2009 Chrysler 300C
This car is a classic.
It may be brand new, but it's got all the trappings of a dream cruiser for years to come.
Big 6.1-liter V-8, refined handling, rear-wheel-drive fun, and a throaty sound that you can feel in your belly; the 2009 Chrysler 300C SRT8 is a mean, lean luxurious machine.
The big sedan (it stretches out more than 196 inches) feels as stately on the road as it looks. Even President Barack Obama drove a toned down 300C before politics got the best of him. That's how cool these cars are.
Introduced as a 2006 model, Chrysler has tweaked the 2009 model, giving it a new grille, a new color (Deep Water Blue Clear Coat) and added a number of standard features such as a sun roof. This is a car that will tear up the track in the afternoon and get the family to the theater in the evening. It's even more fun when you're running a little late.
The 425 horsepower instills confidence that few other engines can. Zero to 60 mph in five seconds; less than 12 seconds later and you're cruising at 100 mph. It blasts off at lights and makes passing anything on the road as easy as stepping on the accelerator.
More importantly, for the 2009 model, engineers changed out some of the suspension to give it a smoother ride and recalibrated the antilock brakes and electronic stability program to make it even sportier. Even in the normal stability control setting, which would be the most restricting, the 300C SRT8 keeps it fun. Slam through a corner and the back end twists just enough to remind you how much fun driving can be.
The changes also improved the car's gas mileage to 18 miles per gallon on the highway, which in turn lowers the gas guzzler tax placed on the vehicle by the federal government.
But it's the combination of power and subdued looks that create such a perfect road monster. If people don't notice the small SRT8 badge on the back, they'll never expect this menacing machine to explode off the line the way it can. All they'll see are your tail lights and all they'll hear is your laugh.
Every time I got out of the 300C SRT8, I would say things like, "wow." There's a surge of power that this car provides that feels beautiful. It rewards you every time you push the start button on the dash and it rumbles to life. When you walk up to it in the parking lot, people watch you hop into it.
Like a piece of fine artwork, it gets better every time you look at it. The first glance says 300C. But then, when you look it over, you notice the Goodyear F-1 Supercar 20-inch tires. The forged aluminum rims. The dark back windows. The low riding stance.
There are other cues a more serious enthusiast might catch right away such as the spoiler on the truck and the big air inlets on the front fascia, designed to keep the big Brembo brakes cool. They may also notice the body color door handles and mirrors that are special to SRT models.
The little bit of greenhouse (the windows and windshield) on top of a burly body make it look as if visibility might be a problem. But you get behind the wheel and the lines of sight are very good (though I wouldn't recommend sitting too low in the seat).
While at slow speeds, such as pulling into a parking space, the 300C can feel unwieldy, the faster you go, the better this car feels. By the time you hit 70 mph, the 300C SRT8 seems poised to launch. The suspension is taut but never overbearing as some sports cars become. It feels well-planted and the steering is weighted nicely, especially through big sweeping turns.
If you want, you can measure how many lateral Gs you felt with Chrysler's reconfigurable display, which allows you to measure performance data.
The 300C SRT8 also adds a few new standard features for the 2009 model year. UConnect hands-free Bluetooth connectivity is now standard and Chrysler has changed out the headrests to the racing seats for additional comfort. The simplicity of the interior keeps a refined feel to it, though the dash and gauges are beginning to look dated. There's also the stereo that will wail out the 20 gigabytes of music stored on the My Gig hard drive.
Additionally, the second row offers nearly as much space for passengers as the front bucket seats. Really, this is one of the fastest family haulers around. Three adults could fit in the second row. And with more than 15 cubic feet in the truck, the 300C SRT8 could carry a foursome's set of clubs.
Now I know there are people out there that question any performance vehicle. Why does the world need a gut-wrenching machine that can turn just about any person's knuckles white the first time they're in it? I would answer that question with another one, Why did we send a man to the moon? What else are we going to do with a rocket?
Of course, those people have never met Chrysler LLC's Street and Racing Technology team. They are an incredible bunch, who get up every morning hoping to find new ways to defy physics.
Oh, and, all of their projects, including the 300C SRT8, turn a profit. Something I thought Detroit's carmakers were supposed to do. They are obviously building cars people want. And I'm one of them.
Scott Burgess is the auto critic at The Detroit News. He can be reached at (313) 223-3217 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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