• May 19th 2010 at 11:58AM
  • 94
2010 Chrysler 300C SRT8 - Click above for high-res image gallery

If the economic downfall of 2008 had happened just a few years earlier, the Chrysler 300C SRT8 probably wouldn't exist. Think about it: when the nation was on the verge of $4.00/gallon gasoline and people were doing everything possible to get out of their fuel-sucking SUVs and into smaller, more efficient vehicles, a 425-horsepower flagship sedan with a free-breathing 6.1-liter Hemi V8 doesn't make a whole lot of sense. But then again, did it ever?

The 300C SRT8 is the product of a pre-castrated Chrysler. This was a time of Viper-powered Rams, Hemi-powered Jeeps and SRT-badged Neons. "You want it, you got it." Chrysler wanted the 300C SRT8 to start a new trend of muscle sedans – a land where quarter-mile times reigned supreme, and booming exhaust notes were all that mattered. This trend never really caught on (save the Cadillac CTS-V, which has been honed to be one hell of a machine), and at the end of the day, Chrysler was left with a big, heavy, powerful sedan that didn't offer much in the way of refinement and carried a near-$50,000 price tag.

But despite its flaws – and there are quite a few – we still think of the 300C SRT8 as a guilty pleasure. It has all the ingredients of an American muscle car wrapped in a four-door, luxury(ish) package. We'd probably never buy one or recommend buying a new one to a friend, but if we're totally honest, there's still something about the SRT8 that gets us all giddy when one comes through the Autoblog Garage. Make the jump to find out why.

Photos by Steven J. Ewing / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.

First shown in concept form at the 2003 New York Auto Show, the 300 really drove home the retro-inspired styling language that Chrysler infused into most of its products in the early 2000s. And to this day, we're still fans of the 300's design, particularly in SRT guise. All perimeter surfaces of the car are flat, and with the lowered stance and bigger wheels, it's simply striking, standing in stark contrast to the swoopy, fluid designs that have come to light in recent years. Yes, the 300's look is aging, and a new car is in the works for the 2012 model year, but we'd never use terms like "ugly" or "weird" to describe its appearance, and it still stands out in a good way.

The high beltline, narrow greenhouse, minimal front overhang and pronounced wheel arches on the 300C SRT8 go a long way towards hinting at the model's performance potential. In fact, for many years, a special SRT Design trim level was offered on the 300, which added the more aggressive front fascia (revised grille and lower lip spoiler), 20-inch Alcoa forged alloy wheels and slightly lowered ride height to models equipped with the less powerful (and less awesome) 5.7-liter V8. The SRT8 trim is the only thing that keeps the 300C's design in the front of our minds, especially since lesser V6 models tend to look lanky and somewhat disproportionate.

The interior, however, is a place where the 300's design hasn't managed to retain any sort of longevity. It's relatively bland, fronted with odd fittings like the oversized steering wheel, thick A-pillars and a deep dashboard, and when paired with Chrysler's poor interior refinement, it's a bad fit in a sedan that carries a near-$50,000 price tag. What's more, SRT8 cabins don't stand apart from what you'd find in less-costly models, save the aluminum trim and suede-like material that wraps the top quarter of the steering wheel. The big improvements to the 300's interior, though, are the SRT-specific seats, which are extremely comfortable and supportive – the sort of seats you'd want for cross-country drives. Really, we can't praise these chairs enough, and they go a long way in making the 300's interior a more livable environment. In every other regard, though, the quality of all cabin materials are below par at best – clunky plastics, shoddy fittings of trim around the gear shifter and radio/HVAC controls, and scads of other issues remind you this is what passed for a domestic bread-and-butter sedan in the early half of the last decade.

If you can get past the fact that the interior doesn't feel as nice as it should given the price, the functionality and usability isn't all that upsetting. Our top-trim test car was packed with all the latest and greatest convenience and comfort amenities – heated seats, sunroof, dual-zone climate control and auxiliary input/iPod integration worked into Chrysler's UConnect navigation/infotainment system. No, the UConnect isn't as feature-rich as systems like SYNC, MMI, iDrive or COMAND, but it's extremely easy to use, and though the whole interface is somewhat outdated, we don't have many qualms. We like simple, intuitive infotainment systems, and UConnect sits well with us.

The 300 rides on Chrysler's LX platform, and with a wheelbase of 120 inches, there's a ton of room for rear seat occupants – 40.2 inches of legroom, to be exact. Even up front, the legroom and shoulder room is more than accommodating. The problem, though, is that because of the low roof and high beltline, headroom is greatly compromised. You'll want to raise the driver's seat to get a commanding view of the road in front of you, but even your relatively short author (ringing in at five-feet, six inches) had issues with headroom. This is even more noticeable during ingress and egress, where you'll need to duck slightly to avoid hitting your head on the roofline. The headroom issue isn't as noticeable for rear seat passengers, but it's still a pain for getting in and out, especially since the back doors don't open nearly as far as you'd expect. Still, the rear seats are extremely comfortable (much like the buckets up front), and there were few complaints from passengers during our test.

All of these faults are immediately forgotten the first time you lay into the throttle and go blasting down a straightaway. The 6.1-liter Hemi roars to life and thrusts you forward with 425 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque; the five-speed automatic holding each gear to its peak when your right foot is pressed to the floor. It's a great feeling, and when you consider that the 300C SRT8 is a relatively hefty beast (4,160 pounds), the fact that it will rip off 0-60 mph times in the low five-second range is pretty impressive stuff. We don't even need to tell you how poor the fuel economy on something like this is, but we will anyway. If you tread lightly on the throttle, you can maybe (maybe) achieve the EPA estimated 19 miles per gallon on highway jaunts, but we're willing to bet that the majority of owners will experience something closer to the 14.5 mpg that we recorded during our week-long stint.

Turn off the traction control and you can smoke the rear tires all day long; this engine inspires hooliganism, if only in a straight line. And when you are testing 0-60 and quarter-mile performance times, the large 14.2-inch Brembo brakes with four-piston calipers are a godsend for ultimate stopping power. The brakes aren't touchy, but they never feel soft or like there's a lack of stopping power underfoot, and stomping the pedal will quickly bring the big SRT8 to a halt devoid of unexpected front end chatter. Chrysler says that the 300C SRT8 will do 0-100-0 in just under 17 seconds, and considering its heft, that isn't too bad.

When the road gets twisty, however, the 300C SRT8 loses a lot of its charm. At 196.8 inches long and 74.1 inches wide, the SRT8 is a big sedan, and while the German automakers have done a good job of creating large saloons that aren't exactly slouches in the bends, the Chrysler does flop around when pushed down challenging roads. Its 4,000-plus-pounds are extremely noticeable in these scenarios, and while there's always plenty of power on tap for blasting down country roads, the somewhat floaty suspension and heavy, uninvolving steering do little to inspire driver confidence. There's a noticeable amount of body roll during turns, and while the large 20-inch wheels riding on performance-oriented 245/45 tires do aid in traction and stability during enthusiastic driving, it's still not nearly as good as more nimble $50K sport sedans from our friends across the pond. Even the less-powerful Ford Taurus SHO is a better steer on challenging roads, though we attribute most of that to Ford's use of all-wheel drive and turbocharged power. Sure, the Chrysler will easily pull away from the SHO on straight stretches of road, but the Ford can no doubt carry more speed through a bend. At least the Chrysler's brakes are better, though.

It's best to think of the 300C SRT8 as a four-door Challenger. When you compare the Dodge muscle car to its Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro rivals, it easily takes last place in terms of driving dynamics. Still, the 300C SRT8 is a whole lot of fun on the majority of roads encountered during our test through metropolitan Detroit. The cushy suspension does a good job of softening stretches of broken pavement, and it makes for one hell of a highway cruiser. Images of blasting along I-80 through Nebraska come to mind – double cheeseburgers in hand and Coca-Cola in the cupholder.

The biggest problem is that, at nearly $50,000 ($49,125 for our test car), there are a whole lot of other options that are better buys than the 300C SRT8. As previously mentioned, the Ford Taurus SHO wins in both refinement and driving dynamics, and $50K will get you in to the bottom rung of Audi A6, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and BMW 5 Series territory. Even an Acura TL SH-AWD is a compelling option.

But the one thing Chrysler's 300C SRT8 will always do better? Make you feel naughty for driving one. Because even though it's relatively outdated in terms of overall enthusiastic dynamics, and it makes little sense when you consider the competitive price set, we'd still eagerly drive one if given the opportunity. We love ripping off five-second runs to 60 mph, turning off the traction control and burning away from every stoplight, and most wonderfully, blasting down the highway with the windows down, sunglasses on and loud music coming from the stereo. It's an American sedan that inspires us to get out on the open road, and though we know there are cars that, for an enthusiast, are light years better to drive on involving roads, the 300C SRT8 has enough moxie to make any petrolhead wear a silly grin on his face.

Photos by Steven J. Ewing / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      I bought my 2006 Chrysler 300C SRT8 in June of 2006. [Almost 4 years ago] And I have to say - I love my car just as much now as I did when I first got it. And although it's true that the interior [Other than the fantastic seats] isn't becoming of such a great car - the car itself is wonderful. And it handles better than most people think. [It does .90g's according to most 'road test' magazines] It also gets to 60 in LESS than 5 seconds - according most 'road test' magazines AND most owners. AND has a top speed of 173 MPH. It's a big, in-your-face kind of car. But it's not quite a big as some might think. It's actually SMALLER and weighs less than a Taurus SHO. Imagine that! And one last thing - it's been perfectly reliable. :o)
        Blaec Erickson
        • 2 Years Ago
        in AUS the top speed is 190MPH and there awesome, good on fuel for a v8 and better than most v6s on the hiway/freeway there just a good car
        • 5 Years Ago
        So let me get this straight, everyone who has one that posted in this thread pretty much universally love theirs while it's the people who have no (or next to none) experience with one are the ones that think it's crap.

        Makes perfect sense lol.
      • 5 Years Ago
      it may be a bit dated but it is still a very good car. A refreshed model will be out later.
      • 5 Years Ago
      You say the straight lines design of the 300 is outdated as compared to the more swoopy lines of competion, you forgot that Chrysler already did its swoopy lines in the Concorde, 300M, etc. back in 1999.
      This time around with the 300, Magnum and Charger, Chrysler helped popularize higher beltlines, shorter glass lines all around, and also brought in technology (I believe they were forced to buy German if you know what I mean) from its previous big brother Daimler including your badly maligned steering system and suspension. The engine is pure Detroit-born though.
      The competition as stated by the author are different in some way that the comparison is apples to oranges. No. 1 difference is purpose, this car was not meant to be a swoopy curve carver.
      This car is in a different niche, everything else compared to it is one or more of: more expensive, smaller, less power, designed for narrower roads, less space, etc.
      The only cars it can be compared to as others have stated are the Pontiac G8 GXP and Cadillac CTS-V. The G8 is gone I believe it was a little bit cheaper. The CTS-V is more expensive (and by the way isn't swoopy-designed either).
      And while we're at it, no car is perfect. For example if you like the Ford Mustang GT, note that its dashboard is plastic. If you like the Camaro, note that its trunk is smallish. If you like the Challenger, it is large and steering could be tighter.
      Now if folks would rather buy a Mazda Miata with a 1.8L 4 cyl. engine, meant to carve corners, god bless you but please don't expect its advantages to be also be present in a large sedan.
      • 5 Years Ago
      "Chrysler wanted the 300C SRT8 to start a new trend of muscle sedans – a land where quarter-mile times reigned supreme, and booming exhaust notes were all that mattered. This trend never really caught on..."

      What are you smoking?

      BMW M5, Audi RS-6, Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG, and the Maserati Quattroporte...

      All of these monsters came out BEFORE this thing...
        • 5 Years Ago
        I drove a 300 from Denver to Chicago and back. Plus I own a Dodge Magnum and have taken it on numerous road trips. The handling isn't the best but, there's far worse. My only complaints with the body style of cars like the Charger, Magnum and 300 are the enormous blind spots but, overtime you get use to them. All around I love these cars and I'm really looking forward to seeing what Chrysler has up their sleeve for the 2012 line. I really hope they don't mess things up...
        • 5 Years Ago
        Why does the term "muscle car" give powerful big-displacement cars a free pass on handling and interior refinement? This just seems like a marketing spin to help Chrysler sell a $50,000 car that cannot compete with other luxury/sports sedans except in a straight line.

        Then again, there must be a market for people who like to travel in a straight line as fast as possible with four passengers surrounded by lots of chrome.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Those are more euro super sedans than muscle sedans.
      • 5 Years Ago
      "Even an Acura TL SH-AWD is a compelling option."

      Chrysler, stop giving cars out to import loving weenies. This does you no good at all...

      The author (yet again) comes up with no proof of any faults. While you had your camera out why did you not take a picture of the "Chrysler's poor interior refinement" or mention that the SHO is actually heavier and that a normal 5.7L 300C is not only quicker, but only 1 MPG worse in the fuel economy department.

      Again, Chrysler PR folks...stop giving cars to the wrong people.
        • 5 Years Ago
        **"why did you not take a picture of the "Chrysler's poor interior refinement" "**

        They did, it's nearly every interior shot in the gallery.

        Seriously, that dollar-store center stack may have been ok in a '90s Jeep, but shouldn't be in anything costing more than twelve grand. And those gauges that look so elegant in white during the day, turn into eyesores at night. Either too dark to read or too bright to be safe.

        Oh, and no, a 300C (non-SRT) is not quicker than a SHO.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The new TL SH-AWD is a great car with a fantastic interior wrapped in one of the worst exteriors ever designed.

        And I actually did pick my 05 TL 6 speed over a 300C SRT/8 when I was shopping for a DD. The 6 speed and the interior won me over for DD duty.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The impression that I got was that the author went in looking for things he knew he would dislike.

        There had been a few 300C SRT-8 "reviews" this year and this one was definitely the harshest of them. Almost seems like the author is used to (and/or have a particular bias for) driving compact pocket rockets.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "Again, Chrysler PR folks...stop giving cars to the wrong people."

        They have to give them to everyone or the people who review them well (the ones I assume you would want them to give the cars to) would lose all credibility in their reviews. It doesn't make sense for someone to buy a car that was only reviewed by people who were hand picked by the car company.

        However, I do agree that automotive journalists sometimes look for faults in some cars and make excuses for others. In just about all BMW reviews, glaring shortfalls in quality or content are written off as utilitarian or an unusuaul but charming design choice. When a car from almost any other manufacturer has the same faults, it's cheap, has poor fit and finish, and was designed by apes.

        Honestly, in this case, I think the reviewer is hitting the nail on the head. This car (the SRT8 version) could be the world's most appealing sedan if it started at $35,000. At $40,000 it would be worth considering, but $50,000 is way too much. Maybe the redesigned 2012 will be worth it, but this one isn't.
        • 5 Years Ago

        The TL has about as much overlap with this car as a Land Cruiser.
      • 5 Years Ago
      This car is one of the biggest hunks on the road check out this review http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l8maP4CB1Nk

        • 5 Years Ago
        The classic Jeremy response:

        It's rubbish. Doesn't really try to explain why, it just is.

        As for the handling? LX cars are very good considering the price-point and weight. It's not like we've got many roads in North America that really take handling anywhere near the limit. And since you'll never pay anywhere near sticker for this car, its actually an exceptional value if you want a fullsize, rear drive, silly fast sedan.
        • 5 Years Ago
        He says a lot of things, but none of it is relavant to the buyer who is looking for a comfortable fullsize car you can have some fun with. He then compares it to a car that costs twice as much.
        • 5 Years Ago
        As much as I adore Top Gear and find Jeremy Clarkson's work fascinating, I would never put much into his "reviews" or comparisons.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'd like to see an AB article on BMW's uninspiring and awkward dash layout and the use of fake leather as standard in the 3 series.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Some of your readers would be hard pressed to know the difference between a shift pattern and shinola, but that just dates me. My 2005 C continues to get 23+ on the highways of the western deserts, at 75 MPH. Granted I would prefer my Excursion to the C, but, alas, BP and the rest are fighting for my hard earned dollars with an unfair advantage. The excursion still has the best visibility of any vehicle I have ever owned, except an MGB 30 years ago.
      • 5 Years Ago
      That is a very handsome color of blue. It goes with the chrome and black trim very well.

      If the car were less than 4000lbs, if the SRT offered Challenger's 6-speed manual, and if the interior weren't so stark and plasticky, I could see owning something like that.

      I'd rather own a Genesis V8 in a similar color to that, though. Something a bit more lithe, even if it isn't as brute-force powerful.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Guilty pleasure? I'd feel no guilt driving this whatsoever. (Actually, of the Mopar sedans, I'd pick the Charger SRT8 -- I prefer its looks -- but you get the gist.)
        • 5 Years Ago
        Exactly. This isn't a moped.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Wait, so they didn't test it with body-colored 24's? I thought that was the only rim option available...
        • 5 Years Ago
        Those are standard on the No Brains Pretend Money Package, but that package is only for the V6.
      • 5 Years Ago
      My brother drives the 2008 300C and I really like it. Its super comfortable and has power when you need it to.

      It also impresses people when they sit in, despite what Autoblog said (well, I'm only 21 and so are my friends so maybe it still impresses my friends and I).
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