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The Paramus Post - Greater Paramus News and Lifestyle Webzine
Saturday, November 28 2020 @ 02:22 AM EST
The Paramus Post - Greater Paramus News and Lifestyle Webzine
Saturday, November 28 2020 @ 02:22 AM EST
The Paramus Post - Greater Paramus News and Lifestyle Webzine

Dodge Challenger SRT8 Built With Muscle Memory

What's wrong with the Dodge Challenger SRT8?

Nothing. But anybody who cares anything about this car has already read the rave reviews.

For what it is — a re-creation of a stompin' muscle car — the Chrysler designers and engineers nailed a 10.The original 1970 Dodge Challenger was the inspiration for many design cues on the 2008 Challenger SRT8, among them: a full-width grille with fog lamps, rear spoiler and a hood with a raised center, carbon fiberlike stripes and functional dual scoops. The side mirrors were begun from a mold from the mirrors of an original Challenger, then modified for aerodynamics and durability. The original muscle car lasted only five model years.

The 2008 Challenger SRT8 is a limited edition that has a starting price of $40,158, including the $675 destination charge and $2,163 gas-guzzler tax. The first year's edition is limited to about 7,000 cars. Dealers ordered a bunch and some are still available, if you are willing to pay a premium.

Don't do it. The 2009 Challenger SRT8 goes into production in August and will be in dealerships this fall along with the V6-powered Challenger SE and the Challenger R/T, which will have the "little" 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 under the hood.

To move the 2008 car quickly from concept to production meant using some existing technology, such as the five-speed automatic transmission, which is basically a reworked Viper transmission.

For 2009, a six-speed manual Tremec TR-6060 is matched with a dual-disc clutch, which was first used on the 2008 Dodge Viper SRT10. And the shifter will be the vintage-style "pistol grip."

Also new for 2009:

New limited-slip differential for better track performance;

TorRed and B5 Blue (late availability) paint colors, added to the '08 choices of Hemi Orange, Bright Silver Metallic and Brilliant Black Crystal Pearl Coat.

The MSRP is up $2,000 to $39,995, but the gas-guzzler tax drops to $1,700 because the automatic's fuel economy improved by 1 mpg on the highway.

Sure, it's great being the first in your Mopar club to have an '08 SRT8, but any modifications will mar its limited-edition status and resale value.

But the '09 model is fair game.

As well-done as it is, the 2008 SRT8's dual exhaust system could use a beefier tone. The engine and exhaust start talking the enthusiast's language about 4,500 rpm, but so much more could be said and heard at lower rpms with the proper pipes.

The wheel design is good, but there are so many more choices.

At 425 horsepower, the 6.1-liter V-8 is "all ate up with motor," to borrow a phrase from NASCAR driver Darrell Waltrip, but more is always better in a muscle car. And there are plenty of aftermarket firms - including authentic Dodge accessories from Mopar - that have products to get the job done without harming emissions equipment.

Some of what makes this high-performance coupe so livable - besides acceleration from 0 to 60 mph in less than five seconds - is the body style and suspension.

Unlike Corvettes and Porsches that scrape their chins on driveways, curbs and speed bumps, this large, rear-wheel-drive coupe clears these real-world threats with ease. And the SRT8 ride height is a half-inch lower than other Challenger models.

Built from the Dodge Charger, Challenger is 4 inches shorter and uses the Charger SRT8 suspension, but this one is better - more refined and comfortable. It also has SRT-tailored spring and shock rates, sway bars and an Electronic Stability Program that is adjusted to allow for some "intended" wheel slip. And, despite fat 20-inch tires, the turning circle is a maneuverable 37.5 feet.

The original Dodge Challenger muscle car lasted only five model years. This one takes most of the styling cues from the 1970 model.

It's like an art piece — good enough to stand back and run the eye over every corner and line. And a lot of people did just that in my week of driving one painted in Brilliant Black Crystal Pearl Coat. It's gorgeous paint that reflects blues and purples in the evening light.

The components and plastics in the black interior of the test car were of good quality and appearance. The designers resisted gimmicky treatments and applied tasteful double-stitched leather and a dark headliner. The layout of controls is ergonomic, and the designers resisted trendy treatments.

Headroom in the front seat area is a spacious 39.5 inches. The seats are full and comfortable, but the winged side bolsters were already showing wear in the test car. Sightlines are good, mostly, and forgivable for a coupe when trying to back out of a parking space. The trunk is big enough for the family grocery haul.

While it's not a fussy car, I noted three areas of concern that I consider observations, not complaints:

The cool-looking fuel door copies the old Challenger, but it doesn't lock. It would be so easy for a passer-by to snap off this piece and, possibly, siphon some 91 octane. Also, the chrome ring around the filler cap will be prone to dings from the gas-pump nozzle.

We're beyond the stage of "golly gee" for push-button starting. This one appears to be a version of that provided by one-time corporate partner Mercedes-Benz, but the ignition is one step from being that Keyless-Go innovation. There is no ignition key. The unlock and start sequence requires the driver to use the remote to unlock the door, then, once inside, to hit the starter button. The complete (Mercedes) system recognizes the key fob carried by the driver and unlocks the door as the driver grasps the door handle. Then the driver can hit the starter, belt up and bolt.

Radio reception was buzzy.

A high-performance muscle car that gets 13 miles per gallon around town won't be a savior vehicle for Chrysler LLC. But Challenger is just the vehicle Dodge dealers need to get people into the showroom to take a look. And once there, the $22,000 Challenger SE, with 250-hp V6 that gets 18/25 mpg on 87 octane, may seem too sweet to pass up.


Body style: five-passenger, rear-wheel-drive coupe

Engine: 6.1-liter Hemi V-8 engine with pushrod-operated overhead valves

Horsepower: 425 at 6,200 rpm

Torque: 420 foot-pounds at 4,800 rpm

Transmission: five-speed AutoStick automatic

EPA fuel economy estimates: 13 mpg city, 18 highway; 91 octane recommended

Fuel capacity: 19 gallons


Trunk space: 16.2 cubic feet

Front head/leg/shoulder room: 39.5/42/58.2 inches

Length/wheelbase: 197.7/116 inches

Curb weight: 4,140 pounds


Standard equipment includes: numbered dash plaque, carbon fiberlike hood stripes, leather seats with added bolstering, 13-speaker Kicker High Performance audio system, Sirius satellite radio, Brembo four-piston disc brakes front and rear

Safety features include: four-wheel ABS and traction control, electronic stability control and brake assist, brake knockback mitigation


Brakes: four-wheel, four-piston Brembo discs with 14.2-inch rotors front, 13.8-inch rear

Steering: Rack and pinion with hydraulic power assist; 37.5-foot turning circle

Suspension: four-wheel independent, with short-and-long-arm arrangement, coil springs over Bilstein monotube gas-charged shock absorbers and stabilizer bar in front; five-link with coil springs, link-type stabilizer bar, Bilstein monotube gas-charged shock absorbers in rear

Tires: all-season, Goodyear RSA/SRT 245/45 R20; optional Goodyear F1 Supercar three-season 245/45 20-inch front, P255/45 rear


Base: $40,158, including the $675 destination charge and $2,163 gas-guzzler tax

Where assembled: Brampton, Ontario, Canada

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