Old-school muscle for 21st century
I'm trying to figure out why I've developed an infatuation with American muscle cars so late in my automotive life. I learned to drive on my mum's 1962 VW Beetle, spending Sundays lurching around an empty mall parking lot solving the riddle of smooth gearshifts.

All but two of the 20-odd vehicles I've owned have been either Japanese or German. The exceptions were a 1958 Pontiac Laurentian bought for $200 that took me and some friends on a cross-Canada adventure and an indifferently assembled '84 Jeep Cherokee, of which the less said the better.

It's not some mid-life crisis thing either; I've owned sports cars most of my life and this job gives me access to some of the best. But somehow modern iterations of the old-school Yank Tank have insinuated into my automotive consciousness.

The Dodge Charger R/T I drove last year was a guilty pleasure. I wanted to roll down the window and drape my hand on the side mirror. I welcome any seat time in a Mustang. Which brings us to the Chrysler 300 SRT8.

Unique style all its own

2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8(Photo: Chrysler)

I've driven other variants of the Chrysler 300 since the company introduced it almost a decade ago. I knew it had good bones, based as it was on the chassis and suspension of a Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan that came as part of Chrysler's unhappy marriage with Daimler.

I had mixed feelings about the "gangsta" attitude of the first-generation's styling but liked its unapologetically American presence. Refreshed in 2011, the silhouette is still distinctive but the greenhouse is not as heavy-looking.

The SRT8 is the performance version of the 300. Its 2013 base price of $49,095 is unchanged from the previous model year. The car I drove had an asking price of $55,885, including uprated 245/45 Z-rated Goodyear F1 tires on 20-inch alloy wheels, a 19-speaker, 900-watt sound system, panoramic sunroof and a package of electronic driving nannies.

The big, blacked-out grille and other black-chromed accents contrasted nicely with the pearlescent ivory paint, reminding me a little of an Audi A8. There's a discrete little spoiler perched on the trunk and SRT8's Brembo brakes peek out from beneath the big rims. But the car doesn't shout. It sort of lurks.

Nice cabin design, but avoid red if you can

2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8(Photo: Chrysler)

Understatement carries over inside, with nice soft-touch plastic and genuine carbon fiber accents. The only jarring note was the leather and cloth upholstery in a shade of red that reminded me unpleasantly of an early '90s Chevy Lumina.

The heated and ventilated sport-style front bucket seats were comfortable and generously proportioned for bigger North American bottoms, though lateral support could have been more aggressive for a car with performance credentials. No complaints, however, about the driving position. With both the seats, pedals and wheel fully adjustable it's a cinch to find the ideal setting.

Rear passengers — whose seats are heated, by the way — will be comfortable, too, especially if there's only two of them. Three bigger adults might find it a little tight in the shoulders.