(You know this man, so welcome BigTrucks to Riverside Green for a guest post. His outspoken personality has been a little too hot for TTAC lately, but he’s still cool with us! — JB)
If you’d asked me if I’d ever be a “Chrysler” or “Dodge” buyer back in 2002, I’d have flat out told you “no way”. Over time, however, My feelings towards Chrysler softened up due to the release of the Chrysler 300 and the Dodge Charger. One of my business partners purchased a new-to-market 2005 300c AWD and I test drove it. I originally looked at it as if it was an “old man’s car” or “wannabe Bentley” but it was after experiencing the then-luxurious seats, technology features and the powerful HEMI 5.7-L engine that I absolutely fell in love with the brand. Not only could I get pretty much everything I’d want in a car, but I’d have a spacious wrapper that didn’t cost as much as our 2007 W221 S550.
To date I’ve owned 6 Chrysler products:
2006 Chrysler 300 2.7-L
2006 Chrysler 300 SRT
2012 Chrysler 300 SRT
2014 Jeep SRT (Black)
2015 Jeep SRT (Silver)
2016 Dodge Charger Hellcat
I typically own them in pairs due to the fact that the SRT sedans didn’t offer All-Wheel-Drive , necessitating the Jeep SRT.
As I’m completely comfortable talking about “real cost”, I will add that my 2012 Chrysler 300 SRT
carried a monthly payment of $680 with an insurance payment of $230; my Jeep SRT’s have both carried car notes of $1000 a month with insurance between $200 and $260 and my Dodge Charger Hellcat carries a monthly payment of $1000 a month with an insurance cost of $315. I do this because I want people to understand: these cars aren’t for everyone. The cost, while cheaper than many rivals, is still prohibitively high for many potential buyers. Yes, you can purchase them used for significantly less, but the maintenance and operating costs can still be relatively high. I average 10 MPG (combined) on Premium 93.
The main advantages I’ve observed as an SRT owner are:
#1: The feature availability completely rivals German options for a lot less money. While the Germans overcharge on safety-tec features, luxury features or engine power, Chrysler has been able to offer a great range of engine choices with class-leading power in every single segment from economy to performance. To get the power of the 6.1 or 6.4-L HEMI engines while still getting the equivalent features of an SRT, you’d easily have to spend upwards of $80,000 in an AMG or BMW-M vehicle – or considerably more in their performance SUV.
My 2012 300 SRT stickered for a mere $55,000 while the Jeeps have typically stickered for about $73,000.
#2: Long-term cost is far less. Brake pads and rotors cost a fraction of their AMG/M/ Quattro equivalents. Oil Changes are about $80 (Synthetic) and insurance/ repair costs are typically lower. NYS Geico doesn’t even charge a premium on the Jeep SRT because Crossovers/SUVs are not treated like performance sedans. My Jeep SRT’s monthly insurance is about $250 while my Charger Hellcat’s was $315. Imagine the Jeep HELLCAT (soon to be the most powerful SUV in the world) carrying the same insurance rate as a Jeep Overland Summit!
#3: Chrysler’s technology suite is arguably easier to use and arguably better. After having tested the Jaguar F-pace, Audi Q7, the Mercedes GLC/GLE/GLS and the BMW X6, m I can easily say that there’s no better infotainment system than the newest UConnect Touch. The rivals use more expensive display technology and more pedantic data-entry systems, but the simplicity and straight-forwardness of UConnect is what places it ahead of the pack. I love having system redundancy with voice control, a touch screen (which most of the rivals lack) and physical knobs.
I love Chrysler’s new heated/ventilated seats – although I preferred the thick bolstering of the 2006 model’s seats.
I love Chrysler’s safety features. Not only do you get forward parking sensors and Adaptive Cruise Control, but if you speed up to a vehicle which is slowing down, both my 300 SRT and Jeep SRT warn you by flashing a light and sounding a loud tone. The Jeep will actually depress the brakes on its own. Unfortunately: Dodge Charger Hellcats (and Challenger) don’t get the forward collision features that the standard SRT models offer – which is extremely odd because of all the models, these models absolutely need forward collision detection.
Aside from the aforementioned advantages, FCA’s SRT products offer a driving experience that very few other vehicles can match. The pure sound, low-end-torque and higher-speed acceleration of the naturally aspirated 470HP+ 6.4-L HEMI is difficult to match by all but the priciest of German rivals.
I find myself, sometimes, questioning whether vehicles this powerful should even exist in the sea of turbocharged-4 cylinders as I effortlessly power past smaller, weaker vehicles.
These cars put you into a drag-racing mentality where I find myself at the front of each and every stop light – quickly sizing up “the competition” to the left and right of me just to decide whether or not I’ll need to switch into *Sport Mode* or not to get quicker shifts to 45MPH. The vehicles move decisively and control the power with massive BREMBO brakes that almost seem to snap shut under panic force. Not bad for a 5300 pound SUV.
And then there’s the 6.2-L HELLCAT. There is absolutely nothing like driving The Hellcat. It whines. It makes sounds that nothing else makes or can make. Despite the lack of forward collision systems, the Hellcat is an exciting and fun car to own which keeps me smiling and has me making stupid noises to imitate its outrageous character.
All of my SRT vehicles – especially my Jeep are noticed in traffic right away. People will pull up to me to give me a thumb-up in traffic. When I’m sitting in the car waiting for my girlfriend to finish shopping, people will walk right up and ask me about my cars. It’s a good feeling to have such an exclusive, and beautiful vehicle and that’s part of the reason I continue to patronize SRT when I could so easily save tons of money by switching to a product with less engine and less substance.
YES – I will be trading my current SRT for the 2017 JEEP SRT TRACKHAWK HELLCAT. The biggest problem with my Dodge Charger is the lack of AWD. This is absolutely not the vehicle you’d want to be driving in snow or ice – and many times it’s not psychologically comfortable to drive in the rain. The Jeep Trackhawk will take the same Hellcat engine and make it an all-ear-round daily driver just as the Jeep SRT did with the 6.1 and 6.4-L HEMI.
Technology has also improved incrementally with an all-new polystable shifter – replacing the monostatic shifter which caught Hell after the death of Star Trek star, Anton Yelchin.
AND THE DISADVANTAGES
The primary disadvantage to an SRT is the cost of fuel. Super Premium Unleaded 93 here in NYC is well over $2.60 at current. I can afford it, but I’d love it if fuel cost less. When the engine is roaring and you’re passing everyone else in naturally aspirated 4 cylinders, you understand that you got exactly what you paid for, but when you’re sitting in traffic listening to the car burn through its fuel tank as the fuel efficiency gauges drop – only then do you get any feel of buyer’s remorse.
Parts are not especially expensive as most parts are shared with other FCA products until you get to suspension, powertrain and body cladding options. However, SRT-specific parts can take longer waiting times to arrive – especially if there happens to be a back order or recall.
WHAT I’D LIKE TO SEE
I was with SRT when they attempted to launch SRT as its own brand. It lasted for 2 years, but ultimately, SRT was consolidated under the Dodge Brand which means that the Viper, Jeep and Chrysler lost the “SRT” badge. No one knows what the future holds, but since the Jeep has been the SRT brand’s best seller, I believe it’s obvious that FCA will keep “SRT” around in some form or fashion among the non-Dodge brands. All-Wheel-Drive is the non-tuner-car’s performance standard as it allows the vehicle to be used all-year-round while providing immediate traction under almost all conditions.
Quite simply: I have an infantile desire to see the 6.4-L HEMI and the HELLCAT as optional in the 300, the Durango and made available with AWD. We have no idea what the final Jeep Trackhawk’s AWD system will look like so for right now, all we can do is wait and see what FCA comes up with.
(Make sure to check out BigTruck’s YouTube channel. Help him make that loot so he can keep the Hellcat on the road! — JB)