Chrysler put us behind the wheel of its 2013 300 SRT8. It’s like handing us a license to embarrass every riced-out Eclipse and Civic east of the Mississippi.
The 300 SRT8, you see, is a car ripe with that stuff a gearhead friend of mine calls “horsepar.” With 470 horses emanating from the 6.4-liter HEMI throbbing under the hood, the decision to plant your right foot is not one to be taken lightly. That’s a lesson I learned all too quickly when, upon climbing in our tester for the first time, I decided to goose the throttle as I drove away just to see what the HEMI’s power delivery felt like. The massive rear wheels– wearing 20-inch Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar rubber, no less– almost immediately broke traction, and the rear end twitched to the left. A split second of countersteering was all that was needed before the electronic traction control nannies stepped in to tame the beast and slap me on the wrist for daring to disrespect my new dancing partner in such a manner.
The 300 SRT8 commands respect like that. It doesn’t look all that different from a regular 300 at first glance– elegant, broad-shouldered, beefy, and a little blingy. Since even the more pedestrian 300s are mostly driven by folks who have good jobs or who own businesses in my hometown, that fact alone casts it upon a higher pedestal in the eyes of many acquaintances who have seen me driving it and stopped to ask about it.
It is only once they start paying attention to the details– or once I start pointing them out– that the car reveals itself as a handsomely dressed hot rod. The 20-inch rims have a subtle SRT logo and are black chrome, and they do a fairly good job disguising massive slotted Brembo brakes (14.2 inches up front, 13.8 inches in the rear). Unlike many Brembo-equipped performance cars, including the Dodge Charger SRT8 cousin to our 300 SRT8 tester, the big four-piston calipers are painted a muted silver instead of red. The grille gets a blackened treatment much like the wheels, in contrast to other 300s’ bright chrome wing-shaped bars. There’s a rear decklid spoiler that adds a touch of sporty character without being too garish. Otherwise, the outside of the car gives no loud announcement that you’re dealing with the baddest full-size American sedan in the land. To the untrained eye, this is just another of the dozens of 300s you’re likely to see in small towns across America on any given day.
The inside of the car makes it slightly more clear what you’re dealing with. SRT-specific leather seats carry the SRT logo, are respectably bolstered, and have a wide swath of suede-like material down the center to better hold occupants in place during fast maneuvers. The dashboard has real carbon fiber in every place you might expect to see wood trim in lesser 300s. The chunky steering wheel has extra-thick grip areas at 10 and 2 and flappy paddles at 9 and 3, and the pedals are aluminum.
The smaller of those two pedals announces the 300 SRT8′s intentions the loudest. I’ve used the term “loud pedal” in the past, but this may very well be the first time I can use it in all honesty when talking about a 6,500-mile unmodified luxury performance sedan. The sound of the HEMI is intoxicating, and the deeper into the throttle you get, the drunker you’ll be. The car features an active exhaust system that opens baffles at the mid and rear mufflers to allow for a freer-flowing exhaust and a HEMI roar under deep throttle loads. Combined with the rush of acceleration that accompanies that roar, it’s like having an on-call amusement park ride.
The 470 horsepower is matched by 470 ft-lbs of torque, helping the 300 SRT8 pull no-joke sub-5-second 0-60 runs. There is a “launch control” mode that will allow the driver to have a defacto 1,825 RPM stall speed. To access it, you come to a full stop, press the traction control button twice, put your left foot securely on the brake, and floor the throttle. The engine will rev to 1,825 RPM– deemed the takeoff RPM that will result in the fastest takeoff– and will stay there until you release the brake. At that point, it uses engine torque management to control wheelspin on the way to 62 MPH.
I didn’t get to try launch control mode during my one opportunity to test 0-60 acceleration. I did switch the car over to “Sport” mode, which I later found out modifies only the suspension characteristics for spirited driving. Had I hit that button on the Chrysler’s Uconnect infotainment screen one more time, I would have been in “Track” mode, which allows more aggressive shift points for faster acceleration. But even without launch control and Track mode, on a deserted 55 MPH two-lane, I was able to pull a perfect 5-second run to 60 MPH– pretty good considering the rear tires laid two black streaks for what appeared to be the first half of the test. A later test on the empty tarmac at my local small airport fared no better, with a 5.2-second run to 60 and even longer black streaks. The traction control system does its job, but with this much raw power and torque, it’s got its hands full.
While we at In-Car Tech Tell don’t have the equipment necessary for such testing, the SRT engineers included performance trackers in the Uconnect system that can measure 0-60 times, among other things. More about those in a later post.
The fuel economy scares me, but there’s a whole lot to love here.
Disclaimer: Chrysler provided the vehicle, insurance, and a tank of gas.