Big raps on gangsta sedan
Full-house four-door is styled to stand out and the V8 gets the chassis it deserves
THE engine in the Chrysler 300 SRT is a belter. Always has been.
The 6.4-litre Hemi V8 makes 350kW and 637Nm and, provided you’re not too worried about visiting the petrol pump every other day, it turns driving into fun.
From the time you turn the key it has a heavyweight V8 soundtrack, with torque from the get-go and enough power to satisfy anyone who is not a racer.
Until now, the Hemi was an engine in search of a chassis. Good, but ... with plenty of buts.
The gangsta-styled sedan was reluctant to switch straightline travelling for the twisty bits, had vague steering and barely there brakes and the cabin was more suitable for hire car work than the track.
Now, thanks to some intensive chassis work with the focus on local roads and drivers, the SRT has come alive.
The 2016 model, though it’s still no match for a VFII Commodore SS-V with FE3 sports suspension, is a wellbalanced package that provides great driving enjoyment without threatening the sanity or safety of the person behind the wheel.
Pricing is also sweet, with a $56,000 bottom line for the 300’s new Core version — that’s $10,000 less than the previous model.
The full-house SRT, from $69,000, includes a seven-inch infotainment screen, flatbottomed steering wheel with real metal paddle-shifters, 20inch forged aluminium wheels, Brembo brakes and old-school mechanical limited-slip diff.
Chrysler also highlights safety gear, claiming more than 80 available features including automatic safety braking, blindspot warning and lane-keeping assistance.
But the big developments
are in the steering and chassis, as we have already noted and enjoyed in the lesser-spec cars.
Electric steering enables several other improvements. There are also recalibrated springs and dampers and even cast-aluminium axles.
The aim was to cut the sloppiness out of the car and make it more taut and responsive — creating a car that’s more than just a stoplight special.
You might be tempted to treat it as such. There is an eightspeed automatic gearbox and launch control if you want to get going from a standing start.
The claim for the 0-100km/h sprint is just 4.5 seconds.
In Australia, it’s impossible to jump into the SRT without thinking about the Falcon XR8 and Commodore SS-V.
But, for me, the SRT trumps the XR8 and is closer to the Commodore than I expect. It’s not as refined as the Holden hero — and always feels much bigger and heavier — but I like a lot of what it does and the way it responds.
The 300 range’s overdue overhaul eliminates the wobbles of previous models. The cabin updates also work for the starter car.
But the SRT — it stands for Street and Racing Technology — puts the icing on the cake and trowels it on thick and tasty.
The latest exhaust technology contributes to improved economy and the new auto is also a slick sweetie around town. Turn the rotary shifter to Sport and the transmission really hooks up, giving crisp shifts and instant response to the paddles.
The Sport setting also firms the damping, without making it too crashy, although on some gnarly roads the power goes down better in the standard setting.
A ripper drive, the SRT tracks true over bumps and undulations, then brakes straighter and firmer. There is much more feel through the leather-wrapped wheel and I know the car will turn instead of ploughing straight ahead.
The suspension work also means the SRT can get much of the power and torque down to the road instead of arm wrestling the driver for control.
I’m less happy about the fuel economy, despite the latest tweaking around the margins. The V8 still has that great Hemi bellow.
Inside, the SRT seats are much more supportive than in the basic 300, there is a thumping audio and ample space for five adults. The boot is spacious, too, and the car is easy to park.
It’s very heavy, there is only a space-saver spare and towing is not recommended despite the stump-pulling torque that would appeal to boat and float owners.
On the safety front, I really like the automatic high-beam, auto braking and adaptive cruise control among the numerous features. They may be just a safety net for the keen driver who is likely to choose an SRT but they are definitely worth having in any car.
Looking at prices, I’d probably be tempted by the Core, which is great value with plenty of gear. But, even so, there is a lot to be said for the big daddy with the works.
I like the SRT. Quite a lot in fact.
It’s fun to drive, well equipped and cushy and has the gangsta looks to stand out in any crowd. It might be trumped by the latest Commodore but it warrants The Tick.