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2006 Chrysler 300C SRT-8 review

January 26, 2006 11:16 AM EST | Chrysler , Sedans | Email to Friend

View large imageProving that upscale sedans don't have to be stale-looking and slow, the high-performance 300C SRT-8 is a testament to all that Chrysler can do well.

Pros
A 425-horsepower Hemi, suspension and braking upgrades that complement the motor, chiseled good looks, plenty of luxury and performance for the price.

Cons
No manual transmission available, complex stereo controls.

What's New for 2006
A tire-pressure monitor is added to the standard features list, while a Kicker audio system and a DVD system join the options roster.

Introduction:
Continuing Chrysler's proud tradition of letter-series cars, the 300C SRT-8 is a performance version of the 300C that reminds us of a time when V8-powered luxury cars ruled the road. Remember when suburban driveways were filled with Chryslers, Buicks and rumbling Mercurys? Then remember how GM, Ford and Chrysler came up with even more powerful versions of those cars. We do, and apparently Chrysler does as well. This time, though, the company got plenty of engineering help from Mercedes-Benz, so you can expect refined driving dynamics.

With its distinct but slightly retro styling, the 300C SRT-8 looks the part of a luxury sedan, but with the addition of a tweaked 425-horsepower V8, the car takes on a distinctly more intimidating image. In a fitting nod to the original (and legendary) Hemi of the '60s, the SRT-8 even features an orange-painted cylinder block and black valve covers. In addition to the big V8, Chrysler added other performance-enhancing features like thicker stabilizer bars, a half-inch lower ride height, more powerful brakes and a rear deck spoiler that provides 39 percent more downforce.

But it's not all about power, as the 300 also shoots for excellent ride and handling by utilizing a five-link independent rear suspension and a short-long arm setup in front; the SRT-8 further benefits from stiffer bushings, revised springs and a more performance-oriented Electronic Stability Program (ESP). The SRT-8 also comes nicely equipped with such features as HID headlights and rear park assist, and many of the features that are optional on other 300s are standard on this car. A high-quality six-speaker Boston Acoustics sound system is standard, and a 13-speaker Kicker system is optional to appease true audiophiles.

In addition to its special spoiler, the Chrysler 300C SRT-8 is set apart visually with unique styling cues such as body-colored bumpers, door handles and mirrors, as well as special SRT badging. The modified front fascia not only helps to set the look of the SRT-8 apart but helps with brake cooling by directing air over the discs.

While Dodge's slightly edgier Charger SRT-8 is likely the ultimate hot-rod sedan, Chrysler's 300C SRT-8 is certainly no slouch when it comes to performance, and its composure on back roads is as impressive as its straight-line acceleration. It also has a more compliant ride than the Charger and this along with its more refined styling makes it one of the very few muscle cars that fit in as well at the country club as they do at a stoplight drag race.

Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options:
A high-performance version of the standard Chrysler 300C, the rear-drive 300C SRT-8 is available only as a four-door sedan in one trim level. Standard equipment includes leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, dual power seats, a trip computer, cruise control and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel. The SRT-8 rolls on 20-inch forged aluminum wheels shod with high-performance Goodyear F1 tires (all-season tires are an available option) with asymmetrical tread. Tire dimensions are a beefy 245/45R20 in the front and 255/45R20 in the rear, and a pressure monitor is standard. High-intensity discharge headlights are also standard as are rear parking sensors. Tunes are supplied by a 276-watt Boston Acoustics stereo with an in-dash CD changer. Should that not be adequate, a 13-speaker Kicker audio system is newly optional, as is a navigation system, a sunroof, satellite radio, Bluetooth compatibility and a DVD entertainment system.

Powertrains and Performance:
The 300C SRT-8 sports a massaged 6.1-liter V8 that pumps out 425 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed automatic with specially calibrated AutoStick automanual control is standard. Expect the SRT-8 to hit 60 mph in 5.7 seconds.

Safety:
The 300C SRT-8 offers standard antilock brakes, stability control (ESP), multistage airbags with an occupant-sensing system and side curtain airbags. While ESP is standard on the 300C, the SRT-8 uses a modified version to give enthusiast drivers more leeway on twisty roads. In NHTSA crash testing, the 300 earned a perfect five stars for frontal-impact protection. In side-impact tests, it earned four stars for front-occupant safety and five stars for the rear. It was named a "Best Pick" in IIHS frontal-offset crash testing.

Interior Design and Special Features:
The interior features a simple but elegant layout. The dash area isn't as attractive as those in some other cars in this segment but its combination of sporty, semi-retro and luxury motifs is effective. The quality of the car's interior materials is also respectable. Cabin dimensions are generous in all directions, and the 300C SRT-8 offers more rear legroom than any of its competitors. Trunk capacity measures 15.6 cubic feet.

Driving Impressions:
The 300C is already a blast to drive, and the SRT treatment takes all its visceral aspects to a whole new level. Straight-line acceleration is fast by any measure, and the big V8 delivers a throaty wail as the tach swings past 4,000 rpm. The outstanding power under the hood is complemented by surprisingly secure handling given the car's 4,200-pound curb weight. Between the spot-on steering response and controlled body movements, it's remarkably easy to thread the 300C SRT-8 between apexes and guardrails. The 20-inch Goodyear tires are grippy and predictable, and the powerful, fade-resistant Brembo brakes can stop the car from 60 mph in as little as 106 feet. In spite of the car's performance intentions, ride quality remains compliant enough for weekday commutes.

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