When it was first unveiled in 2003, the Chrysler 300 was a beacon of light in an otherwise dreary lineup. The company’s ’90s-era Cab Forward design language was a thing of the past, and the company’s merger with Daimler failed to transform the smallest member of the Big Three into an American Mercedes. And in the dozen years since, the 300 has remained a highlight throughout Chrysler’s divorce from Daimler, terrible lineups (remember the Chrysler Pacifica?), bankruptcy, and arranged marriage to Fiat. It kept Chrysler seem relevant even through its darkest days, and was even the ride of choice for a then-Senator Barack Obama.
And while the 300 is still going strong, it’s beginning to feel like its better days may be behind it. Better days being, of course, the 2011-’14 300 SRT, an old-school bruiser with a 6.4 liter Hemi V8 good for 470 horsepower, 470 pound-feet of torque, and an adaptive suspension that could transform the car from boulevard cruiser to track-day surprise with the flip of a switch. Before the Chevrolet SS and Dodge Hellcat Charger came along, it was the closest thing you could get to a four-door American muscle car. And in true muscle car fashion, the stripped-down SRT Core version was available for buyers who wanted the big motor and little else.
But when the 300 received a facelift for 2015, the SRT was left by the wayside. So it was strange when 300 SRTs with modern bodywork began popping up all over Detroit earlier this year. After months of wondering, FCA has put its cards on the table and made the announcement: The 300 SRT is dead in the U.S. In other parts of the world, however, it’s very much alive.
If the idea of axing a muscle car in its home market to continue selling it abroad is leaving you scratching your head, you’re not alone. Speaking with Car and Driver, an FCA spokesman cited the SRT sub-brand’s shifting to become a Dodge-based lineup as major reason for the car’s demise. Still, the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT is the best-selling model sold under the banner, and with a Hellcat-based Grand Cherokee on the way as an SRT, that line of reasoning begins to fall apart.
But even without the 300, SRT has one of the most interesting performance lineups in the industry right now. And in many ways, the 204 mile per hour Charger Hellcat does everything the 300 could do and more, just faster, and in a slightly less luxurious package. And in a turn of events that’s exclusive to the 300, unlike Mercedes-AMG, or BMW’s M-Division, the car’s luxury pretensions were probably working against it. With a full performance lineup, SRT didn’t need a fast luxury sedan when it already had a newer, nicely appointed sedan that just so happened to be the fastest four door on the market.
So as a result, the 300 SRT sits in a kind of undead limbo, an outcast in its homeland. It’s likely to be manufactured in Chrysler’s Brampton, Ontario plant, and will be welcomed instead in far-flung places like Australia (where there’s an appetite for full-size performance) Zimbabwe, Belarus, Japan, and 12 other countries. While we can’t go to our local Chrysler dealership for luxurious, tire-shredding performance anymore, it’s nice to know that somewhere out there, someone is keeping a car as good as the 300 SRT alive.
Follow Derek on Twitter @CS_DerekS
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