2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8 Review: Introduction
For many, there’s more to a luxury car than plush leather, woolen carpets, the latest electronics, a quiet ride, and exemplary customer service. There’s a particularly discerning group of motorists out here for whom all those things are definitely on the list, but what they really want is ground pounding, pavement melting, tire shredding power!
Enter the 2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8.
Capable of converting its rear tires into clouds of blue smoke at will, as if filming the opening of a film called “Prepubescent Boys Gone Wild”, Chrysler’s flagship bookends mind numbing performance with the type of coddling usually reserved for the world’s most exclusive sedans, and a relatively affordable price.
Consider this; Bentley’s Continental Flying Spur starts at $184,200, offers 552 horsepower, 479 ft-lbs of torque and goes from 0 – 60 in 4.8 seconds. The Chrysler 300 SRT8 offers 470 horsepower, 470 ft-lbs of torque, goes from 0 – 60 in 4.5 seconds and starts at $47,995. And while we’ll be the first to say no one will ever mistake a Flying Spur for a 300 SRT8, a lot of people thought the Chrysler 300 was a Bentley the first time they saw it.
2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8 Review: Pricing and Trim Levels
Itself a trim level of the Chrysler 300 series, the 300 SRT8 is essentially the top of the line for the 300 model. The car is built at Chrysler’s Brampton Assembly Plant in Brampton, Ontario, Canada. As mentioned earlier, pricing for the 300 SRT8 starts at $47,995, which includes $825 in destination charges. With all of its options fitted (see the Interior Packages and Options section of this review for the specific details) the total price of our test car came to $57,725.
2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8 Review: Competition
While we somewhat flippantly compared the Chrysler to the Bentley Flying Spur in the introduction of this review, as of this writing, the 300 SRT8’s natural competitors are the 556-horsepower Cadillac CTS-V (base price $63,125), and the 518-horsepower Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG (base price $88,900), both considerably more expensive than the Chrysler.
Yes, the fit and finish of the Mercedes is somewhat superior to the Chrysler’s but at its price point, it really ought to be. The Chrysler is about on par with the Cadillac in that regard, while still undercutting it in price.
For those of you wondering why the BMW M5 isn’t mentioned here, as of this writing pricing and performance figures for the 2012 BMW M5 have yet to be released and there was no 2011 BMW M5.
In terms of performance, the Cadillac does 0-60 in 4.1 seconds, as does the Mercedes (the Chrysler does it in 4.6). A quarter mile is consumed in 12.3 seconds in the Cadillac CTS-V and 12.5 seconds in the Mercedes E63 AMG (the Chrysler does it in 12.9). Cadillac’s CTS-V boasts a top speed of 191 miles per hour and the Mercedes is electronically limited to 155, unless you get the AMG Performance package, which raises it to 186 (the Chrysler does 175).
In terms of technological features and creature comforts, all three are pretty similarly equipped.
Bottom line, when all is said and done, you get a commensurate level of comfort and convenience equipment and features with a tad less performance from the Chrysler — but for a lot less money.
2012 Chrysler 300SRT8 Review: Exterior
The styling of the 2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8 is a conservative evolution of the well-received “flying brick” design of its predecessor. For the transition to the 2012 model, Chrysler’s designers reworked the grille, softened the brick’s edges and affixed an all-new Chrysler winged badge.
With a stance a half-inch lower than the standard Chrysler 300 series cars, the 300 SRT8 looks intensely aggressive — particularly when the Black Chrome package’s black chrome upper and lower grille surrounds, rear valance strip and Black Vapor Chrome wheels are fitted to the car. Those features, working in concert with the body-colored side-sills help the 300 SRT8 look ”glued to the ground”, and telegraph the outstanding performance and handling potential of the car.
Out back, the 2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8 features a unique body-colored lower fascia with a chrome accent bar — along with round four-inch dual exhaust tips and a SRT8 deck-lid badge. For 2012, the badge is rendered in silver and black, as opposed to the previous iteration’s red and silver SRT8 badge.
2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8 Review: Interior
Nicely bridging the car’s two missions in life; that of a world-class performance sedan and a luxuriously comfortable executive transporter, the 300 SRT8’s interior treatment melds a compelling blend of comfort and technology. From the leather-wrapped flat-bottomed steering wheel, to the four heated seats, the 300 SRT8 looks after its occupants in high fashion. By the way, control buttons for nearly every convenience feature of the 300 SRT8 are located on that steering wheel. And, in addition to heat, the front seats are also ventilated to provide respite from sweaty-backside syndrome on hot summer days.
Carbon fiber is spread generously around the interior, trimming as it does the instrument panel, door panels and the surround for the shift lever. A huge 3.4-inch full-color display monitor dominates the dash. In addition to the usual climate, navigation and audio system readouts, the display also houses an entire suite of performance-oriented gauges measuring everything from the transmission fluid’s temperature to the number of .G’s you and the 300 SRT8 pulled in that last corner.
The premium leather package we mentioned earlier swathes the upper door trim panels, instrument panel, and center console side panels in ultra-high grade leather. A more modest grade of leather upholsters the door bolsters, armrests and the center console’s armrest.
Standard features include Chrysler’s voice activated telematics system; Uconnect, which incorporates Bluetooth telephony and audio streaming. Garmin supplies software for the navigation system and the optional SiriusXM Travel Link system provides real-time weather, fuel prices, sports scores, and movie theater information. Additionally, real time traffic information is supplied via SiriusXM Traffic.
2012 Chrysler 300SRT8 Review: Packages and Options
The 300 SRT8 we tested was equipped with the Customer Preferred Package 2TX at $1995; the highlights of which included such niceties as power folding exterior mirrors, smart cruise control, forward collision warning, and blind spot and cross path detection. The 300SRT8’s $795 Black Chrome Group option laced our test car with 20-inch black chrome aluminum wheels, black chrome accents for the body colored fascia pieces, and the black chrome/black gloss grille.
For another $2500, our 2012 300 SRT8’s Luxury Leather Interior Trim group flaunted luxurious front and rear floor mats and premium leather interior trim. The $1295 19 Speaker Premium Group gained us (wait for it…) 19 speakers (big surprise there, right? OK, actually it was 18 speakers and a subwoofer, but still…), powered by a 900-watt Harmon Kardon surround amplifier.
Our SRT8’s Dual Pane Panoramic Sunroof ($1295), 245/45-20 warm weather performance tires ($150), and of course, the gas-guzzler tax ($1000), rounded out the package at an even $57,725 — fully loaded.
2012 Chrysler 300SRT8 Review: Powertrain and Fuel Economy
Without question, the heart and soul of the Chrysler 300 SRT8 is its new 6.4-liter V8. Producing 45 more horsepower and 50 more ft-lbs of torque than the 6.1-liter engine it replaced, the newly invigorated HEMI launches the big sedan with ease and keeps it running happily well into extra-legal speeds.
Chrysler’s engineers came up with an active intake manifold and paired it with a phase shifting high lift cam system to optimize both low-end torque and high-end horsepower. There’s also a new active valve exhaust system, which works in concert with the Fuel Saver Technology cylinder deactivation system to produce 21 percent better fuel economy than the 6.1 was capable of. Run wide open, the exhaust system, in essence, bypasses the mid and rear mufflers to enable the engine to breathe more freely, as well as amplify the robust sound of the V8 under full throttle.
The new HEMI is mated to an old five-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift function. Paddles mounted behind the steering wheel control its manual shifts. The transmission offers two modes, Normal and Sport, and can be shifted manually in either. In the normal mode, shifts are “geared” — if you will — more toward the comfort end of the spectrum. In the sport mode shifts happen more aggressively and gears are held longer to help the engine generate either as much speed or braking as needed to negotiate more challenging maneuvers.
Fuel consumption is quoted at 14 mpg-city/23 mpg-highway.
2012 Chrysler 300SRT8 Review: Driving Impressions
In a word? Yeeeeeehaaahhh!
The big Chrysler goes with extreme urgency, stops with determined alacrity and corners with otherworldly agility; all while maintaining a body attitude free from roll, dive or excessive squat. After a good hard run in the big Chrysler, walking away from it, you’ll look back and marvel at how a car that large can thread narrow two-lane winding mountain roads so well.
On the freeway, you don’t have to ride behind anyone you don’t wish to be behind. Even the smallest openings in traffic are readily exploitable, thanks to what we came to term the “rocketeering on demand” nature of the 2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8. In addition, thanks to the amazingly well bolstered sport seats, the Chrysler’s comfort over long distances is absolutely assured. There is more than adequate legroom for all four occupants, even the usually unlucky one who draws the seat behind a taller driver.
While most cars in the Chrysler’s category have gone to electric power steering to reduce weight and fuel consumption, the 300 SRT8 still relies upon what Chrysler terms as “proven” hydraulic power steering. And while we love the feel and accuracy of it, whenever a car company feels the need to interject the word “proven” ahead of a technology it employs, you can pretty much read that word as code for dated.
Which certainly applies to the five-speed transmission with which the mighty 6.4-liter HEMI V8 is saddled. First of all, there’s a reason the rest of the world has gone to six, seven and even eight-speed transmissions: in a word, that reason is efficiency. Those higher gear ratios enable better fuel economy. Additionally, more modern units permit matched rev downshifts in their manual modes helping to slow the car more smoothly. Alas, none of this is available to the 300 SRT8 as of yet.
Still, the Chrysler delivers an engaging driving experience, along with a smooth and comfortable ride when relegated to domestic activities.
2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8 Review: Safety/Security
From keyless entry and start to Forward Collision Warning and Blind Spot Monitoring, the 2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8 carries the state of the art in safety and security tech. Additionally, standard front-row reactive head restraints, standard full-length side-curtain airbags, a driver’s knee bag, and standard front seat-mounted side-thorax airbags offer a high degree of protection in practically every conceivable type of collision.
To help avoid accidents in the first place, the 300 SRT8 benefits from Chrysler’s SafetyTec Group. This suite of features is comprised of adaptive-forward lighting, which swings the throw of the headlights in the direction of the Chrysler’s intended path of travel in concert with the movements of the steering wheel. Lighting up the night, the system employs high-intensity discharge projector high and low beams with automatic headlamp leveling. Rounding out its luminance package, LED-illuminated rear fog lamps, exterior mirrors with supplemental turn signals, and approach lamps give the 300 SRT8 an added safety edge after sunset.
Forward Collision Warning uses the adaptive cruise control system’s sensors to trigger an alarm if a collision seems imminent. The 300’s Blind-spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Path detection, warn a driver if there is a car in the blind spot next to the Chrysler. It also warns the driver if an object is about to enter the 300’s path of travel when backing. Meanwhile, the ParkSense front and rear park assist system makes it easier to squeeze the big Chrysler into tight spaces without scratching its paint.
2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8 Review: Summary
Every now and then a car comes along with the capability of doing it all. It’s no mean feat to produce a well handling car with outstanding braking, acceleration and superlative steering — which is also spacious and rides comfortably. It’s even more difficult to do it at the price point at which Chrysler offers the 300 SRT8.
Of course, all is not apples and sunshine; the Chrysler’s transmission is archaic, it goes through gas like a jock frat house goes through cases of beer, and Chrysler’s product planners were forced to overlook a few modern efficiencies in their quest to keep the cost down. Most notably, this is revealed in the continued reliance upon hydraulic power steering in an age in which even Porsche has gone electric for the venerable 911.
Still though, if performance is your thing but you do have to show up looking respectable every now and then; pound for pound, dollar for dollar, there’s really no other car housing the Chrysler’s generous portfolio of attributes — well, save one, the 300’s Dodge Charger SRT8 stablemate.
But that’s another story, and a different review.
2012 Chrysler 300SRT8: Pros and Cons
• Outstanding performance potential
• Exceptional comfort
• Generous complement of tech features
• Relatively reasonable pricing
• Low fuel economy
• Gas-guzzler tax
• Potentially expensive insurance
• Dated transmission
Chrysler provided the vehicle for this review.