While the New York show was dominated by announcements of small economy models, Chrysler instead debuted the bruising, max performance version of the refreshed 300 sedan that was introduced at the Detroit show. Thanks to a new 6.4-liter version of the company’s signature Hemi V8, now rated at 465 hp and 465 lb.-ft of torque, the new SRT8 launches to 60 mph in less than five seconds and through the quarter mile in less than 13 seconds, with a terminal velocity of 175 mph.
Customers will be able to verify their performance through a built-in performance computer that is integrated into the 8.4-inch color touch-screen display in the dashboard. Capabilities include 0-60 acceleration, eighth-mile, quarter-mile, 60-0 braking, and lateral and longitudinal acceleration. They will also be better able to explore these capabilities thanks to free enrollment in the Richard Petty Racing School’s SRT Track Experience, which is free to every purchaser of a Chrysler SRT product.
This isn’t to say that the SRT8 disregards fuel economy in pursuit of maximum performance; the new car boosts highway efficiency by about 25 percent through the use of back pressure-reducing muffler bypass valves that route exhaust gas straight through the car’s mid and rear mufflers. The lets the engine run in four-cylinder mode in a wider variety of conditions than before.
Curiously, the 300 SRT8 does not benefit from the use of six speeds in its automatic transmission. The company’s spokesperson fell back on the adjective “proven” to describe the car’s five-speed automatic transmission. “Proven” equals “old” in the no-spin zone, so there is probably still a bit more efficiency to be gained from a new transmission some time in the future.
Of course there is an available 900-watt, 19-speaker Harman-Kardon stereo befitting a flagship luxury muscle car (with quick respects to Sydney Harman, co-founder of Harman-Kardon and inventor of the home high-fi, who passed away last week).
Additionally the SRT8 rolls on 20-inch aluminum wheels, which will only encourage some buyers to swap them for 22s or something even larger.
Chrysler also introduced a pair of other 300 models meant to stand apart from the base car. The 300C Executive Series features soft Nappa leather and real wood accents inside with platinum trim in place of chrome on the outside.
The 300S is dressed with carbon fiber finishes inside and a 522-watt Beats by Dr. Dre sound system. Like the SRT8, both the Executive Series and the 300S roll on dubs. All three cars hit showrooms in the fall as 2012 models.
DAN CARNEY is a veteran auto industry observer who has written for MSNBC.com, Motor Trend, AutoWeek, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, Better Homes and Gardens and other publications. He has authored two books, "Dodge Viper" and "Honda S2000" and is a juror for the North American Car of the Year award. Carney covers the industry from the increasingly strategic location of Washington, DC.