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A review of the 2012 Chrysler 300C SRT8: the ultimate businessman's muscle car

When the Chrysler 300 was first introduced in the 1950s, the high performance sedan was informally referred to as the “businessman’s muscle car” and with the introduction of the 2012 Chrysler 300C SRT8 – the 300 moniker is as much of a muscle car as it has ever been with more power and luxury than has ever been offered by the Chrysler brand in the past 50 years.


Like the rest of the Chrysler Group’s Street and Racing Technology (SRT) brand lineup, the 2012 Chrysler 300C SRT8 is designed to be a pure high performance performer but in keeping with the aim of the Chrysler brand, the 300C SRT8 is just as much a luxury model on the inside and outside as it is a high performance muscle car – regardless of the number of doors.

While the 300C SRT8 shares almost everything with the Dodge Charger SRT8 including the chassis, the drivetrain, the braking components and the suspension design, the Charger takes a far more aggressive, in-your-face approach to exterior design while the 300 sedan has a design that is bold and powerful yet more distinguished…almost more “grown up”. That isnt mean to be a slight to either of the SRT8 sedans but for the businessman who wants a car that looks classy yet can whoop up on some of the best performance cars on the road today – the Chrysler 300C SRT8 is hard to look past.

The Exterior
The 2012 Chrysler 300C SRT8 has an exterior design that allows it to stand apart from the non-SRT Chrysler full sized sedans but this SRT8 takes a far more subtle approach than the Dodge Charger SRT8. Across the front end, the SRT8 wears an unique front fascia that reaches further to the ground than the other 300 sedans with a large central opening flanked by a set of openings that house both the fog lights and brake cooling ducts. The SRT8 also receives a unique grille treatment with an intricate mesh grille replacing the standard 7-bar design found on other new 300 sedans while the optional black chrome package adds this glossy black finish to the grille filler with a black chrome frame and matching black chrome 20x9 SRT aluminum wheels. By the way, I consider the black chrome package to be a must-have regardless of the exterior color chosen as the car just looks so sinister with the dark accents rather than chrome. However, for those who really want that luxury car look, there is a touch of chrome here and there on the Chrysler 300C SRT8. Other than the lower front fascia, the unique grille design and the black chrome package, the only other major changes between the SRT and non-SRT 300C are the headlights (which are still identical in design with both HID projection and LED trim) as the SRT8 headlights pack a dark interior finish rather than the chrome housings on other 300 models. The 300C SRT8 also wears body colored trim pieces under the headlights as opposed to the chrome units found in other trimlines. However, other aspects of the front end design like the hood and the upper front fascia remains very similar between all of the new 300 sedans.

Along the side, the 2012 Chrysler 300C SRT8 is remarkably similar to the non-SRT models with the main differences being the sporty-yet-classy 20” SRT wheels wrapped in high performance rubber, the body colored door handles and side view mirrors and the low-slung stance of the SRT8 created by the deeper side sills and the high performance sport tuned suspension. Fortunately, the basic design of the new Chrysler 300 sedan with very straight body lines and a low, chopped looking roofline gives this modern muscle sedan a very aggressive stance. While the SRT8 sits lower to the ground than its lower performance counterparts, the big, wide wheels and sport suspension give the 300C SRT8 a far more performance minded design than the other 300 sedans. Making a rare appearance along the side of this low rising greenhouse is a bit of chrome that wraps around the side windows for a touch of luxury but that is universal across the entire 300 lineup.

Out back, the 2012 Chrysler 300C SRT8 continues the subtle approach with the same basic rear bumper design and the exact same tail lights as the non-SRT models with the main exception being the rear fascia that features a lower portion that extends more towards the ground with a contrasting black portion located between the polished dual exhaust tips. The non-SRT 300 sedans also have bright polished dual exhaust tips but the non-SRT models feature tips integrated into the rear fascia while the SRT tips are extensions of the SRT-specific exhaust system. The SRT also does away with the large chrome appliqué that runs across the upper portion of the rear fascia and adds a molded rear spoiler on top of the stock lip spoiler found as part of the standard trunk lid.

Overall, the changes made to the 2012 Chrysler 300C SRT8 on the outside allow it to stand out in the luxury sport sedan segment but they are slight enough that they don’t push this high powered sedan away from the luxury direction of the Chrysler brand. This is a car that has the look of a car that is right at home on the race track along with being just as comfortable at the country club or in the reserved executive parking lot. While it has a bolder look than the non-SRT sedans, there is no question that the 300C SRT8 is the “sleeper” of the SRT car lineup.

The Interior

The 2012 Chrysler 300C SRT8 interior is packed with enough comfort and high tech features that it fits in the luxury category but with a distinct shift towards a sportier nature and that starts with the bright red leather seats with matching red leather accents on the door panels and the center console arm rest. These gorgeous race style bucket seats have suede center inserts and deep bolsters to keep the driver and passenger firmly planted during stints of high performance driving but the full power controls and option of both heating and cooling for the front seats brings in that element of luxury. Along with providing a solid seating grip, the bright red SRT8 seats are very comfortable on long drives while the adjustability of the front seats allows for plenty of head, leg, knee and elbow room for even very tall drivers. The back seats are also trimmed in the bright red leather and suede with deeper seating positions than most bench seats for an added touch of sport design for the rear riders along with heated seats for the two outer positions. While the rear seat technically seats three people the bucket-like rear bench design really only accommodates two people in the back. Predictably, this large sedan also packs plenty of legroom for rear riders while the massive trunk will accommodate a handful of golf bags – or in my case, an ice hockey goalie equipment bag. Finally, a touch of chrome here and there works with the carbon fiber trim on the center console, along the door panels and across the dash for a nice blend of luxury and modern performance.

In terms of gadgetry, the 2012 Chrysler 300C SRT8 delivers as much as any luxury sport model available in the world today. This begins with the 8.4” infotainment system that is mounted high on the center stack, controlling just about every aspect of the interior including the stereo, heated/cooled seats, the heated steering wheel, the multizone climate control system, the advanced navigation system and the hands free phone system. The touchscreen also controls the SRT program that includes the adjustable suspension system and the SRT gauge and timing system. The SRT timing system measures all sorts of parameters including 0-60, braking distances, eighth mile times and quarter mile times while the special gauge package allows for access to every imaginable engine parameter including oil pressure, oil temperature, water temperature, air intake temperature and much more. Even for those who don’t race – the special SRT features are a great deal of fun to play with and to see how your car is functioning.

Working with the 8.4” infotainment screen is the angular SRT three spoke sport steering wheel that features control buttons both on the face of the upper spokes and on the rear. This puts the controls of the sound system, the cruise control system and the driver’s information display at the driver’s fingertips without requiring him or her to take their hands off of the steering wheel. There are also some gorgeous metal paddle shifters mounted on the backside of the SRT specific wheel that allow for great control of the 5-speed automatic transmission. Finally, between the classy looking blue and chrome large gauges in the cluster is a small screen that offers information like vehicle speed, fuel economy figures, trip mileage and an extension of the SRT timing system.

The interior of the 2012 Chrysler 300C SRT8 looks like the interior of a sports car with the powerful contrast between the mostly-dark interior and the bright red front and rear seats. This businessman’s muscle car has a high tech and high luxury interior with a high performance twist while packing enough room for you and three of your buddies to pack up your golf bags and head off to the country club. The SRT8 combines all of the best aspects of a sports car interior with the most popular feature of today’s large luxury sedan to form one of the most exciting luxury cars on the market today. This interior features everything that you would expect from a large luxury sedan with amendments made from the standard (non-SRT) 300 sedan that drive home the high performance nature of this package.

The Drive
Oh the wonders of driving the 2012 Chrysler 300C SRT8. Sure, some people will bag on the SRT8 sedans because they are big and heavy but thanks to the 392 cubic inch Hemi V8 packed under the hood – this brawny businessman’s muscle car can easily beat up on many of the bestselling 2 door sports car sold in this country. With 470 horsepower and 470lb-ft of torque, the 300C SRT8 doesn’t feel like a 4,300+ pound sedan – especially when you are pulling away from a new 5.0L-powered Ford Mustang GT. This is a sedan that packs more than enough interior space to comfortably seat four adults with enough testicular fortitude to run the quarter mile in the mid 12 second range en route to an incredible top speed of 175 miles per hour.

Thanks the Chrysler’s dual mode adjustable suspension system, the 2012 Chrysler 300C SRT8 can offer a smooth, luxurious ride when that is more desirable while also being able to offer a race-ready ride with the push of a button. The SRT8 is fitted with gadgets like electronic stability and traction control but those can both be deactivated for a purely carnal drive with the help of the Sport suspension mode. In Sport mode, the 300C SRT8 handles the corners more like a sports car than a two ton sedan with no real body roll and a stiffness setting that is night and day different from the standard ride program. While the Sport suspension mode does roughen up the ride a touch – I spent the majority of my testing time in Sport suspension and Track mode for the optimal high performance driving experience. The SRT8 can be thrown into a tight corner or a long, sloping higher speed turn as hard as you want with excellent control and having had the pleasure of driving the 300C SRT8 hard on a road course, I can safely say that this car is very, very comfortable in high speed handling situations…enough so that it is guaranteed to surprise any skeptics that a large sedan can truly handle like a sports car. Most importantly, when you don’t want to be roaring from 0-60 in less than 5 seconds or rocketing down a flying mile at speeds well over 150 miles per hour, the 2012 300C SRT8 is civilized and surprisingly quiet with none of the dreaded exhaust drone. In fact, were I to buy a new SRT8 the first thing that I would do is swap to an exhaust system that allows the 6.4L Hemi too announce its presence through a wider RPM range but the standard exhaust system is perfect for someone who wants a loud car when they are driving hard and a quiet car when they are simply traveling from point A to point B in no great hurry.

The Final Word
The 2012 Chrysler 300C SRT8 is one of the most powerful sedans available in the US and with a price under $60k – there are few cars on the market today that can keep up with this roomy luxury sedan whether they have 2 doors or 4. This is a car that will beat up pretty much everything that it comes across on the street with performance capacities that allow the 300C to be right at home on an autocross course, a road course or a drag strip. On top of the high performance properties of the 300C SRT8, this brawny sedan offers real seating room for 4 adults, a premium infotainment system and a plush interior that is great for stints of high speed driving or a 600 mile drive to visit family.

If you want to go fast – really fast- in a 4 door luxury sedan under $60k the 2012 Chrysler 300C SRT8 is undoubtedly the best car for the job.