 Coupe will accelerate from 0-96 km/h in less than four seconds. In many cases, a convertible is derived from a coupe by losing the roof, and stiffening the chassis. In the case of the Viper SRT-10, the Coupe is derived from the Convertible, which already has a very stiff structure. The result is that the Viper SRT-10 Coupe is more torsionally rigid than the Convertible, which makes it particularly suited for competitive motorsports and the recreational track activities enjoyed by Viper owners. Bodywork shared between the Coupe and Convertible includes the front fascia and fenders, hood and doors. The Coupe features a new canopy and decklid, special windshield surround, door side glass, rear fascia, quarter panels and tail lights. The 2006 Dodge Viper SRT-10 Coupe, with its "double bubble" roof, will initially be available in Viper Blue with twin white racing stripes, an homage to the 1996 Dodge Viper GTS. Prices for the 2006 Dodge Charger SRT-8, 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT-8 and 2006 Dodge Viper SRT-10 have not yet been released.