#02#What you see in front of you is the Chrysler 300C SRT-8 (the SRT standing for "Street and Racing Technology") and it is one of the few American muscle cars you can buy direct from the manufacturer in the UK. We went along to the Millbrook Proving Grounds to try it out for size on the tortuous Alpine Route ride and handling circuit.
The regular 300C manages to swivel plenty of heads in Britain; it is rare and distinctive, a world away from the rather dull Mercedes E-Class the car shares its underpinnings with. The SRT model goes further, but in a relatively subtle manner. There is a bespoke body kit, which includes a deep front apron and a small boot lip spoiler, complemented by 20-inch alloys and twin-exit exhausts. On paper, that may sound like a recipe for visual distaste, but in fact the 300C SRT-8 just looks good.
It's more about the engine than the looks though and the boys from SRT have been busy shoehorning a 6.1-litre version of the HEMI V8 under the bonnet. Output is impressive too, at 425bhp and peak torque of 420lb.ft. Even though kerb weight is a portly 1995kg, the HEMI can shove you from 0-62mph in five seconds dead and it will apparently hit 168mph on a long enough straight road.
Not that there are many of those on the Alpine Route in Millbrook... So is it all about the straight lines then, just like it used to be for the quintessential muscle cars? In a word, no. The 300C employs a sophisticated independent suspension, with multi-link location at the rear. The SRT version uses the same design, with tweaks to spring rates and dampers and the like and it all works as it should, with minute body roll even in extreme cornering. Unsurprisingly, the SRT-8 suffers in the ride department against the normal 300C, but a large part of that is down to the thinner rubber. Steering feel is lacking, though at just 2.75 turns lock-to-lock, it is pleasantly direct and helps to disguise the car's weight. It's comforting to know that the ventilated disc brakes all-round have been beefed up though.
Chrysler has done a good job on the interior too, replacing the usual leather pews with leather and suede-trimmed items. The steering wheel on the SRT is similar to that in the lesser models too, but is all leather. Other standard equipment includes a 280 Watt Boston Acoustic stereo system with a 6 CD changer and satnav. Like the exterior, the cabin is restrained yet distinctive. On a practical note, there is bags of room for occupants and room for bags (and bags) in the deep boot.
There is no doubting that the Chrysler 300C is an acquired taste, one we could easily get used to. However, the SRT-8 version is a real giggle and a bargain too, at £39,750 on-the-road. On paper, it beats the outgoing BMW M3
in terms of straight-line performance allied with practicality. There are many sports saloons with the same performance as the SRT-8 that cost a hell of a lot more. However, the 300C is more of a fast executive than a sports saloon and first impressions are that it does not live up to the driving enjoyment of some of its German rivals. Still, the fact that we're even comparing the two means just one thing - muscle cars just aren't what they used to be! There's even an estate version...
2006 Chrysler 300C UK range overview
- Chrysler 300C 3.5 V6 saloon auto: £26,250
- Chrysler 300C 3.0 V6 CRD saloon auto: £26,250
- Chrysler 300C 3.0 V6 CRD Touring auto: £27,750
- Chrysler 300C 5.7 HEMI V8 saloon auto: £33,550
- Chrysler 300C 5.7 HEMI V8 Touring auto: £34,800
- Chrysler 300C SRT-8 saloon auto: £39,750