most Subaru dealers wouldn't let me drive an STI. The Nissan dealer wouldn't even talk to me about the GT-R in the showroom. Audi, Mercedes and BMW? They tossed me the keys to anything I wanted.
Now, when it came to driving the SRT8, I talked to the sales manager. I explained what I was looking for and took a 300 S home for the night. I told him that I might want the SRT8 but had to drive it first (I was coming from an MB E550 Coupe with a big V8). He explained their policy about test drives but knew I was serious about buying so it wasn't an issue. This, a small mom/pop dealer too (i.e. not a big corporate store).
I think it is a rare case when someone makes up their mind that they want something bad enough that they will just buy it without any kind of test drive. The last time around, I had pretty much decided I wanted an SRT8, but still went out and tested an E55 and some other cars. The Charger/300 SRT vehicles are among the few affordable large high-performance sedans on the market today, but there are alternatives like the CTS-V and some used German cars in the same price range.
I had no such problems getting a test drive in the CTS-V (twice!) and the Mercedes C63 AMG, so this experience really makes me scratch my head trying to figure out what went wrong.
How the dealer treats it customers is a huge thing for me, I for one would have no problem walking away from this dealer but not before I told the owner in person how I was treated. When I went from my C to my current SRT8 the dealer let me take it to dinner with my wife, when I returned I haggled for about an hour before I pulled the trigger. Not the way to treat a returning customer at all.
Ourisman is 5 minutes from my house and unfortunately the last time I checked they didn't have any SRT vehicles on their lot. Requiring a credit check before a test drive is also a B.S. policy. I'm not letting a dealer mess up my credit report with their credit check. If every dealer I have test driven a car at recently did that, it would probably impact my credit score. Credit inquiries do impact your score, even if they don't result in a loan.
I totally understand why a dealer only wants people testing the car who are serious about buying it, but it seems crazy that I can go into a Cadiallac dealership or a Mercedes dealership and go for a 30-45 minute test drive in a $72K CTS-V or AMG C63, and a Chrysler dealer turns away a current SRT8 owner who purchased the car from them 5 years ago. This policy defies all logic and common sense. And this same dealer let me test drive my current SRT8 and had no such policy back in 2007. They didn't ask to do a credit check first either.
I learned a lesson though. If I decide I still want to test an SRT model, I will call the dealer in advance and find out about their policy. I will also explain in advance that I presently own an SRT vehicle to give a little credibility to my request. This experience has really turned me off and given me a negative impression of Chrysler.
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