It isn't by any means lean, but it's certainly mean. The SRT8, pinnacle of the Chrysler 300 range, oozes visual menace. Cherry red paint on the test car caught many eyes and so did the darkened grille and wheels.
The foreboding first impression is no illusion. Start it and the mumbling rumble may change your mind about the malevolence within.
Explore the 2012 Chrysler 300 Range
The aggressive theme continues on the price list. The muscular new 300 halo car is up by only $1000 to $66,000, an increase more than offset by the new model's engine and features upgrades.
It sits on 20in wheels and has a 19 speaker (including a subwoofer and 900-watt amp) sound system, electrically adjustable steering, dual zone climate control with rear vents, heated and ventilated seats, heated and cooled front cup holders.
The trim is Nappa leather/alcantara, with folding heated and driver's side auto-dimming exterior mirrors, real carbon fibre trim bits, a large sports steering wheel with paddleshifters, trip, sound system, phone and active cruise control buttons.
When it comes to cutting edge technology, the bent-eight brigade isn't the first place you usually look. But the SRT8's big 6.4-litre unit up from 6.1 now has variable valve timing and electronic throttle control, as well as upgraded cylinder-dropout system to ease the thirst.
The combined cycle figure for 98 RON has dropped from 14.2 to 13L/100km, although the computer showed 15.2 when we handed the car back, somewhat reluctantly, to Chrysler. The growth in cubic capacity means an extra 30kW and 62Nm, giving the SRT8 347kW at 6100rpm, as well as 631Nm about 2000rpm earlier.
Unlike the petrol V6, which gets a new ZF eight-speed auto, the musclebound monster of the 300 range retains the "proven'' (their term) five-speed tranny, which delivers reasonable shift quality despite all the forces being exerted. Sport mode sharpens up the controls and the suspension to a level that makes corners more amusing.
Other bits worthy of mention include the automatic bi-xenon headlights with auto high-beam dip, rain-sensing wipers, active cruise control, a limited slip diff and the touchscreen complete with performance computer from which the boffins can get all manner of trivial info.
The base-car isn't easy to miss and the bodykit and trim extras on the SRT8 don't scream and shout like an overt aftermarket monstrosity, but you'll notice it.
Big, square and powerful, the SRT8's xenon/LED lit snout warrants more than a glance in the mirror or from the footpath. The cabin is plush, with plenty of leather and carbon fibre, with the driver presented with a quite large and chunky sports steering wheel to direct the big sedan.
High safety praise from US crash-testers for the new 300 range has not yet been endorsed with an NCAP prang, but it comes with dual front, front-side, full-length curtain and a driver's knee, switchable stability and traction control, Brembo four-pot front and rear ventilated discs brakes (that get dried when the wipers are on), a blind spot warning, a tyre pressure monitoring system, rear camera, parking sensors fore and aft.
But the forward collision alert had a false starts, beeping pessimistic warnings when entering a sweeping bend carved through a small hill - it's a tight section of road but the rockface was never in danger of gaining any cherry-red paint.
There's something special about the sensation of a very large car leaping away from standstill in a melodious yet maniacal way. Yet sauntering through traffic on a daily basis in the SRT8, it's quiet and almost civilised, quietly slipping through the traffic most of which is having a look at it as well.
The ride in normal mode is a little on the wallowy side, particularly through the front end - I was concerned about hitting the front bumps stops on a small speed bump. Subtlety is not the brand's strong point visually or dynamically.
The Sport mode tightens the suspension up nicely, not far past the point of day-to-day use it’s only the aggressive transmission mapping that would stop you using this mode all the time. The Chrysler is a rapid machine in a straight line, with the quick-spinning V8 singing sweetly. But corners, even in Sport mode, betray the kerb weight.
The Yank is less remote in the steering thanks to the retention of hydraulic assistance but it still falls short of rivals from HSV and FPV. The SRT8 has plenty of good safety gear listed and the active cruise control is worthy of mention for being able to hold a set speed downhill without a car in front - yet another brand who can show Lexus how that's done.