2013 CHRYSLER 300 REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Large luxury sedan
Price: $56,000 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 347kW/631Nm; 6.4 litre V8 petrol | 5spd auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 13.0 l/100km | tested: 16.8 l/100km
Talk about the lucky country. Seems Chrysler’s North American HQ has heard the clamour from Australia for an SRT8 with a friendlier price.
It's a thumping car, the 300 SRT8, and it produces exactly the kind of power Aussie V8 fans love. Trouble was, up until now, it only came as one-with-the-lot. And it was priced accordingly.
The solution from Chrysler is a stripped-down version - the 300 SRT8 Core.
Sure, it has shed a few luxury items, but lost none of the power, nor the menacing looks that give the 300 its tough-guy appeal.
With a $10,000 saving over the full-fat SRT8, is this new Core model the answer to every prayer?
Quality: This feels like an interior built in two stages. The first half, with a soft-feel dash and well-fitted centre screen, and impressive panel gaps looks just right.
The second half, door trims that don’t align properly, a creaky centre console and a lower console cover that had to be forced shut due to its poor fitment, look like they were hashed together on a Friday afternoon.
We know Chrysler can do better - the better fit of the centre console cover in eight-speed auto equipped V6 300s proves it.
Comfort: Interior space is generous, and despite the de-contenting of the Core, power-adjustable sports seats remain up front. They’re wide, so not exactly sport, but even with fabric trim they’re still comfy.
Driver’s of taller stature may not notice, but for the vertically challenged it's hard to get the lumbar support right. For longer legs there’s a shortage of under-thigh support too.
But rear seat passengers enjoy the width of this car. There’s shoulder space for three broad blokes, and the centre perch isn’t unpleasant (but being rear-wheel-drive, there’s an lumpy transmission tunnel to clear).
Equipment: So what does the Core model retain of the SRT8 equipment list?
Well there's powered front seats, an electrically-adjustable steering column, heated mirrors with electric folding, proximity key with push-button start, sports pedals, automatic bi-Xenon lights and rain-sensing wipers, self-dimming rear view mirrors, alarm and dual zone climate control.
Add to that list with a huge 8.4 inch touch screen, a six-speaker Alpine audio system featuring MP3, CD, AM/FM and auxiliary inputs, plus Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity.
It also houses access to SRT telemetry, which gives vital vehicle system temperatures and pressures, as well as recording acceleration and braking speeds, trap speeds, steering input and G-forces.
The Core also keeps 20x9.0 inch alloy wheels - with a unique design - and the SRT bodykit.
But you won’t find the Nappa leather trim, heated and cooled front and heated rear seats, premium sound system, blind-spot assist, heated cup holders, satellite navigation, a reverse camera (you’ll really miss this), adaptive cruise control with collision detection or adaptive dampers.
In the cabin there’s covered cup holders up front, plus a roomy console and glovebox. Door pockets are decently sized front and rear with a bottle holder in each door.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: Without making too much of a point of it: 6.4 litres! By modern standards - by any standard - that is a huge engine, particularly as more and more manufacturers are hustling to downsize.
The outputs are similarly supersized. Powers tops out at 347kW at 6100rpm while torque peaks at 631Nm at 4150rpm. Its ability to put that power to the ground is surprising, a combination of clever electronic intervention and a well sorted rear-end helps here.
Keeping in mind the $56,000 entry ticket, the SRT8 Core is a genuine bang-for-your-buck bargain. Nothing else for the money comes close to matching its monstrous outputs.
How does that translate on the road though? Well, Chrysler claims the Core will bolt to 100 in 4.8 seconds (Chrysler Australia keeps mum on the subject, but that’s the international claim).
Without trying too hard, the SRT ‘Electronic Vehicle Information Centre’ showed that exact time, and that was before we delved into the 'launch control' feature.
Drag racing aside though, its not all roses for the Core.
The five-speed auto is the weak link. It feels like an old gearbox, and lacks the immediacy of response of a more modern transmission - an effect further accentuated by the ratio gaps between gears.
That aside, as a cross-country cruiser the SRT Core has it made.
It's got the effortless power to flatten mountains, and should the tarmac beneath your wheels turn tight and twisty, there’s on-demand power oversteer for your giddy pleasure.
Refinement: If you’re a fan of the rumbling tones of a big V8, you’ll love the deep idle of the 6.4 Hemi which grows to a growling bark as you open the taps.
The gearbox rears its ugly head again - shifts are only smooth at very light throttle. The harder you push the worse they become and under load with a wide-open throttle it starts to feel like serious drivetrain damage is being wrought thanks to massive shift-shock.
As for wind and road noise, they barely trouble the interior - even with that massive rubber pounding the pavement.
Ride and Handling: The Core price has been brought down due to the deletion of adaptive suspension, in its place is a regular steel spring setup for the multi-link front and rear.
Instead of the Firm and Firmer modes of the adaptive system in the up-specced car, the Core's suspension feels closer to the Firmer setting.
Around town the comfort is not out of place for a big heavy limo - but smack into a sharp pothole or up the speed and it becomes a crashing menace (and will collide with its own bumpstops a little too often).
Steering can feel pretty wooly too, although the hydraulic system betters the feel of the electric assistance offered in non-SRT models.
There’s still not a great deal of accuracy through the wheel, and the driver is totally isolated from any feedback the front wheels provide - a sure sign that you’re better off letting the rear axle control the steering angle.
Braking: Despite the perceived dynamic shortcomings, the brakes bring some life back to the party - Four-piston Brembo calipers up front squeeze 360mm slotted front discs, while slotted rear discs measure 350mm.
Over the smaller brake package of the standard 300 the difference is immense, but smooth and quiet enough for civic duty.
ANCAP rating: Not tested.
Safety features: Inside the Core there’s seven airbags (dual front, side, curtain and a driver’s knee airbag) as well as active head-restraints and height adjustable load-limiting pretensioning seat belts up front.
ABS brakes feature brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution, and there’s well tuned stability and traction control.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years, 100,000km
Service costs: Chrysler does not offer fixed-price servicing. Service costs may vary, so consult your dealer.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Holden Commodore SS-V Redline ($53,690) - The big aussie sedans have the 300 Core matched for size, but struggle to match match output and spec (do so, and the price climbs).
Let's say your budget is firm, that puts the Holden’s impressive Redline within reach. It’ll out-handle the Core on any course you care to mention too - but with ‘only’ 260kw you may as well bring a fork to a gun-fight. (see Commodore reviews)
HSV Clubsport R8 ($73,290) - Forgetting the 317kW version for a second, the R8 brings the power output up to 325kW; it also scores an impressive leather lined interior. HSV offers a range of telemetry ‘applications’ in its Enhanced Driver Interface that mimic those of the Core too.
Theres also the opportunity to add the SV Enhanced package with bi-modal intake and exhaust for a power boost to 340kW, but that adds a further $4995 to the already disparate pricing. (see HSV reviews)
FPV GT ($70,790) - This Aussie icon’s day are numbered, but the supercharged 5.0 litre V8 is a phenomenal engine. The handling, while a little better than the Core isn’t up to scratch alongside the newer Holden and HSV offererings.
The interior holds up well against the Core, the spec list has some pluses and minuses but the six-speed ZF-sourced auto is a revelation by comparison. (see FPV reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The 300 SRT8 range offers a niche within a niche.
This big V8 sedan offers unique style and menacing performance that Aussie brutes cannot quite match at the price.
The Core aims straight for the heart of drivers by offering a ‘stripper’ that puts all the focus on the powertrain, and not the bells and whistles.
While it doesn't lose much in the way of kilos, and is hampered by an archaic transmission, the raw power and gruff sound-track of the big Hemi under the bonnet make the SRT8 Core a very satisfying drive.
That said, our advice: hold your fire if you can. There will be an update soon featuring the excellent eight-speed auto as seen in the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT and it will transform the SRT Core from brutal to brilliant.
If big V8s are still on your radar, why not try on for size the SRT8 Core? Few V8s sound as good or run as hard.