Big raps on gangsta sedan

Full-house four-door is styled to stand out and the V8 gets the chas­sis it de­serves

Herald Sun - Motoring - - THE TICK -

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.

THE TICK

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.

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