by Matthew Wilson
Chrysler's SRT team has been hard at work, bringing out improved versions of several of their vehicles for 2012, and every one of them is a winner. Occupying a unique position in this lineup is the 300 SRT8, which will attempt to preserve its own identity despite being built on the same platform as the Charger SRT8. Aesthetically speaking, this is flawlessly executed. The 300 SRT8 is imposing without being quite as brash as its Charger cousin.
The all-new front fascia, decklid spoiler, lowered ride height and a number of other changes from the regular 300, all come together to give the SRT8 just the right amount of the luxury sport-sedan look. It's the sort of look shared by a number of much more expensive European sedans. It is not these Europeans which the SRT8 takes aim at though, what Chrysler seems to be trying for with the SRT8 is to do to Cadillac what Cadillac did to the Europeans with the CTS-V, offer up impressive performance for a much lower price. The CTS-V is not a vehicle to be trifled with, and one should not think that the SRT8 is quite the machine that the CTS-V is.
However, coming in at $15,000 cheaper and with far more equipment as standard, the SRT8 makes a strong enough case for itself that those extra couple tenths of a second it takes to reach 60 might start to seem a bit trivial. Power comes from the 6.4-liter Hemi V8 that Chrysler is finding homes for in several 2012 SRT cars. The Hemi produces 470 horsepower and 470lb-ft of torque, but just as it is with the other SRT cars which use this engine, the transmission is the car's most disappointing feature. The five-speed slushbox doesn't quite have enough gears, and shifts between the few there are take far too long.
There is a pair of shift paddles attached to the steering wheel, but these make shifting even more agonizing, as it serves only to drive home the point of just how long it's taking. There is talk of Chrysler's new eight-speed automatic being bolted to the 6.4 Hemi, but it's not an option yet. Also carried over from the Charger, but tuned slightly different, are the new active dampers. These have settings for both comfort and handling and handle both expertly. The SRT8 rides on a set of 20-inch seven-spoke black chrome wheels, which look fantastic.
These wheels sit over a set of massive (14.2 inches in the front 13.8 inches in back) Brembo brake rotors. These are cross-drilled and slotted, and the calipers each contain four pistons. That's quite a bit stop, a good thing to have on a car with this much go. The interior is much improved over the previous 300 SRT8, something which was desperately needed. Included in this upgrade is the excellent high-res touchscreen and 900-watt, 19-speaker Harman/Kardon audio system. Now that the 300 SRT8 no longer comes up short when trying to justify its $47,995 price tag, we feel that it this generation will be much more popular than before.