When Chrysler dangles the keys to their most powerful sport sedan, you grab them and drive it like you stole it. Today, we did just this with the new 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, the 470 horsepower missile in their arsenal of fun and luxury.
One of the most powerful American brand sedans available, the Chrysler 300 SRT8 offers a sub 5-second 0-60 acceleration time, yet can be as efficient as some V6 powered sedans with far less excitement. It also offers a sense of style and new-age aristocracy which is lacking in most American sedans.
To get right to the point, with 470 horsepower and 470 lb.-ft of torque the SRT8 has pure and explosive acceleration. When you drop the hammer, its active exhaust system opens up and lets out a roaring blat. The sounds this car makes are heavenly and devilish at the same time. The exhaust note sounds as if it were engineered while engine noise is hushed in a refined way.
The five-speed automatic transmission shifts quick and tight, one of the best we have experienced. Use the steering wheel mounted paddle shifters or the lever for manual shifts and you have a race car. When in full Track Mode, the transmission holds in your gear dutifully instead of shifting on its own like many. Response to the paddle shifters is instantaneous too, something we give high marks to.
The SRT8 also features a brilliantly tuned active suspension which allows for three distinct modes, Auto, Sport, and Track. Unlike systems of the past, this control has noticeable differences that affect all areas of the car’s character from steering effort, ride and response, and transmission shifting behavior.
While auto mode gives you a more relaxed ride for the majority of the time, the SRT8 still handles sharply and responsively. If you start driving aggressively it will stiffen the dampers on demand and give you response based on your own inputs. This setting keeps the ride comfortable for rougher pavement.
Sport mode sets the entire car to a stiffer and more aggressive baseline that is perfect for jaunts on a mountain road, giving the SRT8 a handling character that belies its near 4,400 lb curb weight. Track mode stiffens the ride even more and brings steering effort up, a combination that gives this sedan a true capability on the road course.
The SRT8 has one of the most solid and refined chassis from anything built on this side of the pond. Being based on a previous generation of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class really shines through. And given the sport tuned nature of the SRT8, this refinement and poise makes for a true modern day muscle car without all the drawbacks of the past, means it turns also.
Braking this two-plus ton beast was amazingly efficient with its large 14.2” Brembo discs. We hammered the SRT8 to a stop from high speeds several times with little hint of fade or burning smells. Pedal effort is moderate and the feel is always firm.
Launch Control is a welcome addition for 2013, though the traction control does a pretty good job most of the time. Taking off from a stop, launch control holds the engine at optimal rpm and waits for the driver to release the brake. Launch control then uses engine torque management to achieve controlled wheel spin for maximum acceleration up to 62 mph.
While you are playing like a kid with your car, you can use the track apps in the instrument cluster, or on the large touch screen ours was equipped with to measure your acceleration time, G-Force, and 1/8 mile ET’s. You can also select a number of different gauge screens that show you vitals like oil pressure, water temperature, inlet temperatures and more.
The interior of our tester had the optional Leather Interior Group with red seats. The two tone seating made for a vibrant cabin. The hand stitched trim on the dash, console and doors felt and looked rich as did the genuine carbon fiber trim throughout. The heated steering wheel with thick suede grips was a nice tiller in hand too.
We also had optioned the full panoramic roof which lets light in from above, and opens as well. A shade can be fully closed or opened. The optional Harman Kardon audio system with touch screen navigation had a phenomenal sound quality for a variety of music styles and was very easy to use and adjust.
The touch screen itself had above average ease of use for not only audio, but car settings, hvac, navigation and the SRT features. Redundant controls for audio and hvac are also located on the center stack for those who don’t enjoy navigating touch screens, the best of both worlds.
The EPA rates the SRT8 at 14 mpg city and 23 mpg highway, with a combined rating of 17 mpg. Our observed fuel economy came to a 17.5 mpg combined when enjoying the power judiciously. Hyper-miling on the freeway helped us to achieve a 23.9 mpg average for highway driving, so this muscle sedan can be thrifty when you try.
Chrysler gets to these numbers with cylinder deactivation which runs the big V8 on only four-cylinders when engine load is low. So when you are cruising along on the freeway and coasting, it stops delivering fuel to half its cylinders. The process is seamless, and you never even notice it.
All in, our Chrysler 300 SRT8 with options came to $58,745 including destination charges. The SRT8 starts at $47,820 still very well equipped, and at that price features all of the sporting hardware such as the adaptive suspension, launch control, and track apps.
Overall, this car is nearly one of a kind with its only American competition being the Cadillac CTS-V, a car which also has rear-wheel drive and a fire breathing V8. Lincoln offers the MKS with an EcoBoost V6, but is lacking over 100 horsepower and is not a rear-wheel drive performance chassis.