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SRT's Street Cred

Credibility is a key concern of Dan Knott.

He's the director of Chrysler Group's Street and Racing Technology (SRT), which he describes as "a very autonomous organization" that's "across the I-75 ditch from the Auburn Hills HQ.

Close enough to be in contact with a board of directors (Joe Eberhardt, Chrysler Group executive vice president-Global Sales and Marketing, and Eric Ridenour, executive vice president-Product), far enough away so that his collection of hard-core automotive enthusiasts ("all of my people are basically cowboys. I've got land-speed record holders, motorcyclists, motocrossers, Pro Rally Series drivers—people who have the passion and walk the talk") are able to engineer cars that have street cred.

Knott says that the SRT organization, which consists of about 150 people, is not a skunkworks, but actually "part of the day-to-day business. We used to be a skunkworks," he admits, and adds, "But we do have a skunkworks within us." That skunkworks is responsible for the remarkable ME Four-Twelve concept, the mid-engined car with a carbon fiber body and a 6-liter V12 that can go from 0 to 100 mph in 6.2 seconds (having been thrown back in the passenger seat feeling like I was undergoing astronaut training, I can attest to the fact that this "concept" is the real deal).

The Dodge Viper SRT10 Coupe
The Dodge Viper SRT10 Coupe could be considered the poster child for Chrysler's Street and Racing Technology (SRT) organization—it is performance personsified, not only because of the 8.3-liter, 500-hp V10, but also because of the other four aspects that are addressed in transforming a conventional production car into an SRT: braking, ride and handling, exterior, and interior. Speaking of this car, Dan Knott, SRT's director, says, " "Dodge Viper SRT10 customers want to go beyond the level of the regular enthusiast, to the level of outrageous performance."

But what really makes the SRT team notable is the array of high-performance cars and trucks that it is putting in showrooms for regular people to buy. OK. Regular people who are interested in getting performance versions of what are sometimes comparatively pedestrian (e.g., Neon) or already comparatively hot (300C) products. But this isn't a matter of them just dropping a hot engine under the hood (e.g., a 2.4-liter, 230-hp turbocharged four for the Neon—a.k.a., Dodge SRT-4—or a 6.1-liter, 425-hp hemi for the 300C SRT8).

There are a few considerations that must be addressed. Knott says that they look at the market segment for the vehicle. They then consider the volume that the vehicle in the SRT raiment would sell. Then they consider such things as tooling costs and variable costs. "Performance parts can be expensive," Knott says, with what those who have purchased those parts knows is to put the case mildly. He says that they look at what can be leveraged from the base product, as well as from the world-wide volume of the DaimlerChrysler organization. Speaking of what can be leveraged from the existing car, Knott says, for example, that he'll talk with the seating supplier and say that they essentially want the base seat but want different foam and different trim. So instead of having the costs associated with creating an entirely new product, this seat is far more economical. Once those determinations are made, he meets with the guys on the other side of I-75 and they decide whether to go ahead with the SRT version of the product. And a large part of Knott's consideration is based on achievable credibility. As an example—and one he hopes won't annoy some of his colleagues on the other side of the ditch—he cites the Durango: "I will never do a Durango. It's too big, too heavy for me." But big and heavy aren't the only concerns. "We aren't doing a Stratus."

Most importantly: "We're not going to do cars that lose money."

One remarkable aspect of the SRT formula is that, comparatively speaking, the cars are remarkably economical. Consider, for example, the 300C SRT8, which starts at $39,995 (including destination).

There five elements of transforming a vehicle into an SRT vehicle:
1. Powertrain: Something beyond the norm. For example, the HEMI in the SRT8 has 25% more horsepower than the one found in the standard 300C.

2. Ride and handling: Differently tuned dampers, specific spring rates, and different wheels and tires are among the modifications. Even a vehicle like the Dodge Ram SRT10—yes, a pickup truck—is run through paces on a slalom course.

3. Braking: Performance is not only a matter of going fast, but stopping as well. So, for example, the 300C SRT8 has Brembo calipers on all four wheels (360 x 32-mm vented rotors up front, 350 x 28-mm vented rotors in the rear).

4. Interior appointments: From modified gauges to seats with suede inserts that keep you planted in place when the accelerator is stabbed.

5. Exterior appointments: Comparatively stealthy, not the total boy-racer appointments. Changes typically include front fascias with functional openings for brake cooling and rear spoilers that increase downforce. Yes, there is SRT signage.

Knott says that the approach they're taking at SRT is to maintain exclusivity as a means to bolster credibility in the market. "Look at Harley-Davidson," he observes. "There is a two-year waiting list for some of its motorcycles. You don't think that builds credibility?" One of the things they've done is to set a ceiling on the number of SRT models that will be built during any given year. "We want to make sure demand is higher than supply," Knott says.

"It's not easy to start a brand, and this is a brand within a brand," Knott says.

"It's not easy to build that heritage. But it's pretty damn easy to break it.

"So our collective job at the corporation is to make sure that we don't screw it up."
 

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HankL said:
As an example—and one he hopes won't annoy some of his colleagues on the other side of the ditch—he cites the Durango: "I will never do a Durango. It's too big, too heavy for me." But big and heavy aren't the only concerns. "We aren't doing a Stratus."

but a jeep gc is not too big & heavy? :VHOT:
 

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the jeep is 10 times a better srt type vechicle then the durango will ever be

before you flame me

the new jeep (the hemi and the srt 8)is lighter and handle better then the durangos (old and new ever did)

PS i have driven almost every car dcx has built in the last 10 years from s2 cars to production
 

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no flaming from me.. i'll just pout.. it is very frustrating that the Durango is treated more as a soccer mom vehicle than anything else. The aftermarket is really doing nothing other than cai & exhaust for it. No one is even looking at making a performance spring to control the rake. Otherwise, I would make my own SRT'ish Durango.
 
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