Imagine a duffle bag stuffed full of fire crackers. Now, imagine throwing the bag into a cave and lighting it up. That’s what you get when you jab the Start button on the Chyrsler 300 SRT8 Core. The 6.4-litre HEMI V8 awakens with a thunderous roar that’s enough to set the pesky Chihuahua in the next block yapping. It settles into a bassy rumble that throbs almost in harmony with your quickening heartbeat.
Shift the lever that’s connected to a 5-speed Mercedes-derived automatic into Drive and it’s time to find the nearest driving road to let the beast out.
The big brash American you see on this page is one of six cars Chrysler Australia entered into the Targa Adelaide rally in August this year. Still covered in racing livery and dressed in eye-catching Billet Silver metallic paint, its presence is undisputable. Blokes are irresistibly drawn to it like they are to Angelina Jolie’s luscious lips, while the ladies are quick to get their boyfriend’s attention when we cruise past.
The STR8 Core is a stripped out version of the 300 SRT8 developed specifically for the Australian market. By removing selected luxury items and advanced safety features, as well as substituting the adaptive dampers with standard suspension, it arrives at the showroom from an affordable $56,000, $10,000 less than the fully equipped model.
On the outside, the only visual difference is the red “Core” badge at the back, red and chrome HEMI badging on the front guards, and a different set of shoes. The Core wears aggressive 20-inch aluminium twin-five spoke two-toned machine faced wheels wrapped in 245/45R20 tyres, which to my eyes are much better looking than the standard STR8’s.
Our race-prep car also scores a Mopar front strut brace, freer breathing air filter and exhaust systems and race spec brake fluid.
Most of us would agree that American muscle cars are great in a straight line and the Core didn’t disappoint. It smashes the triple digits in 5.4 seconds from a standstill on test. However, present them with a corner and they would go around it as good as a roller skater with wheels made out of wet soap skating on Italian polished tiles would.
The STR8 Core, though, shatters that perception to pieces. It turns into and powers out of corners much better than a near two-tonne heavyweight deserves to be. There’s almost an endless amount of grip from the Goodyear performance tyres.
On tight second gear corners, there’s barely a hint of understeer, while its stubby tail would happily step out without much provocation, before the ESP quickly, but subtly tidy things up. It remains composed and flat snaking through tight zig-zag bends that are typical of our test route – a testament to its non-adaptive performance suspension.
Its old school hydraulic power steering while direct, isn’t the quickest, nor the most precise or communicative. The massive steering wheel doesn’t help with the cause either. Nevertheless, you won’t be left in the dark as to what the front end is up to.
While it does a commendable job of transferring tidal wave after tidal wave of torque to the rear wheels, the ancient 5-speed automatic is rather languid in its response. There seems to be a split second delay of when the request to shift down is sent, to when it is actually dispatched. It is however, surprisingly fluid in its action.
Bringing the hulking beast to a halt is no mean feat and that is taken care of by sizable Brembo brakes on all four corners. With a progressive brake pedal feel, the car will shave off speed as quickly as it has gained them
Back in town, while the SRT8 Core makes the mundane trip of going to the supermarket exhilarating, its constant exhaust drone can get a bit tiring after a while, especially at constant freeway speeds. Its ride is also on the firm side where most ruts and dimples made their presence felt. That said, it is by no means spine crushingly hard.
Now, to the boring bits.
As an entry-level model, the Chrysler 300 STR8 Core makes do without leather seats, has a 6-speaker instead of 19-speaker sound system (who needs the extra 13 speakers when the exhaust note is this awesome), and also loses blind spot and forward collision warning systems. None of which we missed.
The only glaring omission is a reverse camera that would substantially reduce the risk of damaging that pot plant by the side of the drive way.
And while you are having the time of your life tackling the best driving roads you can find on the car’s GPS, a tanker load of fuel is igniting within the 8 cylinders under its snout. That’s despite Chrysler’s latest multiple-displacement system which deactivates half of the engine’s cylinders under low load conditions.
There’s a certain raw charm that you get in the 300 SRT8 Core that you can’t find anywhere else in its class. While its tough, gangster-friendly design might not be everybody’s cup of tea, it is also the cheapest way to get into the over 300 Kilowatt Club.
What seals the deal though, is its surprisingly capable handling, and that cracking engine and exhaust note!
Less is indeed more.
|Price (Excl. on-roads):||$56,000|
|Engine:||6.4-litre HEMI V8 petrol|
|347kW @ 6,100rpm, 631Nm @ 4,150rpm, rear-wheel drive|
|Combined Fuel Consumption:||Claimed: 13.0L/100km. Tested: 13.6L/100km|
|0-100km/h (seconds):||5.4 (tested)|
|Dimensions (mm):||Length: 5,089, Width: 1,905, Height: 1,478, Wheelbase: 3,052|
|Kerb Weight (kg):||1,983 – 2,012|
Competitor: Holden Commodore SSV Redline
Photos by: Dario Duno