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The way a big car oughta be: 2009 Chrysler 300C SRT8
July 18, 6:46 PM

Chrysler 300C SRT8
Every Chrysler should be as good as the SRT special cars

I have a simple prescription to save Chrysler: Get rid of everything that isn’t SRT. For those who haven’t paid much attention to Chrysler in the last few years, SRT stands for Street and Racing Technology, and it’s the semi-independent high performance division of Chrysler. They take standard Dodge, Chrysler, and Jeep models and gift them with better performance, sexy interiors, and better looks.

SRT is responsible for the Dodge Viper – a car that is completely devoted to performance. And they are also responsible for the Challenger SRT8, with its 6-speed manual transmission and classic Mopar muscle characteristics mated with excellent handling. They created the ACR and SRT4 versions of the Dodge Neon, which dominated in SCCA Club Racing and Autocross in the 1990s. SRT makes good cars, and when you drive an SRT machine, you get a whole different picture of Chrysler than you read in the newspapers.

So just a week after getting the Dodge Challenger SRT8, I received the Chrysler 300C SRT8 to review. The 300 is what I call the Dick Tracy car – for those who never saw that classic comic, the cars were all low, heavy-looking, and drawn with lots of horizontal lines – like a 300. This is a seriously mean-looking large sedan.

Strangely, the Chrysler 300 was also the American car I saw most often while traveling through Italy last summer! They were like bears surrounded by chihuahuas as they drove among the little Fiats and Smart cars, but I saw about 20 of the big Chryslers in two weeks over there.

I’ve been in a 300 before, and it was nice enough for a big sedan. And so I wondered what the SRT people could do with it. And the answer left me whomperjawed. If Chrysler offered me the keys to a Challenger or a 300, I’d take the 300 every time.

Far from being a big heavy wallowing old geezer car, the 300 is solid but has the power to move. It’s comfortable but has the suspension to handle well. It’s large but built right for an excellent driving experience. Usually I’d say that an automatic transmission is the kiss of death, but Chrysler has tightened up the operation of the 300’s tranny to where shifting it yourself would just slow you down.

The same 6.1-liter hemi that powers the Challenger is also found in the 300, backed with a 5-speed automatic transmission with shift capability. That engine is good for 425 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque, yielding fuel economy of 13/19 and 15 in combination driving. So, it’s got big hurt potential if gas prices hit the sky again, but if you need to haul a lot of people in a big sedan, this is definitely the one you want.

Inside, the 300C is really nice. It’s comfortable, firm, well laid out, and it has all the bells and whistles you want. Nav, power everything, leather heated everything, nice stereo - all of it.

Of course, the thing about SRT is that it doesn’t come cheap. As tested and fully tricked out, the 300C SRT8 comes to a princely $48,520 against a base price of $43,860. But if you’re shopping rides like the Cadillac STS-V or the BMW 7-Series, the Chrysler number looks positively economical compared to the $70,000+ on those rides.

The bottom line on the 300C SRT8 is that if you’re looking for a Chrysler, you owe it to yourself to drive the SRT version first. I’m betting that you’ll see the best of what Chrysler can do, and it’ll change your impression of Mopar.

LINK:The way a big car oughta be: 2009 Chrysler 300C SRT8
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