Chrysler 300 SRT-8 - Driven

Having lost the C at the end of its name with the new model launched in late 2012, the second generation of the modern 300 series retains very strong links to its successful forebear. Chrysler did not dare mess with such a successful formula, which can be a trap...

It is a challenge for car companies though, when updating an iconic model. Keep the style and look that people liked and simply freshen it? Or start anew? What did Audi do with the TT? Or Ford with the Mustang (several times)?

It must be said though, that the renewed 300 is quite a different car, even though it looks very similar. The physical and mechanical layout is unchanged, the gangster look is exaggerated and modernised, and the technical assets of the car have seen great improvements.

The 18-inch wheels on the lower end of the range look like 15s, so big is the body styling of this car. In fact it's approximately Falcon sized. The 20s (with Pirellis) on the SRT8 get it all in proportion – and look way cool.

One area which buyers who've owned the previous model will appreciate, is the improvement in quality, especially noticeable in the interior. This is something all car makers are attuned to these days, and American cars had a long way to go…

We tested both the V6 turbodiesel version and the range-topping SRT8. Each had quite different interior finishes. Even on the more basic car, there was a feeling of quality. The SRT8 gains leather on the dash, door-trims and more gadgets, but neither feels low-rent in build quality or style.

Three versions are offered in Australia – first has the 3.6-litre V6 engine, which if experience in the Jeep Grand Cherokee is anything to go by, it's a lacklustre unit. The 3-litre turbodiesel on the other hand is an excellent engine, torquey and well suited to the big sedan. 550Nm makes up for the 176kW of power. The 3.6 petrol car has 210kW, but 340Nm of torque.

Of course the massive 6.4-litre V8 in the SRT8 is monstrously powerful and torquey - 347kW and 631Nm to boast to the boys about. And does it sound good when your foot is planted! Being able to beat a Porsche 911 in a traffic light Grand Prix will impress your mates too. This is a serious power unit.
The diesel and V8 share a 5-speed automatic transmission, with paddles on the SRT8, while the V6 petrol gets a more modern 8-speed unit.

The SRT8 gains a plethora of benefits: Brembo brakes, bolstered seats, monitoring for G-forces, 0-100 times and quarter mile times, a 19-speaker Harman-Kardon sound system, subtle wheelarch flares and a rear spoiler. Auto, Sport or Track modes can be selected.

Seamlessly, when not required, four of the cylinders take a rest, making the SRT8 and SRT4.

The blue glow to the instruments at night is well flashy. The high beam of the headlights seems to just spread the light wider, gaining little extra penetration (like many cars).

The 300 makes a very credible alternative to the big Aussie cars, with a level of exclusivity they can't match. And the SRT8 offers a pretty unique proposition these days with the demise of hot Falcons and Commodores.

 Engine type: 8-cylinder 6.4-litre
 Power: 347kW
 Torque: 631Nm
 Transmission: 5-speed automatic
 Performance: 0-100km/h 4.8 seconds
 Price: $65,000 at time of writing
 Text & photos - Paul Blank (copyright)