With first driving impressions logged in the win column, the latest Chrysler 300 is doing all it can to earn a sedan smackdown with a new SRT8 edition coming for the 2012 model year.
In SRT8 trim, the 300 drafts the big 6.4-liter HEMI V-8 already stuffed into the Dodge Challenger into service. With 465 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque, and more of it available at lower engine speeds, the 300 SRT8 it snaps off 0-60 mph times just under five seconds, by Chrysler's estimates--which probably translates into a 4.5-second time once it's subjected to some more leaden feet. Chrysler's also betting on a quarter-mile time of under 13 seconds, and a top speed of 175 mph.
Since the HEMI still sports cylinder-deactivation technology, Chrysler says fuel economy will be boosted by up to 25 percent on the SRT8 model. It's mated with the current five-speed automatic--not the eight-speed automatic due in the 300/Charger for the 2012 model year--but Chrysler does confirm paddle shifters will be included with the SRT8, in tandem with a shifter-activated manual mode.
Adaptive suspension controls are added to the SRT8, with drivers given a choice of Auto and Sport modes that govern shock settings based on readings from steering, throttle, yaw and other engine sensors. The suspension itself sits a half-inch lower than the stock sedan. Steering remains hydraulic, though--while the rest of the the 300 lineup has adopted electro-hydraulic steering for slight efficiency improvements.
The 300 SRT8 (it's missing the C applied to the last-generation sedan--but there is a 300C yet to come) also wears a new grille, new fascias, and black chrome wheels, with a flat-bottomed steering wheel, carbon-fiber trim and SRT logos dressing up the cabin.
Seven-spoke, 20-inch wheels and Brembo brake calipers polish off the package, along with a performance layer applied to the 300's touchscreen-driven infotainment center. The new view lets you measure acceleration and grip figures while you're taking the SRT8 for a spin, figuratively or worse. A Harmon Kardon sound system is an option, as is a Garmin navigation system.
The kicker: buy an SRT-badged vehicle and you'll get a day's worth of instruction at one of the Richard Petty Racing Schools across the country, to help you spend more time shiny-side-up.
Pricing hasn't been announced. Stay with High Gear Media for more on the newest HEMI sedan as we report live from the New York Auto Show.
For more coverage, see MotorAuthority's 2011 New York Auto Show page