EXECUTIVE EDITOR BOB GRITZINGER: It’s big, it’s bad and nothing else matters. Well, actually, it does, but it’s hard to argue with all of that raucous V8 power built into such a solid and serious American sedan. I feel as if I’ve died and gone back to the 1960s, except in this case the car also stops and corners as well as it accelerates.
I liked the first-gen 300 SRT8, but this 2012 Chrysler 300 SRT is way better in every way. The wrapper is sharper, and the interior is acres of soft-touch materials and leather ahead of the original. That’s a credit to the redone 300, but in this top-level performance version, everything really stands out.
Mechanically, there’s a heaping helping of output going to the SRT8’s rear wheels, enough to produce wheelspin on kick down at freeway speed if there’s any dampness present. Needless to say, at launch it will churn rubber into smoke in a heartbeat if you’re not judicious with the right pedal. But unlike the old SRT8, this guy feels very tied down and tight, with just the right amount of nanny controls stepping in to help out and keep the ship on course. I punched up SRT performance mode at every opportunity, and that seemed just fine to me. But for most driving keeping the traction/stability control operating is a smart move.
This is a pricey piece, but it’s at the top of the heap when it comes to 21st-century American muscle sedans.
COPY CHIEF CYNTHIA L. OROSCO-WRIGHT: What a great car to have for a weekend of gorgeous weather and a long drive. The only thing it needed was a sunroof.
Aside from that, there was nothing missing in this plush, menacing and powerful sedan. The sheetmetal is sleek and the creases are sharp. The comfy and well-bolstered seats keep you in place while shooting down the expressway but also coddle you on a long leisure drive. All of the controls, with a bit of old-school flair, are easy to use and right within reach. The sound system made cruising music sound even better.
Behind the wheel, the power comes on strong and stays that way until you need to bring things to a halt. The brakes do a solid job of that. There was a bit of stiffness in the drive, but nothing harsh. The thick steering wheel feels good in the hands. And the exhaust note—whether at startup or off the line—is music to the ears. The 300 stays composed over cracked roads but never feels floaty, the rubber keeping the big sedan firmly planted. All of the materials inside are top quality.
Yes, $53,000-plus is pricey, but you’re getting a lot of car, a lot of technology and a lot of style here. If you have the means, the 300 SRT is definitely worth it.
EDITOR WES RAYNAL: There’s not a heck of a lot I don’t like about the 300 SRT. It’s big, brawny and powerful, comfortable and menacing-looking, while looking enough like a stock 300 to fly below the, um, radar.
The car is comfortable on the road in terms of the seats, driving position and ride. While it’s a bit stiffer than a standard 300, it’s nowhere near too harsh. This is a great engine with a fantastic hot-rod exhaust note; horsepower is up to 470 hp from 425 hp in the last 300 SRT, and the power comes on right now—and there’s more than enough.
There’s a ton of room inside, and the controls are intuitive. It is, however, awfully dark in there, though the materials look and feel first rate.
I’d dechrome mine a little, and put a blower on it to knock the horsepower up about 100. That’d be the ticket. In the meantime, I imagine it’s tough to find this combo of performance and luxury for this kind of money.
NEWS EDITOR GREG MIGLIORE: This is the ultimate sleeper sedan. And I mean this specific iteration: low-slung, black, sporty wheels and fast as hell. Frankly, this 300 SRT looks almost as much like a police car as it does a hot rod. Perfect.
Understated styling camouflaging copious amounts of power is always the way to go in my mind, and this particular example is the Batmobile of the SRT range. The honkin’ V8 is a riot. It’s powerful, emits a growl when needed and launches this big sedan with force and attitude. There’s a satisfying amount of torque on tap as well, adding an almost German feel to this Hemi-powered drone. It effortlessly leaps to triple digits on the expressway. Even sitting in a parking lot it’s a pleasure to hear this thing gurgle, burble and quake at idle.
I came away impressed with this cabin, which has excellent touch parts and presents well. The leather on the sport steering wheel, the heavily bolstered seats—this is what a finely honed muscle car should look and feel like. I also was blown away by the dials. They’re intricate, sporty and they glow. The dashboard looks old-school, like something out of the 1950s or ’60s. It was almost distracting when driving on a dark morning.
The steering has surprising weight and response, and the body, which is large, is reasonably well-composed. I enjoyed holding lines and pushing this car through curves.
Really, the only downside is the gas-guzzler tax. I think for the power, luxury and feel of this car, it is worth the heady sticker. And I rarely say that about anything.
SENIOR ART DIRECTOR TARA THEMM: I was ogling this car as soon as it found its way into our parking garage. The aggressive stance and impeccable sheetmetal definition captivated me at first glance. The black paint job paired with the dark grille on this 300 SRT enhanced the badass factor, and I hadn’t even hopped in the driver’s seat yet.
This car is an almost flawless result of the well-calculated mixture of luxury and performance. The interior is full of soft touch points, including the leather seats and leather-wrapped steering wheel. Beyond the sleek look and feel, it was also comfortable and easy to acclimate to. In fact, I felt that the entire cabin found the sweet spot between functionality and style. Every detail, every control, every light placement was well thought out and contributed to the overall mood of this 300. Nothing looked out of place.
Besides the exemplary interior and exterior polish and poise, this thing can perform on the road. I was not ready for the impressive amount of power kicked out when I got on the gas pedal. With a grin painted on my face, I tackled my commute home, dominating turns and green lights with authority and style.
The sound effects of this car made it difficult for me to turn up the radio, and the level of control I was allowed with every maneuver made me feel safe and secure behind the wheel. And not to mention that for the price, I feel that I’d be hard-pressed to find better quality in the same segment.
To put it simply, I want it. Enough said.
ROAD TEST EDITOR JONATHAN WONG: I’m really familiar with the SRT family of vehicles. A year ago I ran around California’s Willow Springs International Raceway in all of them and had an absolute ball. All (including the Jeep Grand Cherokee) were at home on the road course with the big Hemi V8 thrusting them out of corners with ease, the Brembo brakes scrubbing off speed in a hurry and all of them sticking around corners nicely.
What surprises me the most about today’s breed of SRT vehicles is the level of refinement they all possess. The first-generation vehicles were harder core, with suspensions that beat the living daylights out of you with the thumping 6.1-liter V8 under the hood sounding wicked and mean. The interiors have all taken a huge step forward in design and build quality, and the sheetmetal is eye-catching.
The 300 SRT8 is the softest one of the bunch. Visually, it’s not as loud as its Dodge Charger SRT8 counterpart, but there’s a specific front and rear fascias, a lower ride eight, 20-inch wheels and dual exhaust tips. Inside, there are the SRT-exclusive seats that are deeply bolstered, a flat-bottom steering wheel and real carbon-fiber trim.
Where the refinement is most noticeable is in the ride quality. The adjustable damping suspension does wonders to let the 300 SRT be a corner-carving animal or a comfortable enough cruiser for daily runs at the push of the button. If my memory serves me right, I think the exhaust note of this 6.4-liter Hemi isn’t as thunderous as that from the 6.1-liter, but it’s still loud enough to get people’s attention.
In a small nod to fuel economy, the V8 is also capable of operating on four cylinders, and the transition between four- and eight-cylinder modes is seamless.
For the money, the 300 SRT offers a lot of performance and a thoughtful amount of luxury in the cabin. One thing SRT needs to work on is the five-speed automatic transmission. When you manually shift it via the steering wheel paddles, it responds to upshifts well, but downshifts are muted and jerky because there is no rev matching built in, which is a bummer.
2012 Chrysler 300 SRT
Base Price: $48,955
As-Tested Price: $53,135
Drivetrain: 6.4-liter V8; RWD, five-speed automatic
Output: 470 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 470 lb-ft @ 4,300 rpm
Curb Weight: 4,365 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA/AW): 17/18.6 mpg
Options: Customer preferred package 21X including SafetyTec with multifunction power-folding mirrors, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, blind-spot and cross-path detection, rear fog lamps and exterior mirrors with supplemental signals and courtesy lamps ($1,995); premium speaker group including 18 premium speakers with subwoofer and 900-watt amplifier ($1,995); BSW three-season performance tires ($150)
For more information: Check out the 2012 Chrysler 300 SRT at shopautoweek.com.