2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8
Base price: $47,995
As tested: $56,930
MPG: 14 city/23 highway
- Brute performance
- Attractive yet understated styling
- 5-speed automatic transmission
- Gas guzzler
- Cheesy Garmin navigation system
By Jim Prueter
For 2011, Chrysler completely redesigned and updated the popular 300 sedan. In the 2012 lineup, Chrysler offers a number of 300 models, including the Limited, S, C, and Executive Series. Most are powered by either a V-6 or a smaller Hemi V-8 engine, and many offer all-wheel drive in addition to standard rear-wheel drive.
Our first drive of the Chrysler 300 for 2012 came behind the wheel of the fiercest 300 of them all — the SRT8, powered by a larger 6.4-liter V-8 that produces 470 horsepower and an equal amount of torque. For those who cotton to big Detroit performance sedans, the added horsepower will be a welcome upgrade.
Oddly, Chrysler chose to carry over the five-speed automatic transmission, albeit with paddle shifters on the thick, heated steering wheel. The lesser-powered 300 models use a new eight-speed automatic. The SRT8 is scheduled to get the eight-speed in the future, but Chrysler won’t say when.
Still, with all that power and torque, the SRT8 covers a 0-60 sprint in just 4.5 seconds and easily turns a standing quarter-mile in the mid 12-second range. And there’s even more power available when drivers select the “Sport” mode on the LCD touch screen on the dashboard’s center stack. In addition to increasing the transmission’s performance shift points, this mode also locks in a higher and firmer damping rate for the shock absorbers.
The new two-mode adaptive suspension system lowers the body by a half-inch compared to non-SRT8 models, and the fully tuned hydraulic steering adds exceptional handling to a car that’s already brutally quick. To stop all this power, there are huge 14.2-inch clamp vented-and-slotted Brembo disc brakes up front and 13.8-inch rear brakes.
Chrysler claims a top speed of 175 mph and a 25 percent improvement in fuel economy due to the Hemi’s new cylinder-deactivation system. But the SRT8 requires premium fuel, and because of the dismal fuel economy (14 city/23 highway mpg), there’s a $1,000 gas-guzzler tax added to the cost of the vehicle.
The SRT8 gets its own design tweaks, unique from the standard 300 offering, including larger front and rear bumpers, a black mesh grille, lower valances, and 20-inch wheels. Other SRT8-only accents include lower side-sill extensions, door handles, mirrors, and a slim rear spoiler atop the trunk lid. Dual 4-inch chrome exhaust tips set off the rear fascia.
Our test car came equipped with optional Goodyear Eagle F1 super tires ($150) with incomparable grip and added ride comfort.
Inside, the high-back, heated and ventilated sport seats are huge and heavily bolstered to keep you planted behind the wheel during aggressive cornering. They may be too firm for some, and we think the 300 would benefit from an adjustable option to better fit smaller bodies.
The interior is well appointed with SRT8 branding: upper shoulder seat back monogramming, instrument gauges, and a flat-bottomed steering wheel. Our interior was upholstered with black suede, though there’s also a two-tone red suede interior available.
We noticed liberal use of real carbon fiber trim most everywhere and preferred the blue-hued color instrument lighting to the previous model’s alien green color. A huge 8.4-inch color LCD screen displays most of the driver’s information for stereo and climate settings, as well as Garmin navigation similar to the aftermarket product. The system is voice activated but we found it couldn’t always understand our commands despite how clearly we enunciated.
A feature we did like and used with frequency was a built-in computer that displays the vehicle’s performance data, such as G-force, track lap times, braking distances, and eighth-mile, quarter-mile, 0-60, and 0-60-0 times.
Buyers are also entitled to one day of professional driving instruction as part of the SRT Track Experience. The program, which takes place at select tracks such as the Richard Petty driving school throughout the year, is designed to teach owners driving skills they can use on the street or the track.
The SRT8 has a base price of $47,995 and comes well equipped. Standard features include a power tilting-telescoping steering column with memory, a heated and cooled front console cupholder, Uconnect voice command with Bluetooth, SiriusXM satellite radio including Sirius travel and traffic link, a remote USB port, an audio jack for mobile and smartphone devices, dual-zone air conditioning, fog lamps, an acoustic windshield, and power fold-away mirrors.
Also available is an optional huge dual-pane panoramic sunroof and a 19-speaker harmon/kardon audio system with 18 speakers, subwoofer, and 900-watt amplifier. The Safety Tec package includes a forward pre-collision warning system, blind spot and rear cross path warning detection, LED rear fog lamps, radar-based cruise control, and exterior mirrors with supplemental turn signals and courtesy (puddle) lamps.
Standard safety gear includes advanced multistage front airbags and supplemental front seat-mounted side and side-curtain airbags in both the front and rear. Three-mode electronic stability control, all-speed traction control, hill-start assist, rain brake support, and ready alert braking are all standard.
The 300 SRT8 was selected as a Top Safety Pick for 2012 by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in front, side, rollover, and rear crash tests. It has not been rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as of this writing.
On the road, putting the pedal to the metal brings instant brute performance, but the 300 SRT8 never felt unwieldy or out of control. An immensely satisfying and gratifying machine with an engine that is effortless in its acceleration, it’s a uniquely American sports-oriented performance luxury sedan that will have the best German sports-performance sedans viewing it only from the rear.