It's such a bargain, you'll never need to rob a bank. By Andrew Bornhop • Photos by John Lamm March 2005 In life, there are certain undeniable truths. A few personal favorites: You always find your keys in the last place you look. One size does not fit all. And trivia questions are easy when you know the answers (just ask Jeopardy's Ken Jennings). And on the automotive front, here's one that we at R&T have come to acknowledge of late — Chrysler's SRT team has the Midas touch. Don't think so? Well, consider these lustrous examples. The Viper SRT-10 almost needs no mention. But the compact SRT-4 does. It's about as much OEM fun as one can have on a road course, an affordable Giant Killer Neon powered by a potent turbocharged 240-bhp engine. There's also the SRT-6, a Crossfire with a supercharged shot of adrenaline that transforms both the coupe and roadster into serious sports cars that are far more deserving of respect. And now, with the SRT-8, our test subject, Chrysler's large rear-drive 300C has the performance to back up its bad-boy John Dillinger getaway car looks. In essence, Chrysler's Street and Racing Technology Group has built the car that every hot-rodder has wanted since the 300 came out in April of last year. The transformation starts with displacement. More of it. By increasing the bore of the 300C's 5.7-liter V-8 by 3.5 mm, the pushrod Hemi powerplant now displaces 6.1 liters, or 370 cu. in. for you traditionalists. That, together with an increase in compression from 9.6:1 to 10.3:1, helps this 90-degree V-8 pump out a wheel-spinning 425 bhp at 6200 rpm and 420 lb.-ft. of torque at 4800 rpm. We're talking better-than-Corvette power here, aided by high-flow aluminum cylinder heads (with reshaped ports and larger valves), larger intake runners and exhaust manifolds that have individual tubes encased in a stainless-steel shell. Chrysler says the improved flow allows for increased engine speeds (a way of increasing power) by nearly 15 percent — the power peak of the 6.1 occurring at 6200 rpm versus the 5.7's at 5400. Helping in this arena are a revised camshaft (with a grind, we're told, that's straight from an old Mopar 340-cu.-in. V-8), twin sparkplugs per cylinder (for thorough combustion) and lightweight hollow-stem valves (the exhausts filled with sodium for better heat dissipation). Other 6.1-specific hardware includes a reinforced deep-skirt iron block with improved coolant passages, a forged crankshaft, connecting rods made of powdered metal and pistons with floating oil-cooled wristpins. And, although the block is painted orange in Hemi tradition, plastic covers do their best to keep proud owners from showing off the fact to their buddies. What matters most, however, is how the engine feels. And that, in a word, is fantastic. The big and burbly V-8 idles as if it has a mildly aggressive camshaft, and when fed throttle the 5-passenger 4210-lb. sedan accelerates with neck-straining thrust, hitting 60 mph in only 4.9 seconds. That's a tenth quicker than the mighty Cadillac CTS-V, a smaller and lighter car with a manual gearbox. The SRT-8, though, is available only with an automatic, a Mercedes-designed 5-speed with AutoStick that allows the driver to choose gears by nudging the shift lever left or right. It's a good gearbox, crisp of shift and complemented by a torque converter and shift points tuned specifically for the power of the SRT-8. In city traffic, instant throttle response and a tight torque converter make it easy for the driver to inadvertently chirp the rear tires on take-off, even with relatively mild throttle openings and the standard all-speed traction control left on. At the track, with throttle fully depressed and traction control switched off, the 1-2 upshift is so firm that it's accompanied by some wheelspin — a rarity in a car with an automatic — en route to a scintillating 13.3-sec. sprint to the quarter mile at 108.2 mph. That prodigious power, for the record, reaches the pavement via a strengthened 4-flange driveshaft, a beefed-up differential (with 3.06:1 gears) and axles, and 20-in. rear wheels shod with P255/40ZR-20 Goodyear F1 Supercar 3-season tires. As for the SRT-8's wheels and tires (the fronts are 245/45ZR-20s), we'll admit that 20-inchers would have seemed gigantic a few years ago. But today — and we're even surprising ourselves by stating this — they manage to look appropriate on the car, and make 17s on the stock 300 look downright puny. One downside, though, is that there isn't enough room for a full-size spare beside the battery on the floor of the SRT-8's trunk, so Chrysler supplies the car with sealant and a can of compressed air. The SRT folks have done a great job with the suspension. Much of the hardware — double A-arm front and multilink rear arrangements — comes from the previous E-Class Mercedes, in the type of technology transfer we had hoped would happen when Daimler married Chrysler in 1998. Working from that proven hardware and Chrysler's stout unit-body chassis, the SRT team fits the SRT-8 with sport-tuned shock absorbers, bushings and springs, larger-diameter front and rear anti-roll bars and new suspension knuckles that lower the car a half inch compared to the 300C. This provides an attractive, aggressive stance, and the tuning of the suspension is firm — if your priority is a comfortable cruiser, you may want to consider a standard 300C. The SRT-8 is by no means punishing, but it is tuned to tackle the twisties, which it does quite well. This car belies its size, with good 55/45 weight balance, and it responds very well to driver inputs. Steering is appropriately weighted with a natural feel, and body roll is kept in check by the front and rear bars. Tests at the track confirm our good feelings about the SRT-8. It laps our 200-ft. skidpad circle at 0.90g, an excellent figure given that the ESP yaw control can't be completely shut off (as is true of Mercedes-Benz products). Moreover, in the slalom, the SRT-8 sliced though the cones at 66.5 mph, with ESP intervening much less but the big sedan still able to maintain a speed that puts some sports cars to shame. Equally impressive is the braking performance, the Chrysler stopping from 60 and 80 mph in distances of 122 and 208 ft., respectively, with a firm, fade-free pedal. No surprise, as big binders are on duty beneath those 20-in. alloys — vented 14.2-in. front discs and vented 13.8-in. rears — acted upon by 4-piston Brembo calipers that appear to be taken straight off the Viper. Anti-lock and Emergency Brake Assist, which senses panic braking and automatically applies full braking pressure to reduce stopping distance, are also standard on the SRT-8. Only two colors of SRT-8s are available: black or silver. Both look sharp, and both have subtle styling enhancements that set this hot rod apart from lesser 300s. Most obvious is the front fascia, with circular driving lights that flank the brake cooling ducts. Look a little closer and you'll see rocker extensions, a body-color insert in the grille and a rear fascia with cutouts for the twin 3.5-in. exhaust tips. That small spoiler on the aluminum trunklid is said to increase downforce by 39 percent…a good thing in a car that Chrysler electronically limits to 165 mph! Moving inside, one of the first things you'll notice are its heavy doors, which close with a solid "thunk." From the driver's seat all the switchgear (some of it Mercedes-sourced) is where you'd expect it to be, with excellent feel to its actuation. The leather-wrapped steering wheel has a thick rim, and the pedals can be adjusted to help keep shorter drivers away from the airbag-equipped wheel. Moreover, there's plenty of seat travel for drivers 6 ft. 5 in. and shorter, although it does come at the expense of rear leg room. Our test car was equipped with a power moonroof, an $895 option that reduces head room in the SRT-8 by about an inch. Even though the car has a chopped-roof look, the view out is reasonably good, with the exception being for taller drivers at stoplights. In that instance, the driver may occasionally need to bend forward to see the signals.