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  • 2007 Chrysler 300C SRT8

    Posted on February 20th, 2007 ninarussin

    The Chrysler 300C SRT8 is a great grocery getter: don’t melt the tires in the parking lot.

    By Nina Russin

    2007 Chrysler 300C SRT8

    2007 Chrysler 300C SRT8

    As a kid raised in Cincinnati, my early memories consist of Tony Perez, Pete Rose, Oscar Robertson, and drive-in movie theaters. I suppose the low price of real estate was the reason drive-ins seemed to populate every corner. There was one a mile from our house, with a screen large enough to see several blocks beyond its gates.

    Those were the days of really cheap gas: so cheap that it’s hard to imagine in today’s three dollars per gallon market. Cars were big because there was no reason to make them small. Big cars came with big bench seats: the original living rooms on wheels. Going to the drive-in was like watching a movie in one’s living room, except that the theater was  under the stars.

    Not only were the cars big; they were also fast. Some cars were quicker than others: they had a few extra gizmos under the hood. For liability reasons, manufacturers often listed the performance options as off-road packages, the idea being that a full-tilt racing suspension was durable enough to take a few rocks under the wheels. These models came to be known as muscle cars: their tenure began in the 1950s, and lasted until emissions controls in the mid 1970s rendered the engines anemic.

    As the boomer generation ages, the muscle car legend grows larger in its collective mindset. Manufacturers have found gold in marketing new models that mimic the original formula: a full-sized chassis with a race-ready engine under the hood.

    Chrysler’s first 300 sedan, introduced in 1955, took its name from a 300-horsepower hemi engine. The current Chrysler 300 sedan takes its styling cues from the 1950s model: a large, egg crate grille, big sweeping fenders, a high beltline and big wheels. The designation, SRT, stands for Street and Racing Technology. Engineers tuned the 6.1-liter hemi engine, first introduced on the 2006 model, and added a few extra toys: a rear spoiler, bigger wheels, much bigger brakes, a race-tuned suspension and a high-flow exhaust.

    The 425-horsepower hemi engine accelerates from zero-to-sixty in just over 5 seconds. The 300C SRT8 enough gut wrenching torque to launch a space shuttle. Remarkably enough, it’s street legal.

    But officer, I was only doing a hundred and twenty…

    Speed in a big car can be deceptive, especially if the car has a fairly seamless five-speed transmission. Somehow, I found the speedometer pinned on eighty by the end of the freeway on-ramp. The fact that everything around me was moving more slowly should have been a clue.

    It’s very hard to drive the 300C SRT8 slowly. Inside the car, the driver has little perception of acceleration or road noise. The twenty-inch wheels give the sedan a huge footprint that’s extremely stable in the corners. Engineers lowered the chassis half an inch to improve high-speed handling. The anti-sway bars are also larger than standard issue.

    The steering has a nice positive feel that makes the driver feel connected to the chassis. Brembo racing brakes make the vehicle stop on a dime, but they aren’t grabby.

    The automatic transmission has a manual shift feature for those who like to choose their own gears. But even in the fully automatic mode, it works exceptionally well. Electronic stability program and traction control are standard. Since the weather in Phoenix is rarely wet and never snowy, I didn’t have a chance to see how well the vehicle handled in adverse weather. Standard rain sensitive wipers and heated seats and side mirrors should appeal to people living in the snow belt.

    Visibility is somewhat limited to the rear of the car due to the large C pillars. I found myself looking out the side window to double check for cars in the next lane before passing.

    Luxurious interior

    The 300C SRT8 is definitely a man’s car. The seats and steering wheel are both designed for big drivers. While the seats are comfortable, the large diameter steering wheel seems ungainly for a driver of my stature.

    Since this is a fully loaded model, it comes with a lot of comfort and convenience options that buyers may or may not want. Dual-zone temperature controls, an upscale audio system with a 6-disc CD changes, MP3 jack and Sirius Satellite radio, power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, power adjustable pedals, and fog lamps are all standard features. The long list of standard equipment gives the high-performance 300 a hefty price tag. Base sticker is just over $40,000, placing the car well within the luxury segment.

    The test car has the optional navigation system with a Bluetooth compatible sound system ($1,770) and a power sunroof. The base sticker price doesn’t include the destination charge, or the $2,100 gas guzzler tax.

    The passenger cabin is large enough to seat four adults very comfortably. The rear seat has seatbelts for three passengers. The middle passenger should have enough room to travel short distances in comfort.

    The front seating positions are both extremely spacious. The center console includes a storage cubby with a change holder, and two large cupholders that flip up. They will easily hold large water bottles. There are map pockets but no bottle holders in the doors. The temperature and audio controls are easy to reach from either front seating position. The steering wheel also includes redundant audio controls.

    The white face analog gauges are easy to read, and they are well illuminated at night. The adjustable steering wheel and pedals make it possible for shorter drivers to maintain the proper distance from the front airbag and feel comfortable.

    Safety features on the test car included front airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability program, and a tire pressure monitoring system. Side air bags are available as part of an option package.

    The trunk is huge and includes a pass-through. It’s big enough to put a bicycle in, although not as easy to load large cargo into as a sport-utility vehicle.

    The Chrysler 300C SRT8 isn’t a car for everyone. It’s a limited edition vehicle being marketed toward performance enthusiasts who enjoy the comfort of a big sedan, and who don’t mind its relatively poor gas mileage. While it probably isn’t the best choice for buyers wanting an active lifestyle vehicle, it has enough cargo capacity to hold a bike or some camping gear.

    The Chrysler 300C SRT8 is currently available for test drives nationwide.

    Likes: A fast, powerful car with excellent road manners, and a luxurious attractive interior. The Chrysler 300C SRT8 does an excellent job of capturing the spirit of the classic muscle cars in a modern chassis.

    Dislikes: Obvious blind spots to the rear due to the large C pillar. Not a particularly practical vehicle for buyers with active lifestyles. Poorer-than-average fuel economy.

    Quick facts:

    Base price: $40,420
    Price as tested: $46,140
    Horsepower: 425 Hp @ 6000 r.p.m.
    Torque: 420 lbs.-ft. @ 4800 r.p.m.
    0 to 60: Low 5 seconds
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Option
    First aid kit: No
    Towing: No
    Off-road: No
    Bicycle friendly: No
    Fuel economy: 14/20 m.p.g. city/highway

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