2009 Dodge Charger SRT8 Review – Fast and the Furious… American Style

Friday May 22nd, 2009 at 9:55 AM
Posted by: gmchan_66

2009 Dodge Charger SRT8

By Gary Chan

Pros

  • HEMI power and acceleration
  • Navigation system accuracy and ease of use
  • Autostick┬« 5-speed transmission that matches perfectly with the engine

Cons

  • Thirst for gasoline
  • “Am I speaking English?” voice command system
  • Uncomfortable front seats

As one of most powerful cars I’ve ever tested, I was eager to see what an American car could do compared to the high-ticket, high-powered imports I’ve driven. Not nearly as refined as the hi-po imports, the fun-factor of the SRT8 kept me grinning while accelerating effortlessly mile after mile.


Driving Impressions

My tester was a Deep Water Blue Pearl Coat SRT8 RWD with the HEMI 6.1 liter V-8 (425hp/420 lb-ft torque) paired with a 5-speed AutoStick┬« automatic transmission. Loaded with SRT Option II and III groups, it included such things as a killer sound system (322-watts and 13 speakers) with in-trunk Kicker sub (200-watts), multimedia navigation with GPS, iPod interface, uconnect phone, and security system. A Video Entertainment System with Sirius Backseat TV service was also on the options list. Brembo brakes provide the stopping power and a free-flow cat-back dual exhaust system provide the bark for the engine’s bite. The rear has a color-matched spoiler and SRT8 chrome badge on the trunk lid below the Charger name. In addition to the high-performance suspension and 4-wheel performance brakes, it had the special 20″x9.0″ SRT rims wrapped in 245 and 255/45ZR20 Eagle F1 rubber.

For a performance car, driving couldn’t have been easier. You can press the remote starter on the key fob to warm up the car, get in and drive off. Regardless of the hard acceleration or braking, the Charger came back for more and never winced. Forward visibility is excellent, but side and rear is a bit hampered due to the sheer size of the car. Still, driving around town and in traffic is quite easy. Going to work one morning, I floored it to merge with faster traffic, accelerating as if I was on a Yamaha R1 motorcycle. *GRIN* I did find myself driving faster than normal because 1) I could and 2) because of the car’s insulation: it feels like you’re driving slower. Kudos to Dodge. The 5-speed Autostick transmission is well designed and matched to the engine. The shifts are smooth no matter how hard I accelerated. The C-pillars are thick, and at night, I had to rely on the sideview mirror to see what was to my right.

2009 Dodge Charger SRT8

Build

The interior is a virtual sea of plastic, save for the leather seats and leather trim around the door-mounted window controls. The bright red-stitching on the sides of the leather seats add a touch of flair to the interior as does the “SRT” monogram on the seatbacks. The seat stitching is uniform and tight. Passengers benefit from the suede inserts which helps keep your rear planted during spirited driving; Dodge’s suede is the poor man’s Alcantara. Doors close solidly, and switches are positive and tactile for feedback. The engine bay is surprisingly open and proudly displays the “HEMI 6.1L” label on both plastic rocker covers; all fluids are easy to check and clearly labeled. Surprisingly, I found a large piece of rusting steel wool under the intake runners. I’m not sure if this was left over from manufacturing (I hope not) or if someone was trying to clean the intake runner at some point. Very strange! Construction and materials are first rate, and driving over the speed bumps at my office failed to rattle any part of the car.

Interior Comfort and Ergonomics

The first thing I adjust when I get into a car is the driver’s seat. The Charger’s power front seats never quite felt “right” no matter what I did. I suspected it was in the angle of the seat cushion or possibly the thickness; ironically, I grew accustomed to them over the test drive. In front of the seat controls is a small rocker switch that moves the pedals fore and aft depending on leg length. The steering column tilts and telescopes.

Dodge Charger interior Dodge Charger 5-speed automatic transmission Dodge Charger instrument cluster with tachometer

Surprising for a muscle-car, the Charger’s HVAC system included both heated seats and dual-zone climate controls. The temperature controls for each zone were easily set with simple knobs, and the seats heat rapidly with a simple push on the toggles.

On a scale of 10, the touch screen rates a 7 as it took me a bit of trial-and-error to figure out how to access some of the controls. For example, as received, the volume for the navigation was a bit low. I searched for the setting in a menu I thought it would be under, but didn’t find it. After consulting the owner’s manual, I was able to adjust the nav volume so I could actually hear the instructions. On the flip side, the navigation provided one of the most accurate and functional instructions of any GPS system I’ve used (whether in-dash or portable). Some provide too much information or they are not very accurate (in specifying you have arrived), but like Goldilocks, I found the system to be “just right”. It was easy to find the location of our favorite coffee shop using the POI’s. Using it for other features such as the cd/radio/satellite/other controls was straightforward. I tried using the voice commands to control some of the features, but never got it to work on my own (without aid from the owner’s manual).

integrated iPod connectivity

My niece and nephew found the satellite TV useful in the back seat as I “chauffeured” them around from Jamba Juice and other stores so they could watch their Disney programs on the wireless headsets. Channel selection was limited, but it was sufficient to keep them occupied.

Performance

I think I regressed a few years driving this car as I often found myself grinning and flooring the gas pedal whenever the road opened. Acceleration is strong and effortless, even though the 425-hp is pushing over 2 tons of weight. Step on the gas and the Charger accelerates linearly with no flat spots. I drove it to our favorite coffee shop in Capitola and the engine thrived in the uphill sweepers of Hwy 17. The Brembo brakes work exceptionally well. While “testing” out the handling of the car on Hwy 17 at speed, an older Honda Accord decided to maliciously cut in front of me in the fast lane. A slight tap on my brakes arrested my speed and prevented me from hitting the Honda. Under less cardiac stress and off public streets, our brake tests showed that the Brembos halted the Charger faster than a fly caught in a spider’s web. Using maximum brake force at high speed did not upset the dynamics of the Charger, nor did the brakes lock up.

(Continued on page 2)

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9 Responses to 2009 Dodge Charger SRT8 Review – Fast and the Furious… American Style

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  4. Andy says:

    Wow, biased? I’m in the market for an SRT 8 Charger, and I thought Gary Chan’s review was pretty fair. It seemed to me that he was praising the car for what it is, and merely pointing out what it wasn’t.

    208 mph, 11.8 e/t’s, and 28 mpg? All I have to say is, I hope you never use that GPS in an emergency situation, put down the stopwatch and use the timers at a real drap strip, and as far as MPG, don’t believe what the onboard computer tells you. Hit your trip reset when you fill up. The next time you fill up, record your miles, and divide that number by the number of gallons it took to fill your car up again.

    If you really drove it to church every Sunday, you shouldn’t lie.

    Is it a great car? Yes. Does it do everything well? No.

  5. sadopi says:

    I too have a 2006 SRT and t is top of the line I have had the BMW 335 and a BMW Z3 A friend has a RX 8 and let me tell you the SRT is by far the better car it is more fun by far. There is plenty of trunk space and with the extra chip I added to mine I will leave the others at th starting gate. By GPS I have had the SRT upto an astounding 208 MPH and still had power left I can turn an empressive 11.8 ET and still get 28 mpg on the open road (wih cruise set that is) and I also drive it to church every Sunday, so what mor could anyone want
    Out of 5 I rate the SRT at 5 plus

  6. Jay Vinson says:

    I own a 2008 Dodge Charger SRT8 and I love this car it is a pure old fashion american muscle car but with a 2008 suspension and ride. As far as me ever having driven a BMW 335i or a RX-8? Who cares those two cars are not even in the same category as a Charger? The people who buy those imports are not the customers that are even in the market for an american muscle car? And I would love to pull up beside one of those imports you mention and with my all the mods on my charger give them a taste of good old American Muscle! And just for more note you can not tell me that a RX-8 has more trunk space or backseat space as a Dodge Charger you cant haul one large suitcase in the back of a RX-8 hardly?? Just face the facts you are bias in your article from the very beginning statements all the way thru the end and were having to force yourself to say something good about a Dodge product and as a person writing an article that is suppose to be giving a fair review you suck!!

  7. Irina says:

    I would rather have Jaguar XJ 2010

    Check it out

    http://www.phototics.com/show.php?g=6f928dac106e5bf0b23450b4976f98f7

  8. Gary Chan says:

    Thanks for the feedback, Budo. When I consider trunk space for a sedan, I usually assume 4-people in the car so I don’t consider folding the seats down when I evaluate space. If you are able to get large pieces of luggage in there plus a golf bag, that’s great. Fitting two of my large suitcases would fill the trunk easily. In the future, I’ll put some of my suitcases in my test cars to evaluate utility. Keep in mind that we test drive many cars (from Toyota Corolla’s to Steve Dinan’s personal M3), and my 4.5 performance rating is very high, but still below some of the faster cars that I’ve driven. With regards to handling, have you driven a late model 335i or RX-8? It’s a night and day difference compared to the SRT. The Charger is heavy, lacks responsiveness and does not communicate feedback as well as the BMW or Mazda hence the lower score.

  9. budo says:

    Interesting! I have a 2006 SRT8 and love it.

    In most all other reviews (and my belief also) is that the seats are extremely comfortable and hug the driver brilliantly. This was a first.

    Second, to suggest the trunk is not useful seems somewhat ludicrous. With the availability of the back seats dropping down, I can fit in three bales of hay for my horses if the need arise. With the seats up I have had several pieces of large luggage plus golf bag(s). I am not certain where that comes from either.

    Otherwise a reasonably good synopsis. the performance equating to a 4.5 seems a bit low and the 3.5 for handling seems definitely low.





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