Cool looks, a big V8, and a helping of luxury at a great price.
As performance sedans continue to die out, most of the survivors hail from German luxury brands and carry six-figure price tags. Longstanding options like the BMW M5 and even smaller newcomers like the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio offer great performance but are only available for people with massive bank accounts. So if you need a practical sedan but only have around $25,000, what should you do?
Even "budget" options like the Dodge Charger Hellcat costs more than $65,000 and the Scat Pack still costs over $40,000. But if you are willing to turn to the used market and you'd like a sedan with a bit more luxury and class, FCA did build another performance sedan that is now reasonably priced. The Chrysler 300 SRT-8.
Although there was an SRT model in the first-generation, we are simply going to focus on the second-generation model, which was offered from 2012 until 2014. Although it is mechanically identical to the Dodge Charger, the 300 is styled very differently and appeals to a different sort of buyer. This is the type of customer who lusts after a luxury car like a Cadillac or Lexus but needs the affordability of a Chrysler.
We think the 300 executes on this mission perfectly. It looks elegant. A Chrysler fanatic might even call it Bentley-like. But it's aggressive haunches and squared-off styling still give off a muscle sedan vibe reminiscent of Chrysler's heyday. It's also got a massive engine under the hood.
The second-generation 300 SRT-8 is powered by a 6.4-liter (392 cubic inches) HEMI V8 producing 470 horsepower and the same amount of torque. All of those horses trot to the rear wheels via a five-speed automatic, enabling a 0-60 time in the low four-second range. Though it was not the most sophisticated transmission, even by 2012 standards, this was the same transmission used in supercars like the Mercedes-McLaren SLR (so it has some pedigree).
Chrysler also improved the car's handling and appearance to accompany the added power. Large Brembo brakes sit behind 20-inch wheels and the whole car sits lower than a standard 300 with a sportier suspension setup. It won't dominate a track day but the 300 SRT-8 is pretty lively.
Chrysler cars usually depreciate off a cliff and the 300 is no exception. But the 300 SRT model has held its value better than most FCA vehicles. We found used examples with high-mileage (100,000 or less) starting in the low $20,000 range. It seems worth it to spend a bit more - around $25,000 to $30,000 - to get one with under 50,000 miles. With these cars now being six years old at a minimum, they are now past their factory warranty.
There's no getting around the fact this is still a Chrysler, so there's bound to be some cheap materials inside. But the overall vibe of the cabin is a luxurious one and Chrysler made sure to use soft-touch materials in important areas. Crucially, the seats in the 300 are fabulous and while the SRT model hasn't been offered since 2014, the infotainment still feels modern because it houses FCA's excellent uConnect infotainment in the dashboard.
The 300 is a full-size sedan, meaning it offers few compromises in the way of practicality. The trunk offers an ample 16.3 cubic feet of storage and the rear seats can be folded 60-40 for even more space. In the back seat, occupants are treated to 40.1 inches of legroom, so even taller passengers should be comfortable. There is one major disadvantage that comes with owning the powerful SRT version of the 300, fuel economy. The EPA rates the 300 SRT-8 at just 14 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway.
The Chrysler 300 lives on into the 2020 model year but with no SRT version in the lineup, it has become a shadow of its former self. Dodge has hogged the spotlight with its shiny new Hellcat models but we think it's time for the 300 to have a resurgence. The Charger is far more brash and in-your-face but the 300 goes about performance quietly and with a touch more class. It will still roar like an angry lion when you mash the throttle but unlike the Charger, it won't call attention to itself standing still. With used prices now sitting at under $30,000, it may be time to pull the trigger on a Chrysler 300 SRT-8.