PERHAPS thanks to television I think about the Chrysler 300 as an armour-plated extra in a gangster movie or a shiny prop for scantily clad women to drape themselves over in the latest rap music video.
But my neighbour, a funny but usually grounded woman was excited about its arrival for an altogether different reason, one echoed by other mums during the school car park shuffle. Apparently the 300 was the car of choice of Bree Van de Kamp, an integral character in the Desperate Housewives series.
Not being a Desperates fan myself (shocking, I know) it was almost an education to watch their interest and is no doubt why Chrysler has named the highly successful show as one of the reasons the car's popularity was revitalised in the US - especially during the first three seasons.
The Chrysler's luxurious interior is a sight to behold. Those of you who have been to the US will no doubt know of their penchant for big, really big and the SRT is a reflection of that. The heated and ventilated seats are enveloping, a fashionable combination of leather and suede with considerate bolstering.
They are electrically adjustable and it is easy to find the optimum driving position. Passengers in the rear will travel in comfort too although there is not as much leg room as you would expect from a car this size.
You will need a few minutes to take in the centre stack which houses a fantastic 21cm touch-screen media centre. Black accents complement the carbon fibre trim and the only plastics in sight are the surrounds for the air vents.
The steering is reassuringly chunky with a flat bottom and paddle shifter controls.
A simple Chrysler embossed clock is a nice touch. The boot has a smallish opening but is deep and long and has those handy bag hooks.
On the road
A new 6.4-litre V8 HEMI engine is at the heart of the Chrysler's makeover and it has more than enough power and punch to both move a car that is almost 200kg heavier than its predecessor and deliver a more than satisfactory ride in the process.
It thunders into life, the sweet grunt an indication of what lies beneath but retains high levels of refinement on the road with very little noise entering the cabin. Straight line driving has the SRT at its best as it can feel a bit drifty around tight corners.
The V6 petrol 300s have the new eight-speed auto but this model is held back to five. Sports mode stiffens up the suspension and while there is an element of exhilaration the ride is considerably more bumpy.
What do you get?
Chrysler is certainly not fooling around when it comes to inclusions, after all a hefty price tag demands a few bells and whistles.
Dual-zone climate control, rain-sensing wipers and HID headlamps are the tip of the iceberg. Keyless entry, reverse camera, rear and front parking sensors, leather-wrapped fixtures, Bluetooth integration, 20-inch chrome wheels and a 19-speaker 900-watt audio system are some other notable mentions. Our test car had a dual-pane panoramic sunroof - an additional cost of $2500 but well worth the expense.
Safety features include dual front airbags, side curtain airbags, seat-mounted thorax airbags, anti-lock brake system, electronic stability program, adaptive cruise control and blind-spot monitoring technology.
Chrysler obviously loves a challenge and has positioned the SRT to appeal to those looking at the FPV GTE ($82,540) and the HSV Senator ($83,990).
You may not think it but the Chrysler SRT would make a good family car with its space and features and an ability to deliver a ride that excites.
Features like the blind-spot monitoring which alerts the driver to unseen cars when changing lanes, an easy-to-use sat nav system and the reverse camera that makes parking such a hunk of a car so easy are all really attractive additions.
There are a few quirks, like handles that are hard to reach when the doors are opened fully and an extra-long accelerator pedal that takes a bit of getting used to, but they are annoyances rather than deal breakers.
The SRT is a throw-your-head back drinker. Even with the fuel-saver technology, that disengages four cylinders when less power is needed, it still manages 13 litres/100km. That may fly in the face of those manufacturers bowing to the trend of using forced induction for smaller, more economical engines but that sweet grunt makes up for any discomfort at the bowser.
What a head-turner. Whether you are a fan of hoochie rap, American gangster movies or just someone going about his business the Chrysler 300C makes an impression.
Pure old-fashioned muscle has been given a slightly softer touch with a high-waisted body, subtle side skirts and a mere hint of a boot spoiler.
Up front the blacked-out menacing grille however leaves no illusions of what this car is capable of.
What matters most
The good stuff: The Chrysler's power, space and luxurious feel. An easy-to-use sat nav system with expressive graphics.
What we'd like to see: A change to the extremely long accelerator pedal which can make it hard to moderate speed.
Warranty: Chrysler offers a three-year/100,000km warranty. Services cost about $470 with intervals set at 12,000km.
Model: Chrysler 300C SRT8.
Details: Four-door, rear-wheel drive sedan.
Transmission: Five-speed automatic.
Engine: 6.4 HEMI V8 generating maximum power of 347kW @ 6000rpm and peak torque of 631Nm @ 4200rpm.
Consumption: 13 litres /100km (combined average).
Performance: 0-100kmh in 4.7 seconds.
Bottom line: From $66,000 (plus on-roads).
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