Driven: Chrysler 300C SRT8 Page 2

October 13, 2009

2010 Chrysler 300C SRT8

Although the 300C SRT8 comes with dismal EPA ratings of 13 mpg city, 19 highway, it didn't prove as much of a guzzler in the real world. We averaged more than 17 mpg overall in an equal mix of city and highway driving, taking full advantage of the V-8's brawn whenever we could. Over years of testing vehicles and noting mileage, advises that in vehicles with extremely large displacement engines, you'll see close to the same mileage whether, within reason, you drive gently or aggressively; but smaller-displacement engines are much more sensitive to driving style.

The interior impressed us as tight and rattle-free, again with a chunky design that's like no other. But take a closer look and it feels like a grab bag of both premium and cut-rate. Among the more favorable aspects are the heavily bolstered comfortable sport seats, which are upholstered in leather that feels a bit rubbery but wrinkles the right way; nice suede inserts are grippy and breathable; and door trim included soft-touch surfaces for elbows. Some other aspects are reminders of how Chrysler has attempted to patch over the DaimlerChrysler days. For instance, the turn signal stalk is low on the left side, with the wiper switch integrated like Mercedes-Benz vehicles, while the cruise control has been relocated to an aftermarket-looking switch on the right side of the steering wheel, its grain of plastic not quite matching the rest. Or put your hand into storage bin just below the climate controls and they're bound to catch a sharp edge.

Thanks to the upright design, there's space for five adults in the 2010 300C (four very comfortably), with plenty of headroom all around and just enough legroom in back. Maneuverability is great thanks to the squared-off corners—it's very easy to place when parking—but rear vision can be a bit restricted from the tall beltline and narrow windows.

So-called infotainment remains a strength of the Chrysler 300 model line. The optional touch-screen navigation system in our SR8 had a nice high-contrast screen, a bird's-eye mode for map displays, and an easy to discern split-screen mode, plus live traffic info. Other optional features on the test car included uconnect phone (Bluetooth), the uconnect studios system with Sirius Backseat TV (covered last week in detail), and the excellent Kicker SRT surround-sound system, including a subwoofer.

Full disclosure: Chrysler provided us a test 2009, rather than 2010, Chrysler 300C SRT8 as the 2010 models are rolling out late this year. For 2010, about the only change is that supplemental side-curtain airbags are no longer optional. For more information on the Chrysler 300C SRT8, check out our overview page on the 2009 Chrysler 300 lineup—including photo galleries, specs, prices, and our Bottom Line—and we'll soon have an updated 2010 review.

The Chrysler 300C SRT8 is a sophisticated performance car that defies its initial impression of being just another big-engine American sedan. Don't call it a relic yet.

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