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470-HP Chrysler 300SRT8
2012 model is American performance at its best
chrysler gs
The 2012 300 SRT8 is a show of force and finesse, with its 470-hp, 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 and 5-speed Auto Stick transmission. The big sedan sits half an inch lower than non-SRT models and has side-sill cladding for a lowered appearance. - photo by Photo Contributed

Body style: large, five-passenger, rear-drive sedan

Engine: 6.4-liter (392 cubic inches), overhead-valve V-8 with sodium-filled exhaust valves and hollow stem intake valves

Horsepower: 470 at 6,000 rpm

Torque: 470 ft.-lb. at 4,300 rpm

Transmission: five-speed Auto Stick with paddle shifters and sport mode

EPA fuel economy estimates: 14 mpg city, 23 highway; premium fuel recommended

Performance: 0-60 mph: high 4-second range; quarter mile: high 12-second range; 0-100-0 mph: fewer than 16 seconds; has a top speed of 175 mph and stopping power from 60-0 mph in 120 feet

Fuel capacity: 19.1 gal.

Trunk space: 16.3 cu. ft.

Front head/leg/shoulder room: 36.9 (with sunroof)/41.8/59.5 in.

Rear head/leg/shoulder room: 36.9/40.1/57.7 in.

Length/wheelbase: 200.3/120.2 in.

Curb weight: 4,365 lbs.

Standard equipment includes: keyless entry and bush-button ignition; carbon-fiber interior trim; leather-trimmed upholstery; Garmin navigation system; Bluetooth phone connection; ventilated front seats; heated and cooled front cup holders; automatic dual-zone climate control; rearview camera; two-mode adaptive shock absorbers; front and rear parking sensors; fog lights; acoustic windshield and front door glass; body-color spoiler

Safety features include: six air bags, all-speed traction control, brake assist, brake drying

Brakes: four-wheel vented discs with four-piston Brembo calipers; 14.2-inch discs front, 13.8-inch rear

Steering: SRT-tuned rack and pinion with hydraulic power assist

Suspension: four-wheel independent with front coil spring over Bilstein shock absorber, 30-mm stabilizer bar; rear five-link with coil springs, Bilstein shocks and 18-mm stabilizer bar

Tires and wheels: 245/45R20 all-season Goodyear Eagle RS-A2 on forged aluminum wheels

Base price: $48,995, including $825 freight charge and $1,000 gas-guzzler tax; price as tested: $55,225

Options on test car: Safety Tec, $1,995: includes power folding mirrors, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, blind spot and cross-path detection, rear fog lights; Black Chrome group, $795: adds 20-inch black-chrome aluminum wheels, black-chrome grille and trim; premium speaker group, $1,995: includes 19-speaker, 900-watt audio upgrade; dual-pane moonroof, $1,295; 3-season performance tires, $150

Where assembled: Brampton, Ontario, Canada

Warranty: 3-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper with roadside assistance; 5-year/100,000-mile powertrain

The 2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8 gives a big-guns salute that will make American sedan drivers sit a little taller in the seat.

This 470-horsepower, “big” Hemi, 6.4 liter V-8 is a likeable, over-the-top automotive show of force — with luxury finesse. It will smoke the rear tires like a drag car, launch to 60 mph in less than 5 seconds and get 23 mpg on the highway on the daily commute.

Redesigned last year, the 300 sedan is an example of company survival. Engineers, designers and CEO agreed on a goal and went to work. The new styling is a revolution when it could so easily have defaulted to simple evolutionary change.

The previous sedan, which went on sale in 2005, was a good car with nitpicky issues — weak interior quality and cheap-looking plastics not worthy of a flagship sedan. All that has been resolved, and the 2012 model rolls as quietly as the best luxury European sedans.

There are 10 models of 300 with choices of rear- and all-wheel drive, the new Pentastar V-6 and two Hemi V-8s. Big news for the V-6 models is the addition of an eight-speed automatic. The extra gearing pushes V-6 highway fuel economy to 31 mpg for rear-drive cars and 23 mpg combined city and highway. AWD sedans will get a combined 21 mpg city/highway.

Pricing ranges from about $28,000 to $50,000-plus for the top-line SRT8, today’s test car.

The 300 SRT8 has a big, booming drive quality. For a sedan that weighs 4,365 pounds, the beefed-up hydraulic steering has a direct feel and crisp response. There is no grab from the mighty Brembo disc brakes. And power roll on is smooth and linear — but when those big guns go off, you know you’ve been hit with some serious displacement.

A new “active” exhaust system also allows straight-through passage to mid- and rear mufflers for that heavy sound o’ power.

The five-speed Auto Stick is the last of the old that needs updating, but Chrysler isn’t saying when that will be for the V-8s. Automatic shifting is aimed for fuel consumption, with the engine switching to four cylinders when possible.

Sport mode — selected on the billboard-sized digital screen on the center stack — amps up the excitement, but manual shifts are inelegantly performed and with no engine-rev-matching downshifts. Sport mode also stiffens the suspension nicely for enhanced grip, but it, elegantly, does not hammer the occupants.

The 8.4-inch color touch-screen has a performance page that includes timers for 0-60 mph, eighth and quarter mile. There also is 60-0 mph braking distance and lateral and longitudinal g-forces. But it’s still awkward that sport mode can be selected only on-screen and not by a handy-to-reach button.

Chrysler says the 300 SRT8 will do 0-60 mph in the high 4-second range; the quarter mile in the high 12-second range; and 0-100-0 mph in less than 16 seconds. It has a top speed of 175 mph and takes 120 feet to stop from 60 mph. Also standard with any SRT8 model is a performance-driving course (

And the driving is an enjoyable, hands-on experience. There’s room at the steering wheel for a robust, 6-foot-4 male, and there’s even good back-seat legroom for those behind. The panorama moonroof, $1,295, expands the cabin experience and can be enjoyed open at highway speeds, while most of these whip up painful buffeting.

The interior has snap and sparkle, especially with the no-cost option of red leather. Two large gauges are bright with Sapphire Blue lighting and chrome in an appealing Rolex-like treatment. The leather-wrapped and heated SRT steering wheel has a flat bottom to help thigh room.

Heated and ventilated front seats are standard (back seats are heated); also standard are heated and cooled front cup holders. The generous 16.3 cubic-foot trunk is expandable by a 60/40 folding seatback.

The soft-touch “cast-skin” plastic used on the dash top and door panels is almost too skin-like, with a rubbery-rich feel. Some of the old plastic is still visible down low in the car, where it really doesn’t matter.

The 300 SRT8 sticks its big, bold, Audi-like nose in the center of credible competitors from the East and West, but when the tire smoke clears, this is American performance at its best.