Driving Above .300

Hitting a baseball is one of the most difficult feats in athletics. Engineering a car that is well-engineered at the right price is equally tricky. A lot of things have to come together at the right time and price. That is why getting a car that’s one-third right rarely happens.

While rare, the Americans have finally built a mid-sized sedan that gets it at least half right and then some. That car is the Chrysler SRT-8.

From a chassis, engine and design perspective, this car exemplifies a near-perfect raid on the Daimler Chrysler parts and chassis bin. It drives like a Mercedes because it is a Mercedes–from the chassis up. It’s fantastic 425 HP Hemi engine can burn rubber in third gear. The styling is sensational and is just too chunky to be transient.

Both cars are worth what you pay for. My advice, with a few caveats, would be to wait until it comes off two-year leases then buy it.

The first caveat is that both cars seem to have inherited the good and the bad traits of modern Mercedes–the first being abysmal quality. A 300 that I recently rented had a stuck parking brake and needed a valve job at 3000 miles.

The second caveat is that the interiors of both cars belong in a Rubbermaid store at the outlet mall. While the basic design is there, the execution is as insulting as anything from GM. You are surrounded by grey rubber and cheap switchgear everywhere you look. While the 300’s rubberized plastic is softer to the touch than GM’s thin melted cotton-candy quality variety, it envelops you in cheapness. I am willing to trade a certain cheapness for performance; I just don’t need to shoved in my face.

Yet, today the styling and driving dynamics of the 300 have been enough to make this car a bonafide hit. Until they fix a few things, however, its only batting around .500.