New Yorker Luxury, Hemi 'Cuda Performance Brake cooling ducts and color-keyed bumpers, grille and door handles provide subtle clues to the identity of this special 300C. By John DiPietro Date posted: 02-14-2005 425 horsepower - 0-60 in 5 seconds - 40 inches of rear legroom We're still trying to get our hands around Chrysler's 340-horse 300C and now comes an even more powerful factory tuner version. How much more? How does an additional 85 ponies sound? Produced by the gearheads at Chrysler's "Street and Racing Technology" division, the 300C SRT-8 promises to give BMW 545i and Benz E500 drivers an American-sized serving of humble pie. Serious Hardware Black valve covers pay tribute to the 426 Hemi of the '60s and early '70s. Pushing the SRT-8 into the big leagues is a reworked version of the standard Hemi V8 that produces an impressive 425 horsepower. The SRT team bumped displacement to 6.1 liters, increased compression to 10.3 to 1 and fitted less restrictive intake and exhaust systems. Torque is rated at a pavement-rippling 420 pound-feet and a five-speed automatic sends the power to the rear wheels. Far from being a one-dimensional, straight-line car, the SRT-8 is equipped with firmer springs and dampers, beefier stabilizer bars and a lowered ride height for improved handling. Twenty-inch alloys wrapped in Goodyear F1 rubber (measuring 245/45 front and 255/45 rear) fill out the wheel wells and provide impressive grip. A recalibrated stability control system allows the skilled driver a little more leeway before the system kicks in. Along with the requisite big wheels, the SRT-8 gains a number of functional and aesthetic exterior tweaks, including revised front and rear fascias, a discreet rear spoiler and a color-keyed treatment for the mirrors, door handles, bumpers and grille insert. A pair of sport seats awaits the pilot and co-pilot. Power adjustment and seat heaters are standard, and suede inserts all around prevent butts from sliding around during aggressive maneuvers. Special "technical" leather covers the steering wheel, shifter and door pulls, and a patterned metallic trim spices up the wheel, doors and center stack. What a Ride Aggressive side bolsters on the seats add to the high-performance look and feel of the SRT-8. The roomy cabin features leather-wrapped door pulls and subtle metallic accents. On the road, we found the SRT-8 is as quiet and composed as a 4,160-pound luxury car should be. Winding through some curvy roads, the big bruiser responds crisply to steering input and is easy to control for such a big car. The plush ride and docile nature is essentially the Dr. Jekyll side of this 300C's personality. Running through an autocross setup at Chrysler's Proving Grounds, we were able to push the car pretty hard and noticed some body sway, but consider this a small price to pay for the comfy ride quality. Those who seek even tighter handling may want to wait for the upcoming Dodge Charger SRT-8, which leans more toward the sport sedan side of the spectrum than the luxury-themed 300C. When we were finally allowed to "see what it'll do" on an abandoned stretch of highway, the big Chrysler answered the call for warp speed by pinning us to the seats. Nail the gas to the floor and it's "Helloooo, Mr. Hyde!" A bellowing exhaust added to the thrill, but there was no discernable increase in vibration or harshness from the engine. Whether trolling around town or blowing past lollygaggers on semi-deserted roads, the gear changes from the tweaked automatic were swift and jolt-free. When we chose to shift for ourselves, the tranny's response could have been quicker, though this holds true for most "auto/manual" transmissions. Chrysler is claiming some mighty impressive numbers for the 300C SRT-8, namely 0-60 in the low 5s and a quarter-mile time in the high-13-second range. Judging by our seat-o-the-pants impressions, those estimates seem spot-on. Big power needs big brakes, and the SRT-8's got 'em. Massive (14.2-inch front, 13.8-inch rear) discs team with four-piston Brembo calipers to haul the SRT-8 down quickly. Chrysler estimates that the SRT-8 will require just 110 feet to stop from 60 mph. We got on the binders hard several times in rapid succession and, along with the reassuringly strong deceleration, noticed no fade. Sign Us Up The most flamboyant eye candy on this ride is this handsome set of 20-inch wheels. After our day's drive in the SRT-8, we couldn't help but marvel at the current state of automotive affairs in this country. And we mean that in a very good way. For a lot less moolah than a six-cylinder E-Class or 5 Series, the 300C SRT-8 provides the performance of a muscle car, the comfort of a luxury car and the respectable handling and head-turning style that make it cool to buy American again. The low-profile deck lid spoiler shows the tasteful yet effective restraint of the design team. First Impressions: Refined, comfortable, classy and damn fast, the 300C SRT-8 is a steal in the luxury/performance sedan segment.