Chrysler 300 SRT8 Core big on performance

Would you like fries with that? Will that be in a meal deal? Fancy a cookie and drink with your sandwich?

It seems that everywhere we look, we’re being “upsold”.

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Someone’s constantly trying to convince us to buy more, pay more, consume more. America can take most of the credit (or blame).

But not Chrysler. Unlike its compatriots, the big American car maker has taken the minimalist approach to the latest version of its most well-known model with a “low fat” version built specially for Australia.

Keen to tap into the Aussie love of big, muscular performance sedans, the American brand has stripped its impressive 300C SRT8 hot rod back to the core. Literally.

If this is “basics”, give me more of it.

Call it addition by subtraction. Because although they’ve taken away some of the luxury items from the original SRT8, they’ve left behind all of the performance and desirability at a much-reduced price.

The heart of this machine, the Core, if you like, is a thundering, high-performance 6.4-litre V8 engine that underpins the appeal of the big Chrysler.

The engine delivers some formidable numbers. 347 kilowatts of power and a gargantuan 631 Newton metres of torque. 0-100km/h in about 4.8 seconds – and an electronically-limited top speed of 250km/h.

But the most formidable number is this one. $56,000. That’s the price, by the way, not the fuel bill.

The SRT8 Core is a full $10 grand cheaper than the fully-equipped SRT8 – and close to $20-grand cheaper than you would have paid a decade or so ago when the very first SRT8 that caused such a stir when it arrived in Australia. Not many cars have become $20,000 cheaper over the course of the past decade, that’s for sure.

Those numbers combine to make the SRT8 Core perhaps the best value performance machine on the market. Certainly nothing comes vaguely close to delivering the same kind of bang for your buck – even though Ford has recently started running out the final versions of its turbo-charged Falcon FPV F6 at a comparable cost.

The Chrysler is more than just a muscle machine.

While some desirable features of the full-blown 300 SRT8 have been stripped away (the leather trim, the premium audio and the adjustable suspension system, for instance), there’s still an overwhelming sense of refinement about this car.

Driven sedately, it’s quiet, comfortable and spacious. Yes, even practical – if not exactly economical.

The SRT does, though, get Chrysler’s cylinder deactivation system – which shuts down four of the engine’s cylinders when it’s not operating under heavy load – to save fuel. A little “eco” sign illuminates on the instrument panel whenever the cylinder deactivation system kicks in – and it’s surprising how often you see it lit up during normal driving conditions.

Of course, get too enthusiastic with the right foot and you’ll literally be able to watch the fuel gauge heading towards empty.

That won’t come as much of a surprise. Expecting a car with 6.4 litres of Detroit V8 to go light on the juice is a bit like expecting George Clooney to lay off the coffee.

We handed the big Chrysler back with 500km on the trip meter, the fuel gauge nudging empty and the onboard computer showing an average consumption rate of 12.1L/100km.

That’s pretty impressive for a car of this size and particularly one with such performance capability – despite the massive capacity of its V8 engine.

It will, after all, fit five adults in comfort, and it boasts masses of cargo space in that big, handsome rear end. As well as its thundering capacity to accelerate, the SRT8 can wipe off speed just as convincingly, thanks to its massive Brembo high-performance brakes – the same as those featured on the “full cream” version.

The 300C is an intimidating looking machine – particularly in the dark blue hue of our test vehicle, complemented by dark chrome 20-inch alloy wheels that are standard on the Core model.

So what do “Core” buyers have to do without? Not much, to be honest.

The seats are cloth, instead of leather, but they’re still comfortable and supportive. They’re not heated, either, but that’s hardly a deal-breaker in Australia.

The Core gets sports suspension – but not the electronically adjustable version of the top-line SRT. Likewise it misses the radar-guided Adaptive Cruise Control – and the collision avoidance system that comes with it.

But you still get the excellent touch-screen cabin management system (known as UConnect) which allows you to do everything from dial in your destination on the sat-nav (an option on the Core) to dial up your friends on the Bluetooth phone system. There’s also an SRT function which allows you to measure various vehicle dynamics and acceleration stats.

Like the SRT8, the transmission is a robust five-speeder, rather than the eight-speed unit fitted to more sedate V6 models. Apparently that excellent self-shifter has not yet been calibrated for the V8’s tarmac-tearing power.

The auto is still adequate and the wheel-mounted paddle shifters allow the driver to select ratios at will.

The bottom line is a car that boasts massive doses of what performance fans want – with virtually none of the things they don’t.

A bit like being on a diet, I guess – but a diet where you still get to eat fillet steak every night of the week. You want fries with that?

CHRYSLER 300 SRT8 CORE

DETAILS: Four-door, five-seat luxury performance sedan with 6.4-litre V8 engine, five-speed automatic transmission.

TECH STUFF: 6.4-litre Hemi V8 with aluminium cylinder heads, electronic throttle control, variable valve timing and multiple-cylinder displacement system produces [email protected]; [email protected]; five-speed automatic transmission with sports mode and wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

FEATURES: Seven airbags; electronic stability control with brake assist and all-speed traction control; ready-alert braking with rain support; adaptive lighting, rain-sensing wipers; 8.8-inch touch-screen cabin management system; Bluetooth and iPod inputs; electric seats, windows and mirrors.

THIRST: 13L/100km (combined figure).

PERFORMANCE: 0-100km/h in less than five seconds (no official figure provided).

VERDICT: Plenty of meat, hold the fries.

BOTTOM LINE: $56,000 plus onroad costs.

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