Shock and awe. The Challenger SRT8′s non-apologetic presence demands attention and has the performance to back it up. The massive 420 lb-ft of torque is amazing and the car lurches forward every time I shifted into the next gear. Off-the-line acceleration is out of this world. I counted my lucky stars since I did not get pulled over once this weekend. With a more capable driver on a track, the Challenger SRT8 would hit 60 MPH in under 5 seconds. Yours truly managed a poor 7.4 run on a stretch of a certain local suburban expressway late at night. Must be getting rusty with stick shifts. High-speed acceleration is also awesome. The 425 horses under the hood provided such great acceleration I passed up every single car going 85 MPH up the long incline on the 101 north of the Golden Gate bridge. In fifth gear.
Braking performance was also impressive given the size and weight of this bad boy. The 4,140-lb. Challenger is stopped by massive 360×32 mm Brembo vented rotors in front and 350×28 mm rotors in the rear. The low-drag Brembo calipers can stop the car from 60-0 in 110 feet and they felt extremely competent as I was driving down the winding two-lane Muir Woods Road to Muir Beach, though I was trying not to apply them as much as possible over the objections coming from the passenger seat. My wife was not much impressed by the cornering ability of this humongous coupe.
The Challenger handles really well for a car this size and weight. It was actually pretty agile on its feet, and I was able to make my way up and down the winding mountain roads with no problems at all. I kept it in 2nd or 3rd gear and did not have to apply the brakes much as I cruised down to the beach. There’s very little body roll and the wife did not even throw up once. I had to try very hard to make the tires squeak a little bit. This goes for normal driving around town as well, the Challenger handled like a smaller car. The track-ready suspension contributed to the responsiveness of the car, and according to my friend Steve, who got stuck in the backseat the whole trip, was not that stiff on the highways. Maneuvering this beast around a shopping plaza parking lot, however, is a chore. I recommend backing into parking spots whenever it’s feasible and safe, since it’s near impossible to see the small animals and children you’re running over as you attempt to back out of parking spots.
You cannot miss the Challenger in a parking lot. Even my wife, who doesn’t give a rat’s ass about cars, said, “I can see how people would like this car!” The Challenger just has a very distinctive shape and size that make it stand out in a sea of look-alike American, European and Japanese sedans and coupes. Its wheelbase is a little shorter than that of a 300C, but the Dodge designers did a bang-up job to make the car look very flat. There’s more square footage on the hood than in my house. The profile looks great and the car looks smaller than it is. The characteristic hump over the rear axle looks much more natural than on the Dodge Charger sedan, it just works better on a coupe. The horizontal taillight design also helps to make the car look wide and flat.
I was very happy when they did not deliver the Challenger with the corporate cross hair Dodge grill. Thank God! The front end is very nicely executed. The divots in the front edge of the hood lead very nicely back into the pair of functioning air scoops. I liked the carbon fiber striping on the SRT8, yeah I know it’s kind of cheesy. The race-car side view mirrors that jut out from the door are also a tribute to the 70s car and are a nice touch. The frame-less doors are solid but I wished they had spent the money to engineer out the B pillars, that would’ve been the ultimate! The 20″ SRT wheels look awesome and normal-sized on the Challenger. The chrome gas cap is a nice touch, but the material feels too flimsy.
As I mentioned before, the Challenger is the most true-to-form reborn muscle cars and yet the car feels modern and the car simply looks great. I only wish they would bring back the thin chrome bumpers which would add more accents to the front and back and break up the expanse of plastic.
Overall, the Challenger SRT8 exceeded my expectations by miles. I did not think I would enjoy driving this beast of a car as much and had some reservations about taking this on a road trip. At around $45k, you get a lot of hardware and power for your money. The awesome performance, sedan-like comfort and amenities and solid build quality all add up to a sensible car. Wait a minute, did I just say sensible? Oh right, once you factor in the fact that it gulps down gas like there’s no tomorrow (I observed a combined 15 MPG), how it’s a public safety hazard in any Safeway parking lot, and how it instills in you this unstoppable urge to drive fast, maybe the Challenger SRT8 is not such a sensible car. But who’s talking sense here?
Who should buy it?
So should you buy the Challenger SRT8? Here’s a list of what the Challenger will do and what it won’t do for you:
- Bring you lots of attention. Mostly from other guys though. Mostly from middle-aged balding ones with Harleys
- Burn through a lot of cash buying gas
- Put you on a first name basis with local law enforcement
- Make you want to grow your hair long and do something illegal
- Give you a permanent smile on your face
- Get you laid. Maybe it was my mullet but not a single girl looked at this car or realized this was a SRT8! With a HEMI! Revving the engine repeatedly at the Chevron station will not attract those high school girls in the Prius.
- Get your groceries. See above comment about likelihood to back up over little children.
- Help your marital bliss. Uncontrollable desire to spend time with car in garage or on the road and idiotically revving the engine for the pleasure of other idiots does not help your marriage.
So the Challenger SRT8 is not for everybody. But when you hear the low bass of the HEMI V8 grumbling at you, the sight of the decidedly bad-ass shape staring you down in the parking lot, and the unique satisfaction that comes only through automotive male bonding, you can’t help but want to own this piece of bad ass American machinery. In the words of David Wooderson in Dazed and Confused, “We’re talkin’ some f***in’ muscle!”
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