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Chrysler 300C Touring SRT-8 Car Review | September 1, 2006

Driven September 2006

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This is an absolute cert for car-chase movies. And not in the hands of the good guys, either. It's got too much power, too much of an affinity for spectacular baddy-style oversteer, and too much gun/hostage/contraband space to be anything other than irrestible to the getaway wheelman.

But you won't see it in any Hollywood pictures. It's a Europe-only model. At home in the US the estate goes behind a different nose and is called a Dodge Magnum. It's only here that the 300C gets a Touring version.

The SRT-8 is the hot 300C, and it's already here as a right-hand-drive saloon, for just £39,040. It's a car that's about more. The Touring, due in a few months, is more again.

Saloon and estate drive the same. The business end has a 6.1-litre 425bhp V8 hooked up to a five-speed over-rideable auto 'box. Like any good villain it speaks softly but carries a big stick.

If you want to melt the rear tyres or pendulum the tail, go ahead, but, actually, there's pretty good traction as well as electronic control thereof.

The Mercedes-derived rear axle gives sophisticated handling and a pretty tolerable, though busy, ride - but on 20-inch rims you weren't actually expecting a floaty sofa, eh?

I can't tell you how odd it is to go monkeying around in a set of tight corners then glance at the mirror to check that no one's seen you, and see the rear window so far in the distance. It might desport itself pretty tidily, but this is a big, big car. Not outsize for Europe, though.

On a motorway, the SRT-8 doesn't feel as railcar-attached as quick German stuff does; the big steering wheel is a bit light and wispy so you constantly have to feed it the straight line. But it rides quietly, and the engine murmurs as it rolls along barely above idle. The stereo is like Madison Square Garden.

Look for reasons why it's £10k cheaper (£40,250) than the more sluggish and less gadgeted-up Mercedes E500 wagon and, of course you'll find them. Not just in the number of safety nets or slight want of dynamic sophistication, but in the cabin furnishings too. The gulf is clear but it isn't as risibly wide as you'd think.

Chrysler is learning well from its haughty cousin, without losing its own sense of humour.

Paul Horrell

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