Sometimes, 340 horsepower isn’t enough.
Ask Dale Earnhardt Jr.
But what if you’re just the average Joe or Jill looking at Chrysler’s wildly popular 2005 300C sedan and lusting for something more under the hood than a wimpy 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 with 340 ponies?
Cheer up. There’s the SRT-8 version of the 300C, a bonus added to Chrysler’s sedan lineup this year. The SRT-8, this week’s tested machine, gets the 6.1-liter version of the Hemi V-8 … with 425 horsepower and a top torque rating of 420 foot-pounds.
For the uninitiated, SRT stands for “street and racing technology.” And if you’re thinking right now that you’re a law-abiding citizen who would never floor the accelerator on an SRT-8 on the public roadways, well, congratulations on your formidable willpower. Because no matter how you slice it, this car was meant to perform.
The SRT-8 does not serve up power in gradual, smooth style, a la Audi or Lexus. The Chrysler instantly and brutally dishes it out, like a remorseless sixth-grade bully. Accelerations, even with nearly 4,200 pounds of hardware to move, take your breath away.
Although the car is a speeding-ticket magnet, there are fringe benefits. Those include: stepping away from obnoxious tailgaters with a mere tap on the gas, hill climbs so effortless that you wonder why everyone else is struggling uphill and freeway merges with plenty of room to spare.
Engine noise is deep and rumbling, but in a way that will likely impress most drivers.
Nothing like American muscle, huh? That is, if you can conveniently overlook the fact that the SRT-8 is assembled in Canada, with an engine built in Mexico and a five-speed automatic gearbox with DNA from Chrysler’s Germany-based parent, DaimlerChrysler AG.
Politically speaking, the SRT-8 invites allegations of excess. Does anyone really need a five-passenger sedan that goes from zero to 60 miles per hour in five seconds? And shouldn’t an SRT-8 owner be ashamed of those monster-SUV-like fuel economy ratings of 14 miles per gallon in the city and 19 mpg on the highway?(Not to mention that Chrysler recommends premium gas for the big V-8 engine.)
The answer is perhaps, but guilt is relative.
The 2005 SRT-8 resembles a Bentley in both appearance and performance. But for those who cannot afford the 2005-model Bentley’s starting fare – a cool $160,000 – the manufacturer’s suggested retail price for the SRT-8 – $39,370 – holds no small allure.
Beyond performance, the SRT-8 has all the charms that have made the base Chrysler 300 sedan so popular.
There’s that massive front grille and the high-slab sides anchoring a windshield that seems to lean into the wind. The SRT-8’s exterior is further accentuated by 20-inch performance tires front and rear.
Inside, the SRT-8 has the ambience of a sedan wearing a $70,000 sticker. Standard fare on the tester included rain-sensitive windshield wipers, dual-zone climate control, power-adjustable pedals with memory settings, six-disc CD changer and heated front seats. The tested car was further dressed up with a $950 power moonroof and a $1,965 option package that included Sirius Satellite Radio and a navigation system.
Like more moderately priced 300 sedans, the SRT-8’s high body panels give way to windows and a roof that appear crunched down, creating limitations to visibility.
Getting a good look through the rearview mirror takes an extra moment of concentration. And backing out of tight quarters involves serious head-swiveling to make sure the coast is clear.
Overall, the SRT-8 is quite the impressive package, but it’s definitely a niche model. It shapes up as a thoroughly enjoyable family sedan when the family’s primary driver has the soul of a NASCAR pilot.
Other buyers of four-door transportation will likely avoid it.
Worth noting: Even with electronic stability control and traction control, the SRT-8 sways in turns and applies considerable pressure on passengers when the Hemi’s horses are let loose. On a twisting road tackled with even moderate aggressiveness, everybody needs to hang on.
Tossing passengers like a salad en route to a quiet evening dinner probably won’t win you many friends. Neither will hitting the car’s world-class Brembo brakes and pressing folks into their seat belts.
Yes, the SRT-8 is a rush, but it might be too much of a rush for some.
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Chrysler 300C SRT-8 at a glance
Make/model: 2005 Chrysler 300C SRT-8
Vehicle type: Five-passenger, rear-drive, high-performance, full-size, four-door sedan.
Base price: $39,370 (as tested, $43,350)
Engine: 6.1-liter Hemi V-8 with 425 horsepower at 6,200 revolutions per minute and 420 foot-pounds of torque at 4,800 rpm
EPA fuel economy: 14 miles per gallon city; 19 mpg highway Transmission: Electronic five-speed automatic with clutchless manual shifting feature Steering: Power-assisted rack and pinion
Brakes: Heavy duty, power-assisted four-wheel vented discs with anti-lock
Suspension: Independent with high upper “A” arm on front; independent multi-link on rear (coil springs and stabilizer bars front and rear)
Interior volume: 122.2 cubic feet
Cargo volume: 15.6 cubic feet
Fuel tank: 19 gallons
Curb weight: 4,160 pounds
Track: 63 inches on front; 63.1 inches on rear
Ground clearance: 5.1 inches
Height: 57.9 inches
Length: 196.8 inches
Wheelbase: 120 inches
Width: 74.1 inches
Tires: Performance P245/45ZR20 on front; P255/45ZR20 on rear
Final assembly point: Brampton, Ontario, Canada
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About the writer: The Bee’s Mark Glover can be reached at (916) 321-1184 or firstname.lastname@example.org.