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Established 2004

Chrysler 300 SRT8, 2012: Baby Bentley Goes Pimpin'

First a disclaimer: I have always been a big fan of the baby Bentley Chrysler 300 styling from 2005. And I am still a fan with this second-generation 300 design. Ralph Gilles and team have taken an evolutionary approach to the new design, largely retaining the baby Bentley proportions and shape while adding to the aggressive stance of the original.

The updated grille is tasteful and adds panache missing from the previous generation, and the headlight units with integrated LED daytime running lights add sophistication. The annoying gap at the intersection of the hood, grille and headlight on the previous generation is thankfully gone The result is a nicely updated version, although the car is slightly longer than the original but appears shorter.

2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8

The base Chrysler 300 comes with a 3.6 L V6 that puts out 292 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque and cost less than $30,000. The SRT8 version is about $20,000 more, depending on options. But you get 178 more horespower and 210 lb-ft more torque. The SRT treatment also features other niceties: blacked-out chrome grille and dark grey chrome 20-inch wheels, red leather SRT bucket seats, a flat-bottomed steering wheel aswell as myriad display options that show lateral Gs while cornering in massive 4,326-pound. Most of all, there's the rich bellow of the 6.4-liter Hemi V8. It's priceless.

Driving Impressions
Driving the 300 SRT8 is like riding a rhino-charging rhino. At least I imagine that’s what it would be like to ride a charging rhino, not that I have ridden a charging rhino. Even with stability control engaged, if you floor the gas pedal the rear wheels will burn rubber at the red light. You will kick out the tail end in the parking lot if you sink your right foot and turn the steering wheel just enough. With stability control on, handling is tight and the car feels sure on its feet.

The beltline is high on this car and visibility is a constrained as a result. I also found it hard to adjust the steering wheel and seats for a comfortable driving position. Sometimes I like to do leisure driving with my left elbow over the door, but that’s impossible on the 2012 300 since my elbow would be at my ear’s height. Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration.

2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8

Styling
It’s not for everyone, but I love it. I like the square shape and aggressive stance. It feels like a proper full-size sedan to me, and it’s unique — as long as you don’t see a Bentley around. The latest generation features give the Chrysler 300 sophistication and refinement inside and out. Exterior changes like the updated grille and the headlight units with HID lights and the LED strip give it European flair. Iinterior trimmings on the SRT8, like the leather-covered dash define a luxury car.

Interior Comfort and Ergonomics
Apart from the difficulty in finding a comfortable driving position, the interior of the new Chrysler 300 is well-appointed. The leather covering the dash and other various parts feels rich and the stitching looks fine. You would be hard pressed to believe that this is the same Chrysler that produces the Dodge Caliber. The touch screen controls work very well and are very intuitive, much better than the Ford MyTouch and other OS designs I’ve seen. The large on-screen buttons are easy to reach.

The console-mounted display between the tachometer and speedometer integrates well and it’s nice to read navigation directions there instead of looking over at the larger display to the right. Steering wheel-mounted controls are fairly standard these days but Chrysler ups the ante with ones mounted on the back of the steering wheel.

Stitched leather dashboardChrysler 300 SRT8 interior2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8 instrument pod

The front seats have enough adjustments but lack lumbar support. Rear seats are comfy but the legroom leaves something to be desired on a full-size sedan. The full-length sunroof that lets the backseat passengers bathe in sunlight and moonlight is striking.

Conclusion
With all the bells and whistles the 300 SRT8 costs more than $50,000. Depending on your viewpoint, that makes the Chrysler 300 SRT8 either a bargain performance luxury sedan or an overpriced American muscle car.  If you like American muscle with European flair thrown in and seats five people fairly comfortably, look no further than the Chrysler 300 SRT8.

Wiseguy trunk can fit at least 3 bodies

Pros

  • Raw 6.4L Hemi power: 470 HP + 470 LB-FT of torque
  • Bellow of the beast, or, the sweet sound of an American V8
  • Can’t miss me presence

Cons

  • Burns lots of gas when you drive it the way it’s meant to be driven
  • Driving position is hard to get right
  • Smallish interior space.

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