2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8
2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8. Click image to enlarge

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Chrysler SRT

Article and photos by Peter Bleakney

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2012 Chrysler SRT models

Los Angeles, California – As M is to BMW and AMG is to Mercedes-Benz, the letters SRT denote Chrysler’s performance division – an in-house skunksworks whose sole mission is to ramp up the mojo of select models to somewhat antisocial levels.

The first model to wear the SRT (Street and Racing Technology) badge was the 2003 Viper SRT. Since then, about 145,000 SRT products have been sold.

With Chrysler’s recent Phoenix-like rise from the ashes, the SRT lads have been hard at work, sprinkling their steroid-laced fairy-dust over the new 2011 Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger and Jeep Grand Cherokee.

2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8
2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8
2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8
2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 (top); 2012 Dodge Charger SRT8; 2012 Dodge Challenger SRT8 392. Click image to enlarge

This hi-po trio will be joining the $48,995 2012 Dodge Challenger SRT8 392 this fall as the 2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8 ($48,995), the 2012 Dodge Charger SRT8 ($47,995) and the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 ($54,995). All are powered by a 6.4-litre naturally aspirated Hemi V8 that generates 470 hp at 6,000 rpm and 470 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,800 rpm. This is a gain of 45 horsepower and 50 lb.-ft. over the 6.1-litre Hemi it replaces.

With cylinder deactivation now included (the 6.1L didn’t have it), Chrysler is claiming a 25 per cent improvement in highway fuel economy… assuming you have the will power to keep your foot out of the throttle. Good luck on that one.

SRT products have never been short of go, but lack of refinement has kept them off many buyers’ radar. After some seat time in these three newcomers, I suspect this will no longer be an issue.

While driving a 2012 300 SRT8 from LA to the Willow Springs Raceway, it became clear Chrysler has been doing its homework. The interior is leagues ahead of the outgoing plasticky affair, featuring soft-touch surfaces, elegant design, and real carbon fibre trim. Standard kit includes navigation with a large 8.4-inch touch-screen, heated and cooled front sport seats, active head restraints and back-up camera. This tester also featured the optional (and killer) 19-speaker Harmon/Kardon audio and blind spot detection with adaptive cruise control. It all culminates in an overall sense of quality that is enhanced by the hushed cabin at speed.

Contributing to this new-found civility is the adoption of a Bilstein adaptive damping system across the 2012 SRT line-up. With both compression and rebound rates being variable, it plays nice over rougher surfaces but will button things down for aggressive driving. Selecting “Sport” via the central touch-screen keeps it in full attack mode and sharpens shift times.

2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8
2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8. Click image to enlarge

Also new for 2012 is an SRT-specific, heated, flat-bottomed steering wheel with paddle shifters, giving control over the decently crisp-shifting five-speed auto. More significantly, the wheel is now connected to a steering rack that actually delivers some feel – something you couldn’t say for previous SRT8 vehicles.

Flowing along with the traffic, our cruise out of LA in the 300 SRT8 was quite uneventful – which is what you want in a luxury tourer. Yes, there was a bit of patter coming from those low-profile 20-inch tires, but overall this four-door sedan is the model of civility.

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