Chrysler Plans to Keep SRT Alive and Kicking
In spite of the recent news that GM was shuttering its High Performance Vehicle Operations team – the group that brought us the Cadillac V-series cars, among others – struggling crosstown rival Chrysler LLC does not plan to follow in kind with its well-regarded SRT team. Chrysler confirmed this in a live online chat with its much-maligned consumer advisory panel, and posted the transcript on its Red Letter Dodge blog.
According to the transcript (complete with spelling errors), panel members asked Steve Bartoli, Chrysler’s VP for global product planning about the future of SRT. According to Bartoli, “SRT is sticking around and we have to make final calls on the lineup. We are big fans of SRT what is does for us and our customers.” Further, he added that “Ceberus [sic] is committed to this cause.” Good news, indeed.
Chrysler’s SRT team has churned out several very good performance versions that transformed fairly mediocre products into legitimate performance vehicles. Tracks on SRT’s “greatest hits” album include the Neon-based SRT4, Crossfire SRT6, Caliber SRT4, Grand Cherokee SRT8, Challenger SRT8, Magnum SRT8, Charger SRT8, 300C SRT-8, Ram SRT-10, and of course the Viper SRT10. Of these vehicles, the Caliber SRT4, Grand Cherokee SRT8, Challenger SRT8, Charger SRT8, 300C SRT8, and Viper SRT10 are still in production. All of the SRT-touched vehicles have improved handling, braking, and acceleration relative to their more pedestrian cousins.
As to what Bartoli meant when he said that they had to make final calls on the lineup, it’s anyone’s guess. I would imagine that, if the Fiat deal goes through, there will be little need for the Caliber in the lineup, with more desirable Fiat-based B- and C-segment cars in the offing, so that could mean the demise of the Caliber SRT4. The Viper is on its way out the door if Cerberus can manage to sell that business (and will likely be buried if it can’t find a buyer), so there goes another one. With a new Grand Cherokee (with one exterior and one interior illustration included in Chrysler’s viability presentation to the Federal government last month) about to make its debut in New York in April, the SRT8 version of that will likely go away with the new generation, and my guess is that will likely be permanent instead of temporary.
This leaves nothing but the SRT8 versions of the rear wheel drive LX cars (Charger, Challenger, and 300C) in the lineup. A new generation of the 300C and Charger are due to be released shortly; I’d imagine that if SRT is going to continue, Chrysler would continue with SRT8 versions of these vehicles fairly soon after the launch of the new models. Of course, the SRT8 Challenger will probably continue throughout the duration of the Challenger’s life cycle, as an SRT8 variant of that car is all but critical to its credibility as a performance vehicle, the inherent goodness of the mid-level Challenger R/T notwithstanding.
Perhaps Chrysler’s SRT team has some more product enhancements on the horizon. They might as well not bother with an SRT version of the dead-on-the-vine Avenger and Sebring midsize sedans, but there’s opportunity to put the awesome 6.1 liter Hemi under the Ram pickup’s hood to make a slightly-less politically incorrect SRT pickup than the late, great Ram SRT10, which had the Viper’s 500-horsepower V10 underhood. There might also be an opportunity for SRT to wave its magic wand on some of the Fiat products, and in particular the Fiat-platformed, Chrysler-bodied ones, in the coming years.
SRT is apparently going to live to see another day. Let’s hope that no matter what form it takes, performance vehicles will always have a place at Chrysler.