|Dodge Charger SRT8
|Dodge Charger SRT8
By Gary Chan
- HEMI power and acceleration
- Navigation system accuracy and ease of use
- Autostick® 5-speed transmission that matches perfectly with the engine
- 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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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