I've been thinking about Arthur Fonzarelli quite a bit recently. This is, in part, because national treasure Henry Winkler turns 60 next month and hasn't been accorded the proper respect, but also because from the Fonz flow all things cool and all things that have "jumped the shark." I felt the tug of both while piloting the Chrysler 300C SRT8 alongside the Pacific Ocean near Huntington Beach, Calif.
For the new SRT8, Chrysler basically took the 300C--its big hit of 2004, and an instant status symbol in the hip-hop community--and packed in 25% more power. The added 85 horses allow for a feel-the-G's experience of 0 to 100 to 0 mph in less than 17 seconds. And though the SRT8 is great for bruising, it's equally adept at cruising. I dropped the seats back, opened the sunroof, gripped the leather-swaddled steering wheel, and rolled through Long Beach like the playa I'm rumored to be. This car will be lusted after by octogenarians and original gangstas alike. And therein lies the problem. The 300C is fantastic, but it's also everywhere, blanketing the 405 freeway like cop cars tailing a white Bronco, and the SRT8 will add to those ranks. On the half mile between LAX and the nearest In-N-Out Burger, I spotted at least a half dozen. And since ubiquity is uncool, said shark may soon be leaped.
Sticker price: $39,995 for the base model, $43,450 as tested with GPS and other options that I largely ignored because car go fast.
Available: Now. Vital stats: 6.1-liter 425-hp Hemi V-8; 420 pounds of torque; 20-inch forged aluminum wheels; 14/20 mpg.
Nice touches: The neon emerald interior dashboard lights are paradise and so is the sedan's overall hugeness. The 107 cubic feet inside can comfortably accommodate the lanky Snoop Dogg (an early 300C adapter) and his entire Dogg Pound.
Drawbacks: The SRT8 stitching across the front seats has to go. And the SRT8 that I drove kept trying to apply the emergency brake for me. I don't need parking assistance from the man, got it?
Second opinion: "The 300C may be the most stylish American car out there today. Fashion trendsetters have made it a must-have for their personal fleets," says Ken Panton, president of eCityofStyle.com. "The new SRT8, with its lower stance, fabulous rear spoiler, and new sport front seats, will keep the car in the limelight for a while."