A cruise in an all-American bruiser

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The Chrysler 300 SRT
The Chrysler 300 SRT

Is the Chrysler 300 SRT the last surviving great American muscle sedan, and, more importantly, can it remain relevant in an age seemingly fit for only tech buffs? We find out

By George Kuruvilla

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Published: Fri 13 May 2016, 4:51 PM

American muscle cars are loved by people the world over. Previously, it was the men who loved to be seen driving one, showing off their skid marks, and the women who loved to see men drive one. These days, even the latter are getting in on the action. In this edition, we check out the value beyond the storied 470 horsepower of the Chrysler 300 SRT - a sedan that many reckon as the only remnant of the muscle car era of the 70s.

DESIGN & AESTHETICS
The 300 is the largest of the Chrysler sedans and the 300 SRT has the biggest of the HEMI engines - a win-win! Since the launch of the first generation of the Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 siblings in 2004, they have become the go-to car for anyone desiring muscle car traits in a four-door family sedan. Many may not know that this American cruiser/bruiser was actually based on the underpinnings of an old E-Class.

In appearance, the 300 is a muscly representation of the three-box sedan silhouette. Total slab-sidedness is saved by the rounded sandpapered edges. Everything about it is big, especially in this second-generation version - the front grille, for example, is taller, more prominent and comes with a honeycomb-like mesh painted in black that nestles an SRT badge. In fact, you won't find a single Chrysler badge on the 300 SRT - just SRT badges all over.
Our test car came in cherry red and the white headlamp clusters that encase the C-shaped daytime running lamps and bi-xenons provide a nice pop. In the rear are vertical halo-style LED tail lamps with dot-LED in-fills. Keeping the whole form muscular are pronounced wheel arches, dual exhausts and a rear spoiler.
If you want to gain instant notoriety, drive this thing - the daunting size and look will garner both fear and respect on the road. SRT takes it up a notch by dropping the ride height and adding some massive 20" wheels finished in gunmetal grey, as on our test car. The 300 is a clear testament that no one does American muscle in four-door format like the Dodge/Chrysler siblings. Park it alongside an AWD Ford Taurus and FWD Chevy Impala and the 300 is about as discrete as an NFL star sitting alongside two house husbands. wearing the same jersey!
On to everyday usability - specifically the interiors. These American oil-burners are  known to be huge - I recall the past-classic AMC Ambassador being as long as 6,700mm. The 300 may not be as long, but it is still a large full-size sedan. And the seats are so comfortable. Unlike a European performance car that only allocates sparse padding on a carbon-fibre tub that wants to wring your internal organs, this 300 has a comfy chair up front - with an embroidered SRT logo - that wants to give you a warm hug while keeping you in place. The leather upholstery is super soft. The rear cabin is almost just as comfy, but the legroom does not quite equate to the size of the car. The tall beltline means that the vantage point for kids in the rear has been elevated. There is also a sizable central spine on the floor, through which the prop shaft runs.
At the helm of this V8 monster is a chunky, grippy steering wheel, particularly helpful when trying to steer this 5m-long and 2m-wide monster. The SRT model gets a satin finish aluminium trim at the flat-bottom end and the multifunction buttons are big and easy to use, unlike some terribly damped buttons and delicate scrolls that some new "hip" cars have. There's also a Jaguar-like Rotary E-shift instead of a shift lever - the operation of which needs some getting used to, but it's a classy touch! Beside it is a slot for your phone, specifically made for regular iPhones and their android equivalents. If you own a Note 5 like I do, it's not going to fit in there, neither will either of the cup holders do the job.
Instrumentation comprises of two analogue-style tachometers and a 300km/h speedo - lit in blue - separated by a fully-customisable 7" display that reads out speed, fuel economy, etc. Atop the centre console is a Chrysler-manufactured analogue clock, large air-vents which allow free-flow of air in any direction and the company's U-Connect 8.4" touchscreen display of square proportions, as opposed to BMW's landscape view and Volvo's portrait.
It's a good scene inside this SRT, thanks to the soft touch plastics all over and real carbon fibre interior trim pieces integrated into the instrument panel, door spears and shifter bezel. But there are a few chinks, like the too-small side mirrors and the ground clearance.

POWERTRAIN & PERFORMANCE
Over the years, we have seen the SRT models go from 6.1L displacement engines to 6.4L, which is a massive heart for any powertrain - car or truck! Of course, now with the supercharged 6.2L Hellcat on the prowl (available only in a Dodge guise), this monstrous 6.4L V8 may not be the most powerful, but it still has the biggest displacement of any engine with hemispherical combustion chambers.
And for all the advantages of improved torque and fuel efficiency, the 300 SRT gets the new 8-speed TorqueFlite transmission that, at 88kg, weighs just 1.8kg more than the previous 5-speed gearbox. Revving the engine to the redline in each of those gear ratios causes an eruption of visceral exhaust notes. There were times we wished we were outside, just so we could listen to that rumble-roar. But, like a true luxury car, wind noise and tyre noise are kept to a minimum inside, which left us surprised.
SRT stands for Street and Racing Technology, and it's all about performance. With 637Nm of torque on tap, this takes straight-line performance to a new high, especially for a sedan. Launching it is an easy task - no complex sequence of buttons to press here - just a press of the launch button next to the HVAC controls and a mash of the brake and throttle lets you unleash 470 horses that will shred tyre and rip tarmac as it smokes its way to 100km/h in just about five seconds. It is also blessed with so much mid-range grunt, it's disturbing. And the big highlight is that, with the SRT apps, you can record your ton-runs, quarter mile drags and even braking times.
Speaking of braking, you have massive 360mm ventilated discs up front and 350mm rotors in the rear, both clamped on by four-piston Brembo Performance brakes. The pedal is kind of soft, but we think it suits this car's character, and the braking effect is commendable, allowing you to shed speed as late as possible before you meet the corner at the apex at optimum speed. Add to that the electric power steering that serves up decent feedback and you have an enjoyable torque-friendly ride, even on twisty roads.
The SRT's standard adaptive damping suspension system is linked to the vehicle's three drive modes - Default, Sport and Track - and allows you to set the stiffness of the suspension. Rotating the shifter to 'S' also reduces the shift time down to a quick 250 milliseconds, as opposed to the 400 milliseconds in D. Also, it can hold the desired gear and leave the engine buzzing at the redline. The track mode allows you to shift ratios by yourself using thumb-sized paddle shifters via which you can call on gut-wrenching torque at will and enjoy a soundtrack that is uniquely American.
The HEMI is a gas-guzzler by all means, but the Fuel Saver Technology (four-cylinder mode) improves highway economy to 8.6L/100km. You can expect a mixed cycle figure of around 15L/100km if you are well behaved.

FEATURES & FUNCTIONALITY
This is an all-purpose vehicle in its own right. You can haul five people around without a problem, and you can also fit a lot of luggage in the boot. There are plenty of storage options, including cooled and heated cup holders.
In terms of entertainment, we'd reckon Chrysler presents you with quite the conundrum. On the one hand, you have a Harman Kardon 19-speaker system with an 8" subwoofer and 900W amplifier, and, on the other, you have a glorious V8 rumble that satiates a hunger for speed. We'd choose the latter, of course!
The award-wining U-connect media system is easy to get around and the navigation is too. You also have USB ports and Bluetooth technology, which, keep in mind, does not sync while on the move.
There are many safety features on the 300's resume, some active and others passive - all of which will give you a sense of security on the road. The Adaptive Cruise Control, for example, has the ability to perform a full stop without driver intervention, hold for two seconds and resume with traffic. And, if you do apply the brakes, it will automatically scale up braking force. The Blind-spot Monitoring should be of use to some, considering the sizeable blind spot over your shoulders, but what is really impressive is the Lane Departure Warning with Lane Keep Assist. It corrects the steering wheel if you cross a lane marker, except when you have the turn signal switched on. Now that is smart tech!

VERDICT
The 2016 Chrysler 300 SRT is the quintessential full-size performance sedan without the stratospheric price tag stickers. It successfully showcases American muscle in its looks, sound and movement. Resale is questionable, but this is the "family" car you'd want to own.



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