Eyebrows are raised around the MOTOR office. We’re falling for Chrysler’s big gunmetal grey oaf. It looks fat, sounds incredible, and it’s loaded with more gadgets than a Harvey Norman outlet. But we’ve so far avoided corners from fear of disappointment.
First, there’s its size. Stretching over five metres, loaded with an iron block V8, and rolling on big 20s, the adaptive dampers have to carry a rather-portly-indeed 1965kg.
All that mass sits on four 245mm tyre patches, which is like fitting remote-controlled car wheels to your skateboard. However, it’d be plainly unfair to judge AEZ-878’s cornering abilities without a proper trial.
Luckily, an hour up the Calder Freeway from Melbourne puts you in the Macedon ranges, where tight bends featuring undulations, off-camber leans, broken bitumen and sinking apexes are perfect to investigate the 300 SRT’s prowess.
Before setting off, however, we check one crucial thing. Often press cars are delivered with wildly different tyre pressures to what’s recommended – it turns out our SRT is no different. Each corner is inflated six pounds over Detroit’s recommended 32psi – not a disaster, but better to level the playing field. And so it is fixed.
We reach Mount Macedon’s roads and our attention turns to the car’s electronic settings. As a sports sedan that must handle hard driving on top of being smooth-riding transport for five, Chrysler has split its transmission, ESP, suspension, and steering into three modes.
The suspension deserves particular mention because buried somewhere in its equipment list are the letters ADS. No, not what they fill the Bathurst 1000 telecast with, ADS is Bilstein’s Active Damping System. It’s a trick bit of kit that adjusts the firmness on the fly.
In ‘Default’ mode, the SRT’s most ‘street’ setting, the dampers are fully adaptive. They pay attention to throttle, G-loads, and steering angle to adjust their firmness. Meanwhile the transmission is its smoothest, the steering is at its lightest, and the ESP keeps a keener eye.
Mid-corner bumps are absorbed with nothing but a soft shrug, and the Chrysler remains tenaciously locked on its line. However, as you up the commitment, its weight feels hard to manage and the big brute becomes increasingly hard to place.
Switch to ‘Sport’ mode and the car feels like it’s just downed an espresso or two. The steering finally has some weight and it’s keener to lunge into corners. Gone, though, is its relaxed ride. Instead, it crashes into pot holes, pitches over undulations, and dances under power.
For our last runs, we lock the Chrysler into ‘Track’ mode. It takes few corners to reveal a personality switch from unruly soccer hooligan to heavyweight prize-fighter. Through long corners it hunkers down as you unfurl a god-like racket from its Hemi. As a wallaby confirms after appearing mid-corner, it’s more agile too. It wouldn’t be so lucky in ‘Default’ mode.
However, it’s the ‘Custom’ mode, where you can program each setting individually, that we like the best. We preferred the steering, transmission, and suspension in ‘Sport’ mode, but the traction in ‘Street’.
Of course, the modes don’t change the car’s fundamental nature. Which is to say, it’s got its act together in ways you mightn’t expect from such a big slab of a car. Don’t be mistaken, it still feels enormous, and a Clubsport R8 LSA will still see it off – with ease, actually – but it’s hardly the tank-with-tyres you might imagine. And really, how many owners will drive it nice and tidy...
It probably won’t win gold at the Handling Olympics, either, but it’s better than we were expecting. Which, fast forward to anytime past 2017, may be all that matters. Lower your eyebrows, naysayers.
LIKED: Dodging a suicidal wallaby.
DISLIKED: Meeting its ESP limits; filling the tank.
FAVOURITE MOMENT: Being thawed by its heated seats on cold winter mornings.
Fuel This Month: 11.8L/100km
Distance This Month: 1054km
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